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Buonaparte leaving Egypt

Date: 1800
Overall: 370 × 270 mm
Medium: Paper and ink
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Caricature
Object No: 00054725

User Terms

    This caricature is one of a collection of seventeen created during the Napoleonic wars and highlights the fortunes of the French Emperor during his rise and fall. It was during this period that the character of John Bull was created as a representation of the solid English yeoman and the caricatures reflect the attitudes common in England at the time.
    SignificanceThe collection is significant as a contemporary expression of popular British attitudes towards Napoleon and his era. The collection includes works by noted artists James Gillray, Isaac Cruikshank and Thomas Rowlandson and are all original works dating to the first quarter of the 19th century. They are significant in providing a political context for the early years of British settlement in Australia.
    HistoryOne of a collection of 17 hand-coloured etchings caricaturing events in the career of Napoleon Bonapart dating to the early nineteenth century. The collection includes works by artists James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson and Isaac Cruikshank. Many of the works are annotated with comments which throw light on the social and political responses to Napoleon current in Britain during the Napoleonic wars.

    The British succeeded on three occasions in intercepting documents from Napoleon’s army in Egypt, and these were published in three parts under the title Copies of Original Letters from the Army of General Bonaparte in Egypt between 1798 and 1800. This caricature relates to the capture of the third group of letters in 1800, which contained Bonaparte’s instructions to the commander of the French forces General Jean-Baptiste Kleber on his departure and of?cial dispatches from Kleber and others that covered the period from 23 August to 17 September 1799. Kleber wrote: “... Bonaparte quitted this country for France ... without saying a word of his intention to any person whatever. He had appointed me to meet him at Rosetta on the subsequent day!”

    General Dugua wrote to Barras:
    “I confess to you ... that I could never have believed General Bonaparte would have abandoned us in the condition in which we were; without money, without powder, without ball ... more than a third of the army destroyed by the plague, the dysentery, by ophthalmia, and by the war; that which remains almost naked, and the enemy but eight days march from us!” The publication of the letters caused a great sensation.

    The caricatures provide an international context to the administration of New South Wales covering the governorships of King, Bligh and Macquarie during which period Tasmania was settled as a direct response to the Baudin expedition’s interest in southern Australia and the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean was captured by Britain. These events form part of the great narrative of French activity in the Indo-Pacific which ultimately resulted in the French colonisation of New Caledonia, Tahiti and much of the Polynesian archipelago. As with political cartoons of our own era the caricatures targeted a popular audience and combine a mix of irreverence, jingoistic bombast, pride and humour in commenting on events shaping the world at the beginning of the nineteenth century – a period when the nascent colony of New South Wales remained relatively isolated, exposed and wary of French interest in Australia and the Pacific islands.
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