- Museum number
- Object: The Guardian-Angel.
A travesty of Peters's 'An Angel carrying the Spirit of a Child to Paradise', [Stipple coloured engraving by W. Dickinson, pub. 20 May 1784, in Print Room.] exhibited R.A. 1783, in which the angel is a portrait of Isabella, Duchess of Rutland, and the figures have a background of clouds. Mrs. Fitzherbert, as the angel, flies upwards, her right. arm caressingly round a little girl, her left. pointing up to an irradiated and burlesqued altar, surrounded with cherub's heads, which recede in aerial perspective from the lower heads, which are fully characterized, to the upper ones, which are small. These angels are (l.) Windham, Grenville, Grey, Erskine, Grattan, and a (tiny and unrecognizable) Lord Holland. On the r. are Sheridan, Norfolk, Fox, Burdett, and Derby. [These identifications are by Lord Holland. They are self-evident, except Grattan who resembles Carlisle, or Jekyll, and has a profile completely unlike other portraits and caricatures. Wright and Evans give Stanhope for Windham and Carlisle for Grattan. Lord Holland is not characterized, and the identification can rest only on Gillray's statement.] The altar is lit by four large and guttering candles; over it, stiff and grotesque, are a Virgin and Child, 'La Sainte Veirge' [sic]. The head and hands of a demon emerge from a chalice which is flanked by vases of flowers. Three books surround the altar each open at a print: the Pope holding his cross and wearing a tiara; the many-headed Beast of Revelation (cf. BMSat 5534, &c); and a grotesque rendering of the Saint-Esprit, or dove of Pentecost. The rays, which descend towards Mrs. Fitzherbert, are inscribed 'Indulgences', 'Absolutions', 'Luxuries', 'Absolutions', 'Dissipations'.
Mrs. Fitzherbert is a stout figure, whose realism is burlesqued by outspread wings and floating draperies. In her hair are three large plumes, emblem of the Prince of Wales; a cross hangs from her neck, a rosary flies outward. A large pouch inscribed 'Play-Things' is attached to her waist: from this hang a lighted censer and a rosary; from it project the head of a saint (burlesqued), a calvary in a bottle, a book: 'Brighton Breviary', a monstrance, St. Andrew holding his cross, a bunch of leaves. Mrs. Fitzherbert registers determined fanaticism; the little girl, childish devotion. They ascend between dark douds. Immediately below them (l.) is the Brighton Pavilion. After the title: '- the hint taken from the Revd Mr Peter's sublime Idea of "an Angel conducting the Soul of a Child to Heaven"'. 22 April 1805
Hand-coloured etching and aquatint
- Production date
Height: 375 millimetres
Width: 263 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VIII, 1947)
A satire on the long-drawn out legal struggle (not decided till 14 June 1806) between Mrs. Fitzherbert and the Seymour family for the guardianship of Mary (Minney) Seymour, daughter of Lord Hugh Seymour (b. 23 Nov. 1798), Mrs. Fitzherbert promising to educate her as a Protestant. See Shane Leslie, 'Mrs. Fitzherbert', 1939, pp. 145 ff. The child is identified in the 'Illustrative description', 1830, as Minney Seymour, by Grego and Wright and Evans as Princess Charlotte (b. 7 Jan. 1796) whose guardianship was also in dispute (see BMSat 10363). Lord Holland confirms the Seymour identification. It is not unlikely that a certain ambiguity was intentional. The contest for the child is here related to the movement for Catholic Emancipation sponsored by the Opposition. This was debated on a motion in the Lords by Grenville on 10 and 13 May, and in the Commons by Fox, debated on 13 and 14 May. See 'Ann. Reg.', 1805, pp. 89-97, and BMSat 10404, &c. See BMSat 10401.
Grego, 'Gillray', pp. 318-19 (small copy). Wright and Evans, No. 533. Reprinted, 'G.W.G.', 1830. Reproduced, O. Sitwell, 'Brighton', 1935, p. 268.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number