- Museum number
- Object: Design for the Naval Pillar
A tall pillar, supporting an allegorical design of Britannia and covered with figures and objects in high relief, stands upon a rock in a stormy sea, waves dashing against it. The square base is supported by figures of Fortitude, with a lion, her left hand on a broken pillar, and Justice, with an ostrich, her scales not balanced. Between them is inscribed: 'To Perpetuate the Destruction of the Regicide Navy of France, and the Triumph of the British Flag'. It rests on two slabs of stones inscribed with the names of admirals: (below) 'Howe', 'Parker', 'Nelson', 'St Vincent', 'Bridport'; (above) 'Duncan', 'Gardiner', 'Keith', 'Hood'.
On the summit tritons blowing horns support a shell in which stands Britannia with shield and trident. In her right hand stands a tiny figure of Victory. Beside her an angry lion grasps a globe showing the British Isles and 'le Mer'. The capital of the pillar is formed by the feathers in the hats of republican soldiers who dangle from it, still holding blood-stained daggers. Other objects on the pillar are a sailor wearing wooden shoes, broken weapons and nautical instruments, a tricolour flag inscribed 'Egalité' with a broken shaft, a small decapitated figure of 'Libertas', holding up a bonnet-rouge. On the horizon (left) is a fort; above are dark clouds from which issue many flashes of lightning. Above the design:
"Nought shall Her Columns stately pride deface;
"The Storm plays harmless round the marble base,
"In vain the Tempest, and in vain the blast,
"The Trident is confirmed: -
Adapted, from "The Pursuits of
Literature", see, Diae 4th & the Note.'
[ - the passing God,
That shook old Ocean's empire ? from beneath
Strange threat'ning notes in hollow murmurs breathe
Hoarse through the deafen'd shrouds! But hush'd the blast,
The Trident is confirm'd: the dream is past.'
Lines written (prophetically) in May 1797 during the naval mutiny (note by author, T. J. Mathias).] 1 February 1800
Hand-coloured etching and aquatint
- Production date
Height: 546 millimetres
Width: 306 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VII, 1942)
A committee was formed in 1799, headed by the Duke of Clarence, for raising a 'naval pillar or monument', and artists were invited to send in plans. Controversy raged between Flaxman, who proposed in a pamphlet a colossal statue of Britannia on Richmond Hill, and Dufour, an architect who pleaded for 'a Monument of Architecture' (B.M.L., 559*. c. 23/4, 4*). A musical entertainment by the younger Dibdin, 'The Naval Pillar, or Britannia Triumphant', was performed at Covent Garden on 7 Oct.; a pillar was displayed, with the names of admirals, and Britannia was enthroned under an irradiated representation of Howe. 'Lond. Chron.', 8 Oct. 1799. Gillray's design suggests satire on the grandiose and self-interested schemes of rival artists, and though its general character is patriotic, there is irony in the attributes of Justice. For the admirals and their victories cf. BMSat 9257, &c.
Grego, 'Gillray', p. 269. Wright and Evans, No. 251. Reprinted, 'G.W.G.', 1830.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1997/8 Oct-Mar, Dundee, McManus Galleries, 'Glorious Victory', no.9513
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number