French Liberty – British Slavery

James Gillray British
Publisher Hannah Humphrey British

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A tattered Frenchman warms his feet at a meager fire while dining on raw scallions and live snails. Deluded and nearing starvation, he declares that Liberté has turned France into a paradise flowing with milk and honey. In an adjacent panel, a portly, well-dressed Briton enjoys beef and ale while complaining about taxes. Gillray here employs the imagery of consumption to contrast the political realities governing France and Britain at the end of 1792. France had recently been declared a Republic and King Louis XVI imprisoned (he would be guillotined on January 21, 1793). Gillray’s Frenchman is a literal sans-culotte ("no-britches"), the nickname applied to the ruling radicals who eschewed aristocratic knee-britches for proletarian trousers. His grotesque figure embodies both the food shortages ravaging Paris and the political mindset that mistook the system established by the Assemblée Nationale for true liberty.

French Liberty – British Slavery, James Gillray (British, London 1756–1815 London), Hand-colored etching

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