The Pigs Possessed:–or–the Broad Bottom'd Litter Running Headlong into Ye Sea of Perdition
James Gillray (British, Chelsea 1756–1815 London)
Hannah Humphrey (London)
April 18, 1807
plate (trimmed at bottom): 16 1/8 x 11 7/8 in. (41 x 30.2 cm)
sheet: 16 1/4 x 12 1/8 in. (41.3 x 30.8 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1917
Not on view
King George III appears as an angry farmer driving overfed pigs over a cliff. These pigs have the faces of Whig politicians and have weakened the nation by their greedy pursuit of government posts. Farmer George (the king’s nickname in real life) uses his foot to prod from office the playwright-politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who is clad as a Harlequin. The ousted chief minister, William Grenville, floats in the foreground wearing a yellow suit while resting one trotter on a bill for Catholic Emancipation, the defeat of which helped bring down his ministry. Gillray borrowed his imagery from the Gospel of Mark (5:1-20) where Jesus casts a legion of demons out of a possessed man and into a herd of swine, which then runs into the Sea of Galilee. King George is thus presented as the nation’s savior, and the defeated Whigs as devils.
Signature: in plate: "J-s Gillray fec-t"
Inscription: in plate: "Pub-d April 18 1807. by H. Humphrey 27 St James's Street"
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine," September 13, 2011–March 4, 2012.
Wright & Evans 337; British Museum Satires VIII.10719; Grego, p. 347ff.; Genuine Works of Gillray (1830 reprint, T. McLean) II.62
Nadine Orenstein, Constance C. McPhee Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine Exh. cat.: September 13, 2011 - March 4, 2012. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Haven and London, 2011, Entry by Constance McPhee, cat. no. 123, pp. 162-163, ill.