The scene is a weekend encounter set on an avenue of trees in St James’s Park, London. The avenue was originally created for a game resembling croquet, called pall-mall, which was why when the avenue became a road, it was called ‘the Mall’, a name it retains today.
In 1784 the first manned balloon flight was made in England by an Italian aviator, Vincenzo Lunardi, whose appearance over the rooftops of London caused an outright sensation.
Exotic animals became all the rage in eighteenth century England and I have included a number in this print. In flight over the scene are Robert Walpole’s flamingoes. Also in flight, is a lady soaring up through the trees, having been catapulted from a see-saw at ground level. A giraffe and leopard stroll through the parkland, while a musical prince plays cello as a bull chases a young lady in her underwear.
London is now a large city dominated by Wren’s new St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Mozart family saw one of Queen Charlotte’s elephants at Buckingham Palace. Here the elephant is seen racing towards the child-genius Mozart, lured by the beauty of his music.
The central area of the image is a homage to William Hogarth, painter, engraver, pictorial satirist, social critic. References include:
The Rake’s Progress - The Garden Rake escorts a moustachioed character in a dramatic frock and hat.
The Harlot’s Progress - swaggering in a dramatic frock, a harlot displays her wares.
Marriage à la Mode - what could be more à la mode than a cat marrying a wolf with service conducted by a church mouse?
In the foreground, we see the absurdity of life. Giant dresses and headdresses are the order of the day. One lady has added wheels to her gown for ease go manoeuvrability. Another has eleven feet or are there little people taking refuge beneath her frock?
A parrot-headed man talks parrot-fashion, a dancing mule entertains, gamblers play cards and dandies toast and swagger. Men debate and conspire while the ladies parade and enjoy the convivial atmosphere. Children play and dogs go about their own business; a bemused kitten squeezes into a tiny basket next to a bear dressed as an admiral.
'Enlightenment' is printed on Somerset Velvet, an off-white heavyweight 300 gsm handmade paper from St Cuthbert's Mill in Somerset.
Etching & aquatint in edition of 75
Image size 30 x 30 cm
Paper size 40 x 40 cm
The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that occurred in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, with global influences and effects. The Enlightenment included a range of ideas centered on the value of human happiness, the pursuit of knowledge obtained by means of reason and the evidence of the senses, and ideals such as natural law, liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government, and separation of church and state. It was also an age of very big frocks and hair, and satire.