Thursday, March 9, 2017

John Bull Peeping into Brest, 1803

Today's etching is a caricature that I confess I'm selecting mostly because the oversized head and exaggerated features reminds me a lot of Hayao Miyazaki's artistic style, and it's a generally kinda weird image.
"John Bull Peeping into Brest". George Woodward. London, 1803. National Maritime Museum.

Our Brobdingnagian John Bull looks down on the French fleet blockaded into Brest, complete with a teeny tiny Napoleon, who cries "mercy on us what a monster - he'll swallow all my ships at a mouth-ful. I hope he dont see me. John Bull himself states, "Upon my word - a very Pretty light Breakfast."

One advantage of John Bull being drawn as a giant is that the image is quite clear about what he's wearing, and the large scale made it easier for a colorist to add details. His striped red trousers alternate between a broad red band and a narrow red stripe. His blue jacket has mariner's cuffs worn unbuttoned with three yellow buttons on the cuff. His blue jacket is worn shut, with five yellow buttons visible. His handkerchief is purple with a pattern of five small yellow spots arranged in an x, a common "spott'd" design created by resist dyeing that was popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries. A similar spott'd handkerchief is worn by a rower in John Singleton Copley's famous 1778 painting Watson and the Shark, and reproductions are available from the retailer Burnley and Trowbridge.

John Bull's brown hair looks almost wiglike, but is worn short and seems somewhat curly. His hat is of the "squashy" type shown in caricatures, with a relatively wide brim, a low crown with a rounded top, and a wide blue hat ribbon with a large blue rosette, facing backwards.

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