Saturday, November 23, 2013

Antique Image of the Day: St Stephen's Review Presentation Cartoon December 22nd 1888

St. Stephen's Review Presentation Cartoon
December, 1888
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This colored lithograph is entitled “St Stephen's Review Presentation Cartoon December 22nd 1888,” It was both engraved and drawn by one Tom Merry and depicts a stage on which a group of puppets perform an elaborately choreographed dance routine. The puppets resemble key figures of the day, dressed in vibrant costumes, most of whom are depicted as characters from the Punch and Judy tradition (the policeman, Mr. Punch and Judy). Some of the others are stock theatrical figures.

The identities of the performers are shown on name plates which are attached to a set of strings being manipulated by two black-suited figures seated under the stage. One of the puppeteers wears a black half mask and is shown next to a dagger and pistol (both discarded on the ground beside him). Two additional puppets wait in a box beside the mysterious puppeteers whose names are marked as O'Shea and O'Donnell. The names of the puppets appear to be Labby, Granville, Trevelyan, Gladstone, Harcourt, Herbert, Sir W Lawson, Bradlaugh and Morley—contemporary Members of Parliament.

The caption below the image, “Parnell's Puppets,” is best explained as a reference to Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891), an Irish Protestant landowner, nationalist political leader, land reform agitator, and the founder and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party.

The piece was published on December 22nd 1888 and now resides in the George Speaight Punch & Judy Collection.

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