The rehearsal or the Baron and the Elephant

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The rehearsal or the Baron and the Elephant
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George Cruikshank

The rehearsal or the Baron and the Elephant

London, M. Jones January 1st. 1812, The Scourge

Etching

Original hand colouring

194 x 515 mm

Traces of old folds as issued

£450

A satire on the Covent Garden pantomime of 1812-13, which caused a sensation by the performance of an elephant. The elephant, which dominates the design, marches in profile to the right.; it crushes under a fore-foot a bust of 'Sha[kespeare]' and a number of open books. In its trunk is grasped a pretty young woman, 'the expiring figure of Comedy', who hangs head downwards, holding an open book: 'Congreve'. Baron Geramb bestrides the upper part of the trunk, taking the place of the lascar who sat on the animal's neck in the pantomime. His enormous moustaches frame his person, and he wears grotesque uniform with orders, and a skull and cross-bones on his paunch. He holds a banner on which a volcano is depicted. In his right hand is a purse which he carelessly empties; the coins, inscribed 'Crumbs of Comfort', fall into the gaping jaws of a lean dog which faces the elephant, its thin neck surrounded by an enormous padlocked collar inscribed 'Holt the Property of Messenger Bell'. Between the dog's paws is a frying-pan, inscribed 'Sop for the Critics'. On the elephant's back, in place of the 'Sultan of Cashmire', sits John Kemble. His saddle or howdah is formed of parallel giant H's, so that he bestrides the two cross-bars of the centre pair; across his shoulders sits a grotesque mannikin wearing a fool's cap, who empties a money-bag into a tambourine held out by Kemble. Kemble wears shirt and trunk hose, and throws behind him his socks and ermine-bordered cloak inscribed 'King John's Mantle' towards a 'care-worn actor' (? Elliston), who puts up his hands to catch them; the latter wears black theatrical dress with sword, suggesting the costume of Hamlet. A long scroll hangs down the elephant's flank inscribed: 'Royal / Menagerie / Covent Garden / This Evening perford [sic] / The Murder / of Shakespeare / a Tragedy / with the Farce of / Joh Bull / in Extacy / Principal / Performers / Two Bears / An Ass &c'. The management of Drury Lane is satirized in a group on the left of the design. Sheridan, as Harlequin (cf. No. 9916), sits astride a cask inscribed 'Whitbreds Stale'. He turns to the left to hold out a foaming goblet of 'Froth' to Whitbread, who capers gleefully as he gives a kick to a man dressed as a sailor, propelling him off the stage; a terrified young actress runs off beside him. On the ground is a paper: 'The Storm / Luff Boys Luff boys / dont make wry faces.' Whitbread holds up a paper: 'A Guinea Pr Week for Native Talent'; with his left hand he pours coins into a bag, inscribed 'Treasury', furtively held out by Sheridan, beside whom is a bottle of 'Sherry'. Above the heads of this group projects a beam, like that of a sign-board, inscribed 'Lyceum' [the theatre at which the Drury Lane Company was performing]. On this sits a perky little bird, with a man's head, described as a tom-tit; it says: "Tit tit tit." A peacock with a drooping tail stands beside it. Emblems of tragedy lie on the ground on the extreme left: crown, goblet, skull transfixed by a dagger, 'ready to be swept away at the conclusion of the rehearsal'. On the extreme right Mrs. Siddons walks off the stage with a majestic swagger, carrying a huge money-bag on each hip. She wears a spiky crown decorated with towering ostrich feathers; her dress below the waist is inflated back and front and extends behind her in a monstrous train. To her posterior is pinned a playbill: 'Theatre Royal Covent Garden—Positively the last Season of Mrs Siddon[s]'. Behind her (left) Romeo Coates riding a golden cock, his feet on the ground, pierces with his sword the throat of a prostrate man who holds up an open book, 'The Fair Penitent', though which the sword passes. Coates wears trunk hose and slashed doublet, enormous spurs, and his famous jewelled and feathered hat, see No. 11934. Beside him stands a man in early eighteenth-century costume—'the robes of King Arthur'—wearing a crown; he says: "Lord what a Rowe." Behind and above this group is a female statue whose garments an ugly hag is tearing off; this is 'Indecency unveiling Nature'. This, with stage trees, and part of a stage box above a door, indicate the stage of a theatre.