“Pictorially speaking, so ludicrous": George IV on the dance floor

Journal article


Price, C. 2018. “Pictorially speaking, so ludicrous": George IV on the dance floor. Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography. XLIII (1-2), pp. 49-66.
AuthorsPrice, C.
Abstract

That description of the future George IV by the historian J. H. Plumb summarises a life in caricature which, for a man so acutely aware of his public presentation, was unendingly painful. In a long history of political assassination, the cartoonists of Georgian Britain were amongst the most merciless our nation has ever known; unfortunately for George, the visual image of such a corpulent physique attempting dance was irresistible, and his treatment at the hands of artists such as Gillray and Cruikshank has left us with a body of work which shows British visual satire at its cruel best.

This paper will examine some key examples of such work in the context of British society and politics of the time. It will note that later writers such as Dickens and Thackeray looked back with embarrassment and regret at a period during which the reputation of the monarchy was at an extremely low point, but the socio-political environment from which these pictures emerged was very different from that of the Victorian age. Indeed, the Victorians’ obsession with respectability may be seen as a reaction against a period in which there was a most bizarre combination of libertine excess with more-or-less contained dissent in the social, political and theological realms.

Encoded in these images, then, is a representation of British society which says much about our sense of national identity, as seen both by ourselves and by others. Witty, outstandingly disrespectful, and vicious, they are visual incarnations of who we are, who we think we might like to be, or both. This paper will winnow grains of truth from an artistry which may still have something to say to us today.

Year2018
JournalMusic in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography
Journal citationXLIII (1-2), pp. 49-66
PublisherThe City University of New York, the Graduate Center
ISSN1522-7464
Publication dates
Print13 Dec 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited31 Jul 2019
Accepted author manuscript
Output statusPublished
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https://repository.canterbury.ac.uk/item/8907q/-pictorially-speaking-so-ludicrous-george-iv-on-the-dance-floor

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