- Museum number
- Object: The Political Kalender for the Year 1740
Satire on the British government's position in relation to the European political situation in 1740, in thirteen compartments with a scene for each month surrounded by a scrolling rococo framework and a central rectangular scene entitled 'A Year of Wonders' in which Frederick William I of Prussia (who died in May 1740), Emperor Charles VI (who died in October 1740), Empress Anna of Russia (died October 1740) and Pope Clement XII (died February 1740) approach Charon to be rowed across the river Styx. The Emperor wears 16th-century dress, as a reminder that as a young man he had claimed the kingdom of Spain. The Empress offers Charon the portrait of a young man, perhaps intended as that of her nominated heir Ivan VI who was in fact only a few months old at the time of her death. On the left, stand two soldiers, one a Hungarian and the other a grenadier weeping into a large handkerchief; on the right, a monk kneels behind the pope reading a paper lettered, "10000 Masses". In the background, to left, well ordered parkland represents the Elysian Fields while on the right flames burst from stone arches representing hell mouth; an execution wheel stands in front of the flames and a salamander perches on one of the stones. 'January' shows the frozen Thames with a recruiting sergeant outside a tent with the sign "Noble Art of Printing" enlisting two ragged men who claim, "We can fight"; beyond, skaters approach another tent, "the Frost Fair Coffee House", where a woman serves drinks from a board resting on a barrel; on the far bank is Westminster Hall with a severed head on a pole at the gable end. 'February' shows three soldiers sharpening their swords at a grindstone outside a tavern named after the Duke of Argyll; a monkey dressed as a soldier sits on a cross-beam feeling the point of his bayonet; another gun rests against the post. In 'March' Robert Walpole is seated in a grand room pressing his hand down on the shoulder of Britannia who crouches at his side; a man delivers the news of the taking of Portobello to which Walpole exclaims "the Devil", clenching his fist; a paper on the floor is lettered, "Art of Accom[modation]" and a picture on the wall behind shows the Good Samaritan, perhaps a reference to Admiral Vernon's saving of the beleagured British merchants of the Caribbean. 'April' shows a British officer, his hands tied behind his back, being led by a Spaniard towards the castle of San Sebastian; "65" British ships lie at anchor in the harbour. In 'May' an Irish lieutenant captured by the British from a Spanish ship, the "Princessa", kneels beneath a noose begging for his life from three British officers. 'June' shows a military encampment on Hounslow Heath where the young Duke of Cumberland emerges from a tent with the royal coat of arms; behind him an officer supervises the punishment for theft of a soldier who hangs by one arm from a post, his foot balancing on a sharp pointed stone while another soldier holds across his shoulders the sheep that he has stolen. 'July' shows the collision off-shore by night of the Victory and the Lyon; debris floats in the sea and a rowing boat draws near to rescue men from the water. In 'August' Walpole and Cardinal Fleury encounter each other on a see-saw; Fleury weighs down Walpole although the latter is assisted by a monkey who hangs from the end of the plank behind him; above Fleury, a sword of victory entwined by oak leaves hangs from a tree, while above Walpole hang a sextant and a pair of chain-shot. In 'September' an old woman tugs at the coat of a soldier embarking with others at a naval fort, she points to lightning in the sky as if in warning (a reference to the bad weather that delayed Sir Chaloner Ogle's expedition to the Caribbean). In 'October' Fleury stands beside the heavily fortified pierhead at Dunkirk repelling the British in the shape of a ship with eagle's wings; the ship is followed by a courier on horseback sounding his horn (in that month the British had complainedof the re-fortification of Dunkirk in contravention of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713). In 'November' Walpole, who has stripped off his coat and garter lettered, "[Honi soit qui mal] y pense", is attacked by Fleury, who has laid aside his cardinal's hat, and men representing the Netherlands (a man with a pipe in his hat) and Spain; the confrontation is presided over by a judge seated beneath a figure of Justice, and gentlemen cheer on the protagonists (Stephens identified the scene as taking place in the House of Commons, but there is no figure of Justice on the Speaker's chair). 'December' shows Fleury giving a magic lantern show to five men representing the European powers, Spain, Prussia, the Netherlands, France and the Empire; they are seated at a carpeted table on which is a paper lettered, "A Method to make all easy"; a sword and cardinal's hat hang above the lantern and a menacing devil appears above the men. 25 November 1740
- Production date
Height: 375 millimetres
Width: 494 millimetres (trimmed)
- Curator's comments
- See also impressions with a calendar for 1741 pasted over "A Year of Wonders".
The attribution of the design to Gravelot seems certain.
- Not on display
- Associated events
- Associated Event: War of Austrian Succession 1740-1748
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number