- Museum number
- Object: The valley of the shadow of death.
An adaptation of and sequel to Gillray's plate with this title, No. 11031. Napoleon, copied from No. 11031, stands dismayed, sword in hand, in profile to the left, confronting, not the British Lion but his former captive, the 'Russian-Bear', which towers savagely above him. He stands as before between the 'Lethean Ditch' in the foreground, and the 'Ditch of Styx' in the middle distance, but on an irregular strip of grass, not a rocky causeway. He tramples on a crucifix, Bible, and crosier, and his right leg is encircled by a rattlesnake which has raised its head from the waters of Lethe to spit a venomous blast at Napoleon's face. A 'Toad' on the edge of the ditch, beside the bear, also spits up at Napoleon; it has excreted a row of 'Toad stools' growing in the grass. A smaller frog raises its head from the water to spit, as in No. 11031. The lifeless head of 'Rex Joseph' floats above the water, the neck encircled by a coil of the rattlesnake. Beside him floats a large (looted) mitre. Death, instead of riding a mule of 'True-Royal Spanish-Breed', is poised triumphantly on the back of the Russian Bear, holding up his hour-glass with sands almost run out, and pointing his spear at Napoleon as before, but the spear has transfixed the decollated and bleeding heads of three French officers, who look down at the Emperor with tragic expressions. Instead of wearing a cocked hat, Death is crowned, and round him swirls drapery inscribed 'Rhenish Confederation'. Three savage beasts leap towards Napoleon from the right: 'Leo Britannicus' as in No. 11031, but reversed, and his hind-quarters concealed by the rocks from which he springs; immediately behind him is a bulldog, its collar inscribed 'True breed Bull-'. This corresponds to the former 'Sicilian Terrier'. In place of the 'Portuguese Wolf' is a 'Hungara .. Wolf', with the end of a broken chain attached to its collar; it leaps down upon him from the right, his hind-feet emerging from the snow-hills which border the Styx. The head and hands of the 'Empress-Josephene' emerge from the Styx; she looks towards the Emperor in consternation.
In place of the 'German Eagle', but filling more of the design, is a naked figure somewhat like Frost in No. 11917, &c. He sits in a 'Sledge' drawn over mountains of snow and through clouds by a wildly galloping reindeer. He blows through a speaking-trumpet a blast against the back of Napoleon's head inscribed 'Russian Scourge', raising a barbed scourge. Though the air between the Russian-Bear and the Russian Scourge leaps down a fierce cat, inscribed 'Muscovy Cat', also spitting a blast at Napoleon, and about to land upon him with outstretched claws. From behind the snow-hills fringing the Styx rise huge flames from which an arm emerges holding a dagger inscribed 'Revenge', pointing vertically downwards at Napoleon's head. Among the flames is a shallow dome inscribed 'Cremlin Palace'. On a smaller scale than the other figures are a fox and an ass on the extreme left, and on the snow-hills. The fox, crowned, leaps off to the left, holding a goose in its mouth and looking over its shoulder towards Napoleon. He is 'Bernadotte Crown Prince of Sweaden'. Above him is a kneeling ass, facing towards Napoleon, ridden by two kings tied back to back. One (right) is 'Prusia', the other 'Germany' [Austria]; the ass has a pannier in which are crowns.
Plate numbered 183.
18 December 1812
- Production date
Height: 247 millimetres
Width: 350 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
For the retreat from Moscow see No. 11917, &c. No. 11031 relates to French defeats in Spain and the Spanish revolt; here Spain is referred to only by the dead or dying Joseph, a prophetic rendering of the effects of the Russian campaign on the French forces in Spain, but inconsistent with the actual situation: Joseph had returned to Madrid, and Wellington had been forced to retreat to Portugal. The princes of the Confederation of the Rhine, Napoleon's vassals and beneficiaries, had contributed 147,000 men to the Grand Army in 1812, and were to desert him after Leipzig. The rattlesnake is the emblem of America, see No. 6004, &c., and in No. 11031 is inscribed 'American Rattle-Snake shaking his Tail'; but America, though not an ally of France, had declared war on England, see No. 12043. Bernadotte, Prince Royal of Sweden, had secured Alexander's consent to the acquisition of Norway (the goose), in return for support against France; he refused, however, to take part in the campaign. See Webster, 'Foreign Policy of Castlereagh', 1931, pp. 92-101. Prussia and Austria, satellite allies of Napoleon, had contributed contingents to his army. In No. 11031 the frogs represent Holland, annexed to France in 1810. Napoleon had ordered Mortier to destroy the Kremlin and other public buildings; he did this very half-heartedly. Cf. Kutusoff's proclamation of 31 Oct.: 'In the very moment of his going he showed his baffled anger by the destruction of the Kremlin. There the divine power intervened for us, and saved the cathedral and our holy shrines.' Cf. Nos. 12049, 12569.
Listed by Broadley. Milan, No. 2404.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number