- Museum number
- Object: The death of the great Wolf.
A close parody of West's picture, 'The Death of Wolfe' (1771). The three officers supporting the mortally wounded Pitt are (left to right) Burke, Pepper Arden (Master of the Rolls), and Dundas. From Burke's pocket projects a paper 'Reflections upon £3700 Pr Ann.' (The policy indicated by his famous book, see BMSat 7675, &c, had been rewarded by two pensions, see BMSat 8654.) Dundas, wearing a kilt, offers Pitt a glass of wine (in place of stanching his wound); a bottle of 'Port' projects from his coat-pocket. The officer behind holding the British flag is identified by Lord Holland as Chatham and the man who supports him as Powys, noted for his propensity to tears (see BMSat 6642). The White Horse of Hanover (cf. BMSat 8691, &c.) on the flag is more conspicuous than in West's picture, and a scroll inscribed 'Magna Chart[a]' has been added.
In the group facing Pitt the place of the Mohawk Indian seated on the ground is taken by Loughborough, half-naked, the purse of the Great Seal replacing the Indian's beaded bag, the mace that of his musket, a bloodstained headsman's axe that of his tomahawk. In place of the beaded headdress is the Chancellor's wig surmounted by a monster with the head of a cock, whose limbs are snakes. The two men who lean forward to Wolfe, pointing back to the messenger with the news of victory, are dressed as running-footmen in livery and hold the long sticks with the head enclosing an egg carried by these men. Ink-pots are slung across their shoulders by bands inscribed 'Ist Treasury Runner' and '2d Tre . . .', showing that they are the two Secretaries to the Treasury, George Rose and Charles Long. Grenville, in peer's robes, stands between Lord Mansfield and Windham, who supports him.
In place of West's handsome young officer who runs up with the French flag is a man with the face of a demon holding a tattered tricolour flag inscribed 'Libertas', its shaft broken. A large bonnet-rouge lies on the ground.
The couple who stand on the extreme right watching Pitt with clasped hands are Richmond and a man with a wooden leg. Richmond, in general's uniform, his bald head contrasting with the luxuriant hair of West's corresponding figure, has a cannon slung to his back to indicate his Mastership of the Ordnance (cf. BMSat 6921, &c.) in which, however, he had been succeeded by Cornwallis (Feb. 1795), see BMSat 8341. His weeping companion has been identified as Wilberforce, though his wooden leg might indicate Brook Watson, Commissary-General (see vol. vi).
The background differs from West's picture. In place of the confused fighting and the smoke which surrounds the Heights of Abraham, the Ministerial cavalry advance in even line, rank upon rank, and put to flight a small body of sansculottes with bonnets-rouges (left). They have a standard on which is a crown. Beneath the title: '------" We have overcome all Opposition!------ exclaimed the Managers, ------"I'm satisfied."------said the Dying Hero, & Expired in the Moment of Victory.
To Benjn West Esqr President of the Royal Academy, this attempt to Emulate the Beauties of his unequal'd Picture, of the "Death of Genl Wolfe", is most respectfully submitted, by the Author.' 17 December 1795
- Production date
Height: 340 millimetres
Width: 447 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VII, 1942)
A satire on the passing of the Treason and Sedition Bills (see BMSat 8687, &c.) which became law on 18 Dec, similar in spirit to BMSat 8691. The heavy Ministerial forces are entirely disproportioned to the tiny body of (unarmed) sansculottes. For Gillray's attitude towards history painting cf. BMSat 7584.
Sneyd wrote to Gillray, 31 Dec. 1795: 'The Great Wolf is very capital indeed, and I regret with you that Mr. Canning did not make his debut in Mrs H's window in so excellent a print.' Bagot, 'Canning and his Friends', 1909, i. 56-7. For West's picture see Whitley, 'Artists and their Friends in England 1700-1799', i. 281 f.
Grego, 'Gillray', p. 195 (reproduction). Wright and Evans, No. 140. Reprinted, 'G.W.G.', 1830.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
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