A Sphere, Projecting Against a Plane

James Gillray British
Publisher Hannah Humphrey British

Not on view

Gillray cast two well-known public figures as geometrical opposites in this potent image, a prime example of exaggeration and contrast as sources of visual humor. William Pitt, who twice served as Britain's head of government (1783–1801, 1804–6), was a tall, thin, frugal workaholic. The Honorable Albinia Hobart, later Countess of Buckinghamshire, was heavily obese, a gifted amateur thespian, an avid gambler, and an enthusiastic supporter of Pitt's chief political rival, Charles James Fox. Gillray often caricatured each of them, but he generally placed Pitt in political situations and Mrs. Hobart in social ones. Here, he brought them together in an abstracted space with physiques exaggerated to the point of absurdity. Pitt stands in profile to represent a plane, while Mrs. Hobart's contours have been dissolved to form a sphere. No longer able to walk, she must be conveyed on a trolley, since rolling would be indelicate. Gillray emphasized the mathematical foundation of the joke by placing a Euclidian definition below.

A Sphere, Projecting Against a Plane, James Gillray (British, London 1756–1815 London), Hand-colored etching

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