Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Jack Tars conversing with Boney on the Blockade of Old England, 1806

"Jack Tars conversing with Boney on the Blockade of Old England". London, 1806. British Museum.

Today's image deals with the mutual blockades imposed by Great Britain and Napoleon. After Napoleon gave up his plans to invade England in 1806, he prohibited trade across the channel between his continental empire and Britain, hoping to ruin their economy. The British response was to blockade the entire French-controlled continent, and capture all ships leaving French ports as contraband. The resulting blockade by land and sea is satirized here by artist Charles Williams.

While Bonaparte cries from shore that his blockade is effective, the two British tars in their boat, supplied with grog and pipe-tobacco, think otherwise. "Why, what do you mean by that you whipper snapper - here's Toms pipes and I in this little cock boat, will Blockade you so that you dare not bring out a single Vessel;- Blockade indeed! you are a pretty fellow to talk of Blokading!"

Breaking the fourth wall, the personified John Bull cries from afar on a hill, "I cannot help laughing at the whimsical conceit".  
The two sailors are painted in diverse ways: the standing sailor wears a rusty brown-red double breasted jacket cut at hip length. The jacket is worn buttoned, with the buttons painted over so they appear cloth-covered. His black handkerchief is worn outside his jacket and hanging down to his navel, with a big knot around his breastbone. He wears red and white striped trousers.

The seated sailor wears a hip-length blue jacket, a black handkerchief, and striped grey or blue pants. He clamps a white clay pipe in his mouth.

Both sailors wear amorphous black hats with blue rosettes and blue hat ribbons, upon which is written "NELSON". This is the second instance of lettered hatbands that I've noted in this blog,  the first being the 1798 print "Jack Tar settling Buonaparte", and British Tars: 1740-1790 shared an instance of political hatbands in a political cartoon caricature from 1788. It is worth nothing that all three of these instances are political, and not the names of ships.

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