Royal Christmas boxes and new years gifts.1815 &16.
London, M. Jones January 1st .1816
Etching and aquatint
Original hand colouring
215 x 485 mm.
Traces of old folds as issued, neat marginal repair
The central and principal design is isolated from four minor designs by being on a land rising from a surrounding plain. On this plateau is a pool, in which is the island of St. Helena, in the form of a giant whose updrawn knees, as cliffs, enclose Jamestown Bay; the apex is in the form of a grinning face on which Napoleon, a colossus (see No. 12611, &c.), sits in profile to the right, holding his chin meditatively, his legs crossed. He faces the Tsar who stands on the edge of the pool, displaying a pile of gifts destined for St. Helena. These are a ‘Map of France’ and five pictures: ‘View of the Good City of Paris’; ‘View of the Pall[ace] of St. Cloud’; ‘a Representation of the Destruction of Malmasion’ [sic]; ‘Burning of Moskow’ [see No. 12049]; ‘Battle of Waterloo’ [see No. 12557, &c.]. They lean against a jar of ‘Preserved Snow Balls’, and are surmounted by a notice-board inscribed ‘Pictures &c &c to Ornament the House that Jack built—presentd by Al[exander]’. Alexander declaims blandly, with extended arms; his words are linked also with the Regent: ‘Well, Nap! you see, we don’t forsake you, Although we had such pains to take you. ‘Tis true we long have been profuse Of slang & Billinsgate abuse: Have dealt in language most uncivil, And call’d you Robber, Murd’rer, Devil! Man-butcher!—but of that no more— For there we feel a common-sore! So cease, at length to plague & tease you And send you what we hope will please you"’ Napoleon answers gloomily: "Did you ever hear the Story of some fellows who broke a poor devils head And then gave him a plaster?!!!!" The Regent (right) bows gracefully but absurdly, chapeau bras, and profil perdu, the curve of cheek and posterior being stressed. He points to the gifts at his feet. These are two chests full of women, supposedly attractive. One of these is being emptied by McMahon, larger in scale than the women, but much smaller than the three principals. The women tumble out, and make for the water, in which one is already swimming towards Napoleon. In front of these are a punch-bowl, with three decanters, one labelled ‘Curacoa’, and a paint-box, inscribed ‘Colour Box 300 Guineas! Ackerman & [Co]!!!!!!’ (he supplied artists’ materials). Behind the Regent (right) is the model of a neoGothic and castellated house, inscribed ‘The House that Jack Built’ [i.e. John Bull paid for, cf. No. 12786, &c.]. On the left, in the lower part of the design, Queen Charlotte, a witch-like creature in old-fashioned dress, stoops forward in profile to the left towards a fat German prince; she puts the spout of a tea-pot into his mouth, and hands him a cheese, saying, "My Tea Sip Brother if you please and eat to Charlottes health her Cheese." He drinks with an avid grin. Above this, and surrounded by clouds, the King of Spain kneels on a platform before an image of the Virgin clasping the Child, round which he ties a petticoat. He wears slashed breeches, trunk-hose, a cloak, and a fool’s cap. The petticoat forms a sheath from which emerge the head and shoulders of the Virgin; it is decorated with shackles, decollated heads, arms, daggers, skulls, and a row of gibbets from which corpses hang. He says: "Before thy Shrine, on bended knee, Great Saint! thy royal tailor see He brings bright Empress of the Skies! A petticoat, to grace thy thighs ‘Tis Satin, richly wrought with gold, ‘Twill keep out heat, ’twill keep out cold" The image and platform are under a Gothic arch hung with curtains and inset in an old stone building. On the right, a pendant to Queen Charlotte, is John Bull, a fat ‘cit’, who gives a fierce kick to the spherical posterior (a giant orange) of a little fleeing creature (the Prince of Orange). He says: "Thats your ‘Xmas Box. You’ll neither get pay Nor Princess here." The Prince takes a flying leap to the right with outstretched arms; he wears a conical hat with a pipe stuck in it; he says: "Look at me well—I come for inspection so hope you’ll give me my Christmas Box." Above this, a pendant to the Spanish scene, are steps leading from the ground to an altar (right) lit by two tall candles on which sits a realistic Virgin holding the Child. On his knees on a cushion before the altar, the duc d’Angoulême holds up on a pole a (silver) figure of a naked infant in a sitting position (see No. 12797). He declaims: "Chaste Virgin-Mother, Source of Life! A Husband & a barren wife Whose nuptial bed no Children bless To thee their vows, their Pray’rs address. This costly silver Babe behold (Had we been rich it had been gold!) This Babe we offer at thy shrine: Accept the [sic] O Queen divine! Give us a Babe to Crown our joy Of flesh and blood, a chopping Boy!" Behind, and on a lower step, kneels the Duchess with tensely clasped hands; both are grotesquely thin. Two fat nuns bend towards her; one puts her hand on her shoulder, saying, "You had better try the warming pan trick a[s] Boney did [cf. No. 12330]." Beside the statue is a gnarled and decayed tree-trunk with a few bare branches on which two birds sit facing each other. One says: "I think mate we had better change our quarters." The other answers: "I think so too, what fruit can we expect from a barren tree?"