Ansell. “Political Quadrille – the Game Up. Plate 2d.”
London: Walker, August 1808. Etching. Original hand color. 12 1/8 x 14 5/8. Minor wear at edges; expertly repaired tear through upper right corner. Else, very good condition. George 11015.
In this skillful caricature, the artist arranges eight European nations in a farcical card game (Quadrille, a four-handed version of the popular Ombre). As George III looks on from the edge, Alexander (marked by the bear on his seat-back) re-evaluates the alliance he formed with Napoleon at Tilsit (July 1807). His ally is thrashed by an angry Spanish patriot, who demands the return of his king, Ferdinand VII, who had been ousted when Napoleon installed his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne (June 1808). Meanwhile, Prussian King Frederick William III (in blue coat), still smarting from defeats suffered from France in 1806, determines to take advantage of the fray, as does Austrian Emperor Francis II (in white coat), who had recently been dethroned as Holy Roman Emperor by Napoleon’s formation of the Confederation of the Rhine (July 1806). At the right edge of the scene, Pope Pius VII remains soundly dominated by Napoleon, whose boot rests on the upturned symbol of the Catholic church. Indeed, a few years after this caricature, Napoleon would arrest the Holy Father for excommunicating the “despoilers of the church” (May-July 1809). The final member of Napoleon’s table, a squat Dutchman with a pipe moves to leave the game, removing himself from the struggle. Though Napoleon imposed his brother Louis as ruler of Holland, the little nation was not entirely ungrateful – the alternative was complete annexation by France, and their new French king actually managed some beneficial public works projects during his reign. This savvy Dutchman decides it in his best interest, then, to avoid the fracas altogether. All in all, masterful satirical interpretation of Europe’s tangled political situation.
*Note: Broadley credits this to an artist named only as “Ansell.” George identifies no artist.