Physical Aid... by James Gillray

Physical Aid...

James Gillray

Fine art poster

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Physical Aid...

With the rapid disintegration of the Peace of Amiens in the face of Napoleonic military build-up in the spring of 1803, the King suggested to Parliament the adoption of additional defences. This was debated on 9 March, when the advocates of peace, led by Addington, Fox and Sheridan, rejected such plans as unnecessary and denounced any move towards the resumption of war. This anti-war stance is the subject of Gillray's biting satire. Set on a cliff-top looking out to sea, a recumbent and dishevelled Britannia, having just awoken to the danger, cries out for assistance. She is supported by Addington and Hawkesbury, who offer her only platitudes. The scene is enveloped in thick, black fog, and in the background, in the midst of it, Fox, holding his hat before his eyes, declares he 'can't see any thing of the Buggabo's!'. Beyond the fog, however, the French fleet is visible, led by Napoleon (who is shown without a torso, that is, a 'Nobody'). It descends in droves upon the English coast. At the centre of the composition is a brutal lampoon of Sheridan, represented as a grotesque Harlequin holding a club inscribed 'Dramatic Loyalty' and a shield with the image of Medusa, thus suggesting him, mockingly, as a Harlequin version of Perseus rescuing Andromeda. Ridiculous in his mock-heroic posture of defence of Britannia's honour, his Harlequin costume is a reference to Sheridan's career in the theatre, but also suggests that his and his colleagues' parliamentary performance is no better than a farce.
James Gillray

Original size: 310 mm x 438 mm

  • Image reference: PW3967

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