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The Two Kings of Terror

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The Two Kings of Terror
  • Description

    Heading to a printed broadside: 'Copy / of the / Transparency / exhibited at / Ackermann's Repository of Arts, / During the Illuminations of the 5th and 6th of November, 1813, / in honour of the splendid Victories obtained by / The Allies over the Armies of France, / at Leipsic and its environs' A skeleton, Death (left), seated on a cannon, his elbows on his knees, faces Napoleon, not caricatured, in a similar attitude on a drum. The 'two Kings' gaze fixedly at each other, Death menacing, Napoleon as if trying to read a terrifying riddle. Death's left foot rests on a cannon-ball, the right on the broken shaft of an eagle. Behind is a symbolical representation of the battle. The Allies advance from the left in regular formation with bayonets levelled at fleeing French soldiers. Four flags, with the eagles of Russia, Prussia, and Austria, and the Swedish cross, are held up by standard-bearers in the third rank: they recede in perspective from left to right. On the left wing are two hussars, riding down the fugitives. The main French army is streaming in wild confusion up and over a hill, diminishing in perspective. Other soldiers, pursued by hussars, flee down a hill behind Napoleon (right). Bodies of Frenchmen lie on the ground. Below the (printed) title is printed: 'This Subject, representing the two Tyrants, viz. the Tyrant Bonaparte and the Tyrant Death, sitting together on the Field of Battle, in a manner which promises a more perfect intimacy immediately to ensue, is very entertaining. It is also very instructing to observe, that the former is now placed in a situation in which all Europe "may see through him". The emblem, too, of the Circle of dazzling light from mere "vapour", which is so "soon extinguished" has a good moral effect; and as the Gas represents the dying flame, so does the Drum, on which he is seated, typify the "hollow" and "noisy" nature of the falling Usurper.
    'The above description of the subject appeared in the 'Sun' of Saturday, the 6th of November. These pointed comments arose from the picture being "transparent", and from a Circle, indication of the strength and brotherly union of the Allies, which surmounted the same, composed of "gas" of brilliant brightness.'
    November 1813
    Hand-coloured etching


  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1813
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 225 millimetres (image plate)
    • Width: 292 millimetres (image plate)
    • Height: 440 millimetres (printed area)
    • Width: 292 millimetres (printed area)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered with artist's name: "T. Rowlandson delt".
  • Curator's comments

    (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
    News of Leipzig, 'the battle of the Nations', 16-18 Oct., reached London on 2 Nov. ('Extraordinary Gazette'); the town was illuminated on 5 and 6 Nov. The first print to be published was perhaps Cruikshank's 'The Emperor Boney escaping from Leipsic under Cover', dated 8th Nov.; he hides under the petticoats of an old woman representing the Church of Rome (Reid, No. 269, not in B.M.). For gas-lighting cf. No. 10798, &c.. For the battle see Nos. 12094, 12096, 12097, 12098, 12100, 12103, 12108, &c., 12109, 12110, 12169, 12171, 12177, 12187, 12188, 12192, 12201, 12202, 12203, 12204, 12235 A, 12318, 12319, 13487.
    A folded impression, without text, shows that the plate was used also as a book-illustration.
    Imitated in 'Conversation Sentimentale', 1830 (against Charles X).
    Grego, 'Rowlandson', ii. 255, 257, 272 (under date 1 Jan. 1814). Broadley, i. 338. De Vinck, No. 8825. Van Stolk, No. 6179. Hennin, No. 13777. Often reproduced, e.g., Dayot, 'Napoléon', p. 87; Fuchs, i. 180; Bourguignon, ii. 204; Klingender, p. 43.

    (Supplementary information)
    Copies vary considerably in size, the text being printed at different distances from the design.


  • Bibliography

    • BM Satires 12093 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (British XVIIIc Mounted Roy)

  • Exhibition history

    1989/90 Nov-Jan, Glasgow Mus & AG, World of Thomas Rowlandson
    1990 Jan-Mar, Leicester City AG, World of Thomas Rowlandson
    1990/1 Nov-Jan, Maidstone Museum, World of Thomas Rowlandson
    1991 Jan-Mar, Swansea, Glynn Vivian AG, World of Th.Rowlandson
    2015 Feb-Aug, BM, Rm 90, Bonaparte and the British

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat). November 1813  Hand-coloured etching

FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat). November 1813 Hand-coloured etching

Reproduced by permission of the artist. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Image description



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