London: H. Humphrey, 1805. Item #03485
St. George and the Dragon
GILLRAY, James. St. George and the Dragon. [Britannia; Napoléon Bonaparte; King George III] A Design for an Equestrian Statue, from the Original in Windsor Castle. Drawn by an Amateur. Etched by Js. Gillray. London: Published August 2nd. 1805. by H. Humphrey. 27 St. James's Street.
Hand colored etching (16 x 16 inches; 406 x 406 mm.). Edges a little browned, two short tears (5/8 inch at top margin and 1/4 inch at lower margin). There is a fold slightly to the right of the center and a closed tear on the saddle pad of the horse. Matted.
"The Royal St. George rescuing Britannia from the fangs of the Monster of France. The King wears the uniform of his own regiment of Guards (the Blues). But a few weeks after the date of this print, the Imperial Crown received a gash in the victory of Trafalgar, not much less formidable than the one here represented literally."
In the manner of history painting rather than caricature. Below the title: 'a Design for an Equestrian Statue, from the Original in Windsor Castle'. George III as St. George, in uniform, holds up his sword, about to give a final blow to a scaly dragon with the head of Napoleon. The long convolutions of the dragon are under the horse's feet: Napoleons head, with a barbed fang and flames from the mouth, looks on despairingly. A sword-cut has gashed his skull, and cut his crown in two. The dragon has large wings and the legs and talons of a beast of prey; it falls backwards: Britannia will just escape being crushed.
"The threat of invasion was at its climax: on 2 Aug. Napoleon (having returned from Italy) set off for Boulogne. On 22 July Calder fought his indecisive action against the combined French and Spanish fleets, leaving Villeneuve to seek harbour, secure reinforcements, and again put to sea on 9 Aug. for the King as St. George." (British Museum).
Caricaturist and engraver James Gillray (1757-1815) “was apprenticed to a letter engraver and worked under classical engravers such as Ryland and Bartolozzi in stipple. He trained at the R.A. Schools and did some book illustrations for Macklin’s Tom Jones before turning to caricature in about 1780. His earlier works were published by the printseller Robert Wilkinson of Cornhill, forsaking him for Fores in about 1787. Gillray finally came to rest as chief caricaturist to Mrs. Humphrey at New and Old Bond Street, where he lodged till his death. Gillray was the first professional caricaturist in this country, he simplified the art of the amateurs by replacing archaic symbols with forceful design and his art training enabled him to work on a more heroic scale than his predecessors. His work hit very hard and as the artist was something of a political maverick, he was assiduously courted by all parties. His frequent satires on Royal extravagance such as ‘A Voluptuary under the horrors of Digestion’ 1792 and the caricatures of Napoleon and Charles James Fox, created in their realism and savagery a whole new field for the caricaturist. Although much of his work dates from before 1800, a group of marvellous caricatures appeared in the early 1800s including ‘Tiddy-Doll, the great French-Gingerbread Baker’, 1806, ‘Uncorking Old Sherry’, 1805, ‘The Plum-pudding in danger’, 1805 and most famous of all ‘The King of Brobdingnag and Gulliver’, 1803. Gillray’s last work was engraved in 1811 shortly before he became insane; his position was taken by the young George Cruikshank” (Houfe).
Wright & Evans, James Gillray, #300.