Lot 932: Malta in British and French Caricatures: 11 Original prints from the 1798 – 1815 period.
Caricature is defined as the distorted presentation of a person, type or action, and its purpose is precisely that of over-emphasizing or exaggerating a salient feature. Occasionally, features or members of animals or birds are substituted for the human being, or an analogy is drawn between human and animal actions. In some caricatures Napoleon is depicted as a monkey and Czar Paul I as a bear.
In the 18th century caricature travelled to Britain where it was taken up by William Hogarth, James Gillray, Isaac Cruikshank, William Holland and others. By the end of the century it had become deeply rooted, especially in London. During the Napoleonic period political and social satire was the order of the day and print sellers issued and sold caricatures in profusion.
London at this time abounded in print shops which were the venue for gossip and political arguments. Evert frame-window of these shops was pasted up with political prints or broad-side ballads, providing free entertainment for the throngs outside who could not afford to buy them. It was also customary to hang caricatures on the walls of gentleman’s clubs, coffee houses, pubs and even barber shops for the amusement of customers. Hundreds were bought daily by the well-to-do. Caricature exhibitions were held regularly.
the etchings were run off copper plates mostly measuring 25 x 35cm, very often crudely hand coloured by low paid assistants.
In France, on the other hand, it was only after the revolution that political satire came out into the open. Throughout the Napoleonic Wars, which involved the whole of Europe, graphic satire on both sides of the channel was commonly employed as an instrument of political propaganda and to vilify the enemy.
The British and French caricatures which have a Malta connection were published between 1798, when the island was seized by the French, and 1815, when the principal European powers ratified its annexation to the British Crown. Examined in the light of the historical events of the period such caricatures prove to be at times coarse and strongly offensive, but they serve to emphasize the patriotic sentiment then prevailing in both England an France.
Between 1798 and 1815, reference to Malta was made in at least fifty six caricatures produced in England and France.
(Excerpt taken from Malta in British and French Caricatures, 1798 – 1815, with Historical Notes, Albert Ganado, Joseph C. Sammut, SAID INTERNATIONAL for the CENTRAL BANK OF MALTA, 1989)