- Museum number
- Object: The troelfth cake Le gateau des rois
Four monarchs inspecting a large map of Poland inscribed "Pologne en 1772", spread out on a table. Catharine II of Russia is seated (left) and points with both hands to the part of South Poland nearest the Russian frontier. She looks up towards Stanislaus II of Poland who stands with his left hand on the map, his right. clutching his crown which is slipping from his head; he looks at Catharine with a distraught expression. Opposite Catharine at the other side of the table (r.) stands Frederick of Prussia, in riding dress, his sword resting on the map near "Dantzik" and between "Brandebour" and "Pomeranie". George III stands in profile to the right. between Stanislaus, to whom his back is turned, and Frederick, his left hand rests on the map, from which, however, he looks away. France blowing two trumpets flies above and away from the four monarchs. Clouds and trees form a background. Laurel branches are growing (r.) behind Frederick; two laurel wreaths lie at Catharine's feet. She wears an ermine-lined robe, and sits in an ornate chair, the arm of which is a carved eagle. 1772-3
- Production date
Height: 302 millimetres
Width: 205 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', V, 1935)
Probably a French print: the engraving is in a French manner, and the publication line is evidently adapted (incorrectly) from an English print of an earlier date (before the numbering of the houses in Fleet Street c. 1766). "Troelfth" is probably a French engraver's rendering of Twelfth, cf. BMSat 5229. In 1772 France was powerless to prevent the partition of Poland, especially in view of the latent hostility of England, 'Camb. Mod. Hist.', vi. 357. This print may be an effort of propaganda to suggest the joint action of France and England to prevent the partition (there were rumours in England in 1773 that such action was contemplated, see BMSat 5110, 5124), or at least, to secure the benevolent neutrality of England. George III is represented as indolently acquiescing in the Partition as in BMSat 4957. See also BMSat 5222, 5229.
George subsequently discovered that the plate was after Moreau le Jeune from an article in the 'Gazette des Beaux Arts' for 1910 (ii) p.113. It is fully described by Bocher. He quotes notices in the 'Mercure de France' that show that the plate was published in Paris in February 1773, and that the first published state (the third) gave the address 'Sold by Robt. Sayer , No.53 in Fleet Street et se trouve à Paris chez le Mire rue St Etienne des Grez'. In the fourth state the name of the engraver as 'Ermelin' (an anagram of N.Le Mire) was added. The print was then suppressed. Ths story is reported in Bachaumont's 'Mémoires Secrets'. On 6 February 1773 (VI, London 1780, p.275, after describing the print, he continues 'Le sr. Le Mire a mis son nom au bas de cette estampe, qui sera en vente incessament. Ce qui fait présumer qu'il a au moins une permission tacite du Gouvernement pour la distribuer'. On 11 February he added: 'L'estampe dont on a parlé concernant le partage de la Pologne, intitlée Le Gateau des Rois vient d'etre arretée chez le Sr. Le Mire, et enlevée avant d'etre mis en vente par ordre du Gouvernement; cependant on se flatte qu'elle reparaitra. On présume que c'est une tournure pour prévenir les plaintes des Ministres qu'elle intéresse, et que sourdement on en relachera les exemplaires au graveur. En effet c'est difficile de croire que celui-ci se soit hasardé à faire les fraix d'une entreprise aussi délicate sans etre sur d'une approbation au moins tacite.' See the BN Collection Anisson, 22080/163,4 for the record of the seizure of the plate and 27 of 200 impressions from Le Mire. This account would explain the subsequent re-issue with only Sayer's address, and using an earlier form of it, as on the BM impression. It is clear that Sayer's address was false, designed to suggest that the print had not been made in France. For another similar case of a false Sayer publication line, see under 1998,0712.46.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number