London, 10 August 2011, Art Media Agency (AMA)
An album with forty drawings by the famous caricaturist James Gillray (1756-1815) has been discovered at the criminal law policy unit of the British Ministry of Justice. The album was hidden from public view, as the contents were deemed highly immoral at the time.
James Gillray was one of the best known seventeenth-century engravers. He specialised in etching caricatures. His father sent him to a very austere extremist protestant school, where he developed a strong and mutinous character and a caustic sense of humour. He earned a living from his caricatures, which were highly successful.
Gillray was outspoken and his vicious lampooning of British politicians meant that they often, unsuccessfully, tried to buy his silence. The newly discovered album is thought to contain previously unseen images, as their risqué and even pornographic nature meant that they were secretly sold and eventually confiscated.
This volume, known as “curiosa” at the time, has been given to the Victoria and Albert Museum, V&A, where it will enhance the institution’s important collection of engravings.