Friday, September 30, 2016

A Witness, 1825

"A Witness" - Isaac Cruiskshank, 1825.
Royal Museums Greenwich.
This is the last post of the month, which means it's time for another image of sailors created outside of the 1790-1820 time period. Today's image is an engraving from 1825, created by prolific caricaturist George Cruickshank (1792-1878). George was the son of caricaturist Isaac Cruickshank, and continued his father's artistic and satirical legacy well into the 19th century. I've featured several I. Cruickshank prints before, most recently "That Accounts for It" (1799).

It's fascinating for me to see how portrayals of sailors' clothing start to evolve in the mid-1810s, and are well on their way to being something quite different of turn-of-the-century clothing by the mid 1820s. The sailors in this print have all shed the breeches, petticoat breeches, and buckled shoes that they were commonly portrayed wearing from the early 18th century to the end of the Napoleonic Wars in favor of long, broad-legged white trousers and black pumps. Their neck-cloths (all black) are very loosely tied around their necks with the knot around their breastbone and the ends hanging down well below the waistbands of their trousers, which sit closer to the natural waist than the extremely high waistline of civilian menswear of the 1810s.
One sailor has a tall white shirt collar, a harbinger of longer shirt collars to come that will eventually be decorated with embroidery. He wears the yet-eternal blue jacket with mariner's cuffs worn open, but another sailor wears a striped blue and white guernsey frock (a knit sweater worn over a shirt) instead of a jacket. Several sailors carry hats; two of them are both white straw decorated with black ribbons, and have a lower crown than the oversized blue rosette-bedecked "squashy" black hats sailors are often show wearing in caricatures from 1790-1810. Several of the sailors have impressive sideburns.

This print and other artwork I'll feature from the 1820s to 50s is a good reminder to not extrapolate sailor fashions of the 1820s and 30s backwards, and to be cautious about using artwork that depicts a previous time period.

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