Friday, July 12, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Triumphal Arch of the New Palace, 1829

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This hand-colored etching is entitled “An Appropriate Emblem for the Triumphal Arch of the New Palace” and has been dedicated to “the poor, penny-less, priest ridden and paralysed John Bull.” The image depicts a man (a rather Punch-like man) in a jester's motley, displaying the lining of his empty pockets. His left pocket reads “To Let” and, the right, “Empty.” He surmounts a series of classical arches and a speech bubble in which he is declaring:

"They denounce me a Fool, I acknowledge the fact
But Necessitas Legis 'twas drew the compact
By Estimated false and Contracts still worse
They have brought me to Want, having emptied my purse"

This image was meant as a visual companion to an article in the Morning Herald as a note beneath the image says “See Morning Herald of August 14th 1829.”

We can assume that the arch in question in the title was “The Marble Arch”, a triumphant arch constructed as the centerpiece of an enlarged courtyard at Buckingham Palace in commemoration of the British victories at Trafalgar and Waterloo. By 1829 the costs of this project had escalated to nearly half a million pounds—a fact that was criticized by those who thought the money would have been better spent improving the lives of the destitute.

It was published in London in August 1829 by S.W. Fores, 41 Piccadilly and is part of the George Speaight Punch & Judy Collection.

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