Parent Page/Current Page
Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine

The exhibition is made possible by The Schiff Foundation.

The catalogue is made possible by the Charles Bloom Foundation.

Works of Art

Featured Media

Infinite Jest

Program information

Director Thomas Campbell discusses the exhibition Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine with the exhibition curators, Constance McPhee and Nadine Orenstein. Caricature has long been a "common experience" through which both artists and the public address political and social issues; sometimes, bypassing the seriousness of an issue can, in fact, "get to the heart of the matter."

Constance McPhee, curator, Department of Drawings and Prints; Nadine Orenstein, curator, Department of Drawings and Prints; Thomas P. Campbell, Director, the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Learn more about Drawings and Prints at the Met:

Learn more about today's cartoonists at The New Yorker in the film Funny Business, showing at the Met on February 28, and March 1:

Infinite Jest

Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine

September 13, 2011–March 4, 2012

Accompanied by a catalogue

The exhibition explores caricature and satire in its many forms from the Italian Renaissance to the present, drawn primarily from the rich collection of this material in the Museum's Department of Drawings and Prints. The show includes drawings and prints by Leonardo da Vinci, Eugène Delacroix, Francisco de Goya, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Enrique Chagoya alongside works by artists more often associated with humor, such as James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, Honoré Daumier, Al Hirschfeld, and David Levine. Many of these engaging caricatures and satires have never been exhibited and are little known except to specialists.

In its purest form, caricature—from the Italian carico and caricare, "to load" and "to exaggerate"—distorts human physical characteristics and can be combined with various kinds of satire to convey personal, social, or political meaning. Although caricature has probably existed since artists began to draw (ancient examples are known), the form took shape in Europe when Leonardo da Vinci's drawings of grotesque heads were copied by followers and distributed as prints.

The exhibition's title derives from Hamlet, which is quoted in a Civil War print that uses the famous line: "I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest" to mock Lincoln.

See Now at the Met for a related article by Curator Nadine Orenstein.