Detail from A Country Concert; - or - an Evenings Entertainment in Sussex by James Gillray, 1798. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
This is a caricature. Four amateur musicians - a woman and three men - play piano, cello, flute, and violin in a private home. The woman and the cellist sit at the piano, their backs to the viewer, and they sing "Beviamo tutti tie." At the right, another man plays with a dog, while a little girl lies on the floor and holds the back leg of the chair of the violinist.
In Mary Dorothy George's, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum..., there is a full description. A previous source had identified this scene as representing a Mrs. Billington who was discovered at home with her lover, the Duke of Sussex, by her second husband. A correction is offered in the British Museum catalogue: Mrs. Billington was in Italy in 1798, the date of this etching, and had not yet remarried, and Prince Augustus Frederick only received the title "Duke of Sussex" in 1801.
See other caricatures by or after Gillray in the Miller collection, 67/B and 296/B.
About the Artist
James Gillray, painter, draughtsman, caricaturist, engraver and etcher, 1756-1815
James Gillray was born in Chelsea, Middlesex, near London in 1756, and he died in London in 1815. He was brought up in a strict Moravian household but joined a group of strolling actors as a young man. By 1778, he had enrolled in the Royal Academy School in London as a student of Francesco Bartolozzi (1727-1815), a stipple engraver. (See works by Bartolozzi in the Miller collection, 443/R and 577/K.) He did produce a few stipple engravings as book illustrations for Tom Jones by Fielding (1780), and The Deserted Village by Goldsmith (1784), and painted some miniature portraits, including his own self-portrait. However, it is as a caricaturist that Gillray is most well known, especially for his witty political satires of the 1780s and 1790s, though he also produced social and personal satirical prints. The prints were popular and were sold in the shops of printsellers in London. After 1791, he was represented exclusively by Hannah Humphrey, a publisher who eventually settled at 27 St. James's Street, and with whom Gillray shared lodgings until his death in 1815. In all, Gillray produced about a thousand caricatures, two-thirds being political satires and one-third being personal satires. Occasionally, amateur artists such as the Rev. John Sneyd, M.A. (1763-1835), the Rector at Elford from 1792 to 1835, or Brownlow North (1778-1829), supplied drawings on which Gillray's etchings were based. Gillray's last signed plate is dated 1809. After this date, his health declined precipitously. His vision deteriorated and he had a mental collapse, his last years being described as a descent into madness. He was cared for by Mrs. Humphrey until his death.
- See Mary Dorothy George, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, Vol. VII, 1793-1800. [London] by order of the Trustees, 1942. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. LC call number: NE55.L7A3 Reference. A full description and additional bibliography for this print are given on pages 511-512, cat. no. 9306. [back to article]
- Thomas Wright and R. H. Evans, Historical & Descriptive Account of the Caricatures of James Gillray. London: 1851; reprint 1968. [back to article]
- An explanation and correction are given in the Introduction of Mary Dorothy George's, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum..., page xl. [back to article]
- See an excellent biography of Gillray by Anita McConnell and Simon Heneage, "James Gillray (1756-1815), caricaturist," in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography which is available online (by subscription only). For an overview of Gillray's work as well as other British caricaturists in the 18th century, see the Introductions to volumes VII and VIII of Mary Dorothy George's Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. [London] by order of the Trustees, 1942 and 1947. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. LC call number: NE55.L7A3 Reference. Other fine sources on Gillray are: 1) Draper Hill, Mr. Gillray, the Caricaturist: A Biography. London: The Phaidon Press, 1965. LC call number: NC1479.G5H5 1965a; 2) James Gillray 1756-1815: Drawings and Caricatures, with an introduction by Draper Hill. London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1967, exhibition catalogue. LC call number: NC1479.G5A7; 3) The Satirical Etchings of James Gillray, edited by Draper Hill. New York: Dover Publications, 1976, which contains 104 illustrations of Gillray's prints, with comments. LC call number: NC1479.G5H52 1976; 4) Richard T. Godfrey, James Gillray: The Art of Caricature, with an essay by Mark Hallet. London: Tate Publishing, 2001, exhibition catalogue. This is not in the Library of Congress. A copy is available at the National Gallery of Art, call number: N44.G4839G63 2001; 5) The National Portrait Gallery, London, launched a major cataloguing project of Gillray's works, ninety percent of which is in their collections. A description of the project is given in an article, "Cataloguing Projects at the NPG," in Print Quarterly 20(March 2003): 78-80. National Gallery of Art, call number: N1.P838. Many of Gillray's works from the National Portrait Gallery, London, are available online (search for Gillray). [back to article]