“The Friend of the People” & his Petty-New-Tax-Gatherer, paying John Bull a visit

James Gillray (1756 - 1815)

Coloured etching

28 May 1806
  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Government Art Collection
    This satirical print explores, in an allegorical manner, the theme of the suffering of the British people represented by John Bull under the heavy taxation and debt imposed by the British Government during the war against Napoleon. Bull first appeared as a literary character in John Arbuthnot’s five pamphlets published in 1712, which were collected and reprinted later as ‘The History of John Bull’. He subsequently came to represent an allegory of national character in satirical prints. John Bull is typically depicted as an overweight man with rosy cheeks, wearing a blue overcoat and a red shirt. He is often invoked within arguments about the relationship between consumption and taxation.
  • About the artist
    James Gillray was a draughtsman, etcher and engraver of caricatures. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools and learned the technique of stipple engraving from William Wynne Ryland and Francesco Bartolozzi. Gillray produced several notable plates in this medium to his own designs and after paintings by Northcote, while simultaneously establishing himself as a caricaturist. By the end of 1791, all his caricatures were published by Mrs Hannah Humphrey, with whom he lived for the rest of his life. In 1807, his eyesight began to deteriorate and in the same year he had a nervous breakdown. He died at his home in Westminster, aged 58.
  • Explore
    Fox, Charles JamesPetty-Fitzmaurice, Henry, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne
    Materials & Techniques
    etching, coloured etching
  • Details
    “The Friend of the People” & his Petty-New-Tax-Gatherer, paying John Bull a visit
    28 May 1806
    Coloured etching
    height: 45.80 cm, width: 30.50 cm
    Transferred from HM Revenue and Customs, December 2012
    Acquired by the Inland Revenue, Somerset House, 1948; recorded by GAC 1955; transferred to GAC 2012
    GAC number