Friday, December 30, 2011

James Gillray: Playing in Parts

Hand-colored etching and aquatint, image 37 x 26 cm., published 15 May 1801
by Hannah Humphrey, 27 St James's Street, London. Engraved by Brownlow North

Gillray lived with Hannah Humphrey (sometimes titled "Mrs.") for the entire period of his fame. It is believed that he several times thought of marrying her; on one occasion the pair were on their way ti the church, when Gillray said: "This is a foolish affair, methink, Miss Humphrey. We live very comfortable together; we had better let well alone." He died insane in 1815.

This design is based on an earlier Gillray image, "Ars Musica", published 16 February 1800, showing a trio, now much altered and elaborated to include the slightly unlikely ensemble of two flutes, violin, cello and fortepino. The howling dog, who seems to habe commandeered all the separate parts, may give the idea of the performance of these amateur musicians. In the later Bohn restrike this image was included in the so-called "Suppressed Plates", presumabley on account of the officer's sword raising the skirts of the traditionally-built lady on the far right.

James Gillray (13 August 1756 or 1757 – 1 June 1815), was a British caricaturist and printmaker famous for his etched political and social satires, mainly published between 1792 and 1810.

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