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Political billiards

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Political billiards
  • Description

    European sovereigns (wearing crowns) and others, watch a game of billiards between the Tsar, the principal figure, and the Sultan. Nicholas (left), a dandy in uniform, is about to make a stroke which will inevitably pocket the Turkish ball; in the pocket beside him is a ball inscribed 'Greece'. He registers complacent satisfaction. The Turk (right), in ornate Turkish dress and jewelled turban with two aigrettes, stamps furiously, tearing his long white beard. Greece (or the pro-Russian President of the Republic, Capodistrias) stands behind Nicholas on the extreme left, gloomily smoking a long pipe. He wears elaborate national costume, and a cone-shaped cap from which project two long ass's ears; this is surmounted by a chain and padlock and inscribed 'Cap of Liberty presented by Russia'. Charles X bends excitedly towards him, both hands raised; he says: 'By Gar he has pocket your Ball—dat is no good for you.' On the wall a framed map of the globe serves as marking board; the east, north, and west sides are respectively: 'Greece', 'Turkey', and 'India', the last being 'Game'. The pointer is a bayoneted musket. Francis I is marking, his finger on the pointer which has just passed "Turkey" on its way to "India"; he looks down at the table, saying, 'I may as well mark Game.' Frederick William III puts his hand on his shoulder, saying, 'I say Brother Marker, you and I must go snacks.' Seated under this map is Francis I of the Two Sicilies, his arms folded; he holds his crown which is 'Wrapped up—to preserve the NAP'. Between the map and Charles X stands an American, presumably President Jackson, a tall man in civilian dress with a jauntily worn high-crowned hat. He says: 'Pretty considerable—that is I guess how the game will be' [see BM Satires No. 14714]. Between the King of Prussia and the Sultan stands Ferdinand VII, as the "Spanish Mule" of BM Satires No. 12508, &c., an ass's head, with blinkers and a muzzle, and long ears projecting through his crown. He wears ruff, slashed doublet, &c, and reads a paper: 'Map of Sou[th] Amer[ica]'.
    In the foreground Wellington (right) sits in a small chair, in profile to the left, his eyes looking apprehensively behind him, his mouth pursed. He wears blue coat and white trousers and holds a cue, the butt resting on the ground; under his chair lies a British bull-dog, gazing up with melancholy intentness. The Duke's shadow forms the silhouette of a soldier standing with folded arms. In the middle distance are notabilities, less directly concerned. The Duke of Brunswick in the uniform of a Death's Head Hussar, with a conical fool's cap with bells poised above his crown, says, 'I'll see Hanover d—n before I ask his pardon.' O'Connell, with a big bag of 'Rent' under his arm (see BM Satires No. 14766, &c), says to the Pope, holding out a ticket inscribed 'MP, By der powers father I won two games' [his two returns for Clare, see BM Satires Nos. 15538, 15847]. On the extreme right Dom Miguel, wearing the Order of the Tower and Sword, clutches his crown, saying, 'I must hold tight now—my little Wife that was to be—is gone home.' 30 September 1829
    Hand-coloured etching


  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1829
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 261 millimetres
    • Width: 372 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered with title, artist's name, text within image and publication line: "Pub Sep 30 1829 by T. McLean 26 Haymarket Sole publisher of W Heaths Etchings"
  • Curator's comments

    (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', XI, 1954)
    A satire on the defeat of Turkey by Russia (cf. No. 15533, &c.) culminating in the occupation of Adrianople (20 Aug.), and the dictation of peace there, see No. 15877. An article in the Treaty dealt with the liberation of Greece, but the Greek question was transferred to a conference of Russia, England, and France in London: Russia was established as the protector of Greece; her victories, military and diplomatic, are represented as a threat to India. For Russia and Greece see (e.g.) No. 15554. Austria and Prussia had at first supported Turkey in resistance to Russia, but after the Russian victories advised surrender. The dissipated Francis I (1825-30) left the government of the Two Sicilies to favourites and police. The Duke of Brunswick (see No. 16276 [3], &c.) had quarrelled with and insulted the King of Hanover (George IV); he refused to apologize when called upon by the German Diet to do so. 'Ann. Reg.', 1829, pp. 201-3. For Maria da Gloria (betrothed to Miguel) see No. 15557, &c.; she left England for Brazil in August. Wellington's attitude is cryptic; he wrote (25 Aug.): "We are certainly in a bad way; and nobody can see a creditable road out of our difficulties." 'Despatches', N.S. vi. 106. See also the Memorandum of 10 Oct., ibid. pp. 212 ff.; 'Camb. Hist. of Br. Foreign Policy', ii. 101-4; C. W. Crawley, 'The Question of Greek Independence', 1938, ch. xi; Webster, 'Foreign Policy of Palmerston', 1951, i. 237 ff., 259 ff. See No. 16049.


  • Bibliography

    • BM Satires 15865 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (British XIXc Unmounted Roy)

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat).  30 September 1829  Hand-coloured etching


FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat). 30 September 1829 Hand-coloured etching

Image description



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