Collection online

The reception of the diplomatique & his suite, at the court of Pekin

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The reception of the diplomatique & his suite, at the court of Pekin
  • Description

    The Emperor of China (left) reclines on a mattress on a low dais, smoking a long pipe and contemptuously watching, out of his slit-like eyes, Lord Macartney, who kneels on one knee, holding out the King's letter, which is signed 'GR \ WP [Pitt] Sec.' The Emperor emits a puff of smoke from a twisted mouth in a subtly insulting manner. Behind him stand two impassive mandarins, their folded hands concealed in their voluminous sleeves. Beside the dais (right) stands a soldier in armour, holding a sword in his clasped hands. The Chinese have pointed beards and moustaches, and long claw-like fingernails. Over the dais is an ornate canopy in the manner of a Chinese pagoda, ornamented with a dragon. Macartney, wearing the insignia of the Bath, kneels in profile to the left, indicating with his left hand a number of presents which have been placed at the Emperor's feet. Five members of his suite prostrate themselves behind Macartney, their heads touching the floor so that their faces are hidden and the backs of their breeches are ludicrously conspicuous. Behind are others bringing presents, the two most prominent are identified as Sir George Staunton, secretary to the Embassy, and Huttner, who published a German account of the expedition. Staunton, who is not caricatured but does not conspicuously resemble his portrait (by Engleheart, 1792, engraved C. Picart), stands full face behind Macartney, holding the string of a toy balloon decorated with the royal arms, to which is attached, in place of a basket, a cock standing on a pair of breeches (cf. BMSat 6564). Huttner holds a magpie in a wicker cage. Men crowd behind them carrying, one, a toy coach complete with six horses, driver, postilion, &c, the whole on a small wheeled platform; another, a rocking-horse; a third holds a weathercock in one hand, a British flag in the other. The objects on the ground are: a volume of 'Boydell's Shakespeare' (see BMSat 7584, &c.) on which is a rat-trap; a bat, trap, and ball, dice-box and dice, a battledore and shuttlecock (on which is a crown); an oval miniature of George III, to which is attached a child's coral and bells; a toy windmill; a magic-lantern with a 'slider' (cf. BMSat 6287) which projects at each side showing devils, in the lantern is a figure of Punch; the model of a man-of-war flying a British flag, and an E.O. table (see BMSat 5928, &c). 14 September 1792
    Hand-coloured etching


  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1792
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 317 millimetres
    • Width: 398 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered: 'Js Gy design et fecit' and 'Pubd. Septr. 14th. 1792. by H. Humphrey No 18. Old Bond Street'.
        Annotated (recto): "P. 48 No 88. 4" and annotated (verso) with artist's name, date and catalogue number.
  • Curator's comments

    (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VI, 1938)
    Macartney's mission to China, which sailed in September, with the object of securing better trading conditions, was the subject of many newspaper paragraphs and of two poems by Peter Pindar in 1792: 'A Pair of Lyric Epistles to Lord Macartney and his Ship' and 'Odes to Kien Long ...', both of which ridiculed George III. The presents taken were intended to display British craftsmanship and manufactures in the interests of British trade, and included two magnificent carriages (for summer and winter), a large orrery, a pair of globes, fire-arms, eight field pieces (with an officer and eight artillerymen), besides mechanical toys. 'Lond. Chron.' 6 and 17 July, 2 and 16 Aug. 1792, &c. The actual reception which took place in a 'tent of audience' is described in Staunton's 'Account' of the Embassy, 1797, ii. 229 ff.
    Probably one of three caricatures sent (15 Feb. 1793) by Lord Henry Spencer to Lord Auckland at the Hague: 'I think that on Lord Macartney excellent, and I abandon defence of the rest'. 'Auckland Corr.' ii. 472, 499-500.
    Grego, 'Gillray', pp. 160-3 (copy). Wright and Evans, No. 88. Reprinted, 'G.W.G.', 1830.


  • Bibliography

    • BM Satires 8121 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (British XVIIIc Mounted Roy)

  • Exhibition history

    2001 Jun-Sep, London, Tate Britain, 'Gillray and the Art of Caricature'

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat). 14 September 1792  Hand-coloured etching

FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat). 14 September 1792 Hand-coloured etching

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: PPA83356

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help