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The Infant Hercules

The Infant Hercules

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Summary

In 1783, at the age of twenty-four, William Pitt became the youngest person ever to head the British government. King George III, who had become fed up with the machinations of a Whig coalition led by Charles James Fox and Frederick Lord North, finally prevailed upon Pitt to accept the premiership. When Rowlandson cast Pitt as the infant Hercules he echoed popular opinion, which saw the youthful minister as a refreshing change from his corrupt, self-serving predecessors. Like the classical hero, Pitt displays amazing strength as he strangles serpents determined to dispatch him. The snakes have the heads of Fox and North, while the shield marked "Chatham" implies that Pitt inherited his zeal from his famously principled father, the Earl of Chatham, just as Hercules’s supernatural strength came from his father, the god Jupiter.
Thomas Rowlandson (British, London 1757–1827 London)

English painter and caricaturist, Thomas Rowlandson (13 July 1756 – 21 April 1827) was noted for his political satire and social observation. The son of a tradesman, Rowlandson became a student in the Royal Academy. At age 16 he went to study in Paris. After establishing a studio as a portrait painter, he began to draw caricatures to supplement his income, and this soon became his major interest. Like other contemporary caricaturists, he produced erotica which was censured by the 1840s. He created comic images of familiar social types of his day and also wrote satirical verse under the pen name of Peter Pindar. His characters ranged from the ridiculous, pretentious, enormous bosoms and bottoms.

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Date

1784
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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