Phaeton alarm'd! / Js. Gillray invt & fect.

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James Gillray
Phaeton alarm'd! / Js. Gillray invt & fect.
London : Publish'd March 22d 1808 - by H Humphrey 27 St James's Street, [1808]
Bequest of Gordon N. Ray, 1987.
London : Publish'd March 22d 1808 - by H. Humphrey 27 St James's Street, [1808]
From the library of Gordon N. Ray.

Exhibition label: Foreign Secretary George Canning (1770-1827) faces a celestial host of political adversaries in this complex composition. The Tory statesman is pictured as the ill-fated son of Apollo; members of the Opposition party, as the signs of the zodiac, threaten to send him careening fatally off course. Canning struggles to maintain control of his chariot and his team of horses (graced with the faces of fellow Tory politicians) as flames of war and political turmoil erupt across the globe below. At lower left, Apollo--Canning's former leader and mentor, the late William Pitt (1759-1806)--looks up from the underworld and weeps. -- On view at the Morgan Library & Museum, Fall 2019.


Print shows Canning as Phaeton driving his chariot with four horses across the heavens and assailed by the various signs of the zodiac, with the base of the design showing the world in flames and flanked by the ghosts of Pitt (as Apollo) and Fox (as Pluto). Canning's head is the centre of an irradiated sun: 'The Sun of Anti-Jacobinism.' His horses have the human heads of Hawkesbury, Perceval, Castlereagh, and Eldon. Close behind the chariot is the British Lion as 'Leo Britannicus'. Taurus, in the form of an Irish bull, is shown snorting fire at the horses. His collar is inscribed 'Erin go Bragh'; from it flies a rosary; to his tail is tied a pot inscribed 'Emancipation'. The most conspicuous assailant of the horses is 'Scorpio Broad-Bottom', with the head of Grenville, the words inscribed on the two ferocious claws, in which his arms terminate. The body spirals into a barbed tail and the claws terminate in the heads of Temple, Spencer, Bedford, Moira, and Tierney. Other constellations include Sagittarius (Windham), Cancer (St. Vincent), Silenus (Sheridan), Pisces (Petty), Aquarius (Whitbread), Sidmouth as 'Sangradarius', Erskine as 'Astrea' [Justice], Hercules (Ellenborough), Python (Grey), and Aquila (Lauderdale). Below, the arc of the globe stretches from Pitt to Fox; on it is a map of the northern hemisphere from America to 'Tartary', with the various countrys in flames. From behind the globe rise the figures of 'Neptune', dropping his trident in horror, and a huge (Russian) bear, 'Ursa Major', on which a tiny Napoleon rides triumphant. Cf. George.

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