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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Caricature Collecting

( Originally Published 1913 )

Is anybody laying by examples of the picture-posters which enlivened the General Elections of 1910? Is anybody making a portfolio of the best things by Sir F. C. Gould and other cartoonists ? Why not ? Collecting interest and value will attach to them in the years to come, as well as historical meaning.

What lies before me at this moment is not exactly a caricature ; it is a printer's proof of Tenniel's most famous cartoon, the " Dropping the Pilot." You remember that great page in Punch? It caused a European sensation. Bismarck, in a pilot-jacket, was shown descending the gangway from the liner, while the crowned captain of the Germania wistfully watched him retire.When Mr. Swain had cut the lines of that drawing in a block of boxwood he " pulled " a few proofs of it to see if it looked all right, and one of those proofs is now mine. Any "proof before letters" is more valuable than the final print.A British Art.-The political cartoon is not peculiar to these islands, but it is mainly a British product. The political cartoon has never flourished so well elsewhere. Caricatures are common to all ages and peoples, but, again, political caricatures have been particularly British. Rowlandson, Gillray, and Cruikshank are the great past names in that line, but many unknown artists practised it, on pottery as well as upon paper.

The Willett collection of pottery and porcelain illustrative of British history, now in the Brighton Museum, contains many examples of mugs, jugs, busts, statuettes, and plaques, which in shape or in decoration are caricatural. Most of these, perhaps, and certainly most of the caricatures on paper, had reference to the long struggle between our country and Napoleon.A Quotation.-" The most popular form of caricature in vogue during the last decade of the eighteenth and the first two decades of the nineteenth centuries was an oblong folio sheet. These prints were bought in large numbers, and cost on an average one shilling when coloured and sixpence if plain. When exhibited in the windows of publishers, they attracted crowds which frequently blocked the pavement, and seriously interfered with the traffic. Publishers were accustomed to ` let out ' portfolios filled with caricatures for the delectation of guests at evening parties.

" The folio print was, however, only one of many shapes in which Napoleon was satirised on this side the Channel. The caricaturing of Napoleon was almost as universal as the fear he excited and the detestation in which he was held. It extended to vignettes on political broadsides, and the headings of political songs; to imitation banknotes and theatrical bills; to pocket-handkerchiefs ; to fans, valentines, jest-books, watch dials and papers, and tobacco wrappers. It invaded the games, puzzles, and primers of the children, figured on playing-cards, lottery-tickets, snuff-boxes, pipe-bowls, and walking-sticks, and afforded congenial occupation for the potters of Worcester, Derby, Leeds, Bristol, and Staffordshire." That quotation, which shows how wide a field exists for a gleaner of caricatures, is taken from "Napoleon in Caricature, 1795-1821," written by Mr. A. M. Broadley.

Some Examples and Prices.-Few caricature-jugs or other examples in pottery now re main on the market; breakages have lessened the stock. But the print and paper caricatures are more numerous. From a catalogue I take a few examples, and mention the prices :

" Bernadotte.-Hieroglyphic portrait, on horseback, shield and spear, in the act of trampling on a serpent, alluding to the fallen state of Bonaparte. Drawn and etched by W. Heath. Size 8 in. by 12 3/4 in. March 4th, 1814. 25s.

"'The Head of the Family in a Good Humour.'-John Bull surrounded by representatives of the various Powers. By Rowlandson. Size 12 3/4 in. by 9 in. Ciyca 1808. 21s."

Here is a Gillray caricature: " ` Tiddy-Doll, the great French ginger-bread baker, drawing out a new batch of Kings.' Napoleon as a baker, in front of a ` New French Oven,' and Kings on a shovel. Size 10 1/8 in. by 15 in. January 23rd, 1806. 25s."

The coloured caricatures are the more desirable to collect, and they can be picked up for a shilling or two yet.

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