Today as topical as 200 Years ago for
Father of the United States of America
Author of the Rights of Man
on the Stage of the “Monkeyana”
Landseer, Thomas (1795 London 1880). Rights of Man. The demand for Human Rights. On a stage the dictator as humanly dressed monkey with ermine coat, brandishing the scepter in the raised left while holding the mask of gentleness in the right, at the same time, however, trampling with the feet on Liberty and Rights of Man of 1791 by Thomas Paine (Thetford, Norfolk, England, 1737 – New York City 1809). This in his own – thus human (sic!) – shape reaching out from the left for the crown on the Majesty’s knees while putting a fool’s cap onto his head. In the background two apes as clergymen. Etching. (1827-28.) Inscribed: Landseer, otherwise as below. 8¼ × 7 in (21 × 17.7 cm).
Rümann, Das Illustrierte Buch des 19. Jahrhunderts, Leipsic 1930, pp. 99 ff.; Nagler 1; Thieme-Becker XXII, 305. – On especially wide-margined strong paper. – Particularly above and right in the outer parts of the white margin slightly foxing. – Inscribed:
“ The sight of one of the most despicable of God’s creatures
Trumpling down the dearest rights of mankind,
and crushing with impunity the rising liberty and prosperity of millions,
is one of the most melancholy and degrading spectacles in existence. –
and the miserable would-be-despote and the wretched monkish faction
who has urged him into so much perfidy and folly
are likely to be driven into merited obscurity. ”
Thomas Paine , radical-liberal writer in the spirit of enlightenment, but also inventor still praised by Thomas Edison, emigrated on recommendation of Benjamin Franklin 1774 to America. Early 1776 he published anonymously Common Sense, not only a bestseller in the American colonies, but also
of decisive influence upon the “Declaration of Independence” .
Likewise he coined the phrase of The United States of America . December 1776 – December 1783 The American Crisis followed, a series of sixteen pamphlets George Washington ordered to be read out loud to the troops.
Rights of Man of 1791/92 served as guide for the ideas of enlightenment, 1792 Paine was elected to the French National Assembly where he voted for the Republic, but
spoke against the execution of Louis XVI
especially in recognition of the support monarchic France had granted to the American Revolution. Similar to Beethoven his initial admiration for Napoleon soon turned into rejection because of his dictatorial ambitions. On invitation of President Thomas Jefferson he finally returned to America in 1802:
“ Thomas Paine had passed the legendary limit of life. One by one most of his old friends and acquaintances had deserted him. Maligned on every side, execrated, shunned and abhorred – his virtues denounced as vices – his services forgotten – his character blackened, he preserved the poise and balance of his soul. He was a victim of the people, but his convictions remained unshaken. He was still
a soldier in the army of freedom ,
and still tried to enlighten and civilize those who were impatiently waiting for his death. Even those who loved their enemies hated him, their friend – the friend of the whole world – with all their hearts.
On the 8th of June, 1809, death came – Death, almost his only friend.
At his funeral no pomp, no pageantry, no civic procession, no military display. In a carriage, a woman and her son who had lived on the bounty of the dead – on horseback, a Quaker, the humanity of whose heart dominated the creed of his head – and, following on foot, two negroes filled with gratitude – constituted the funeral cortege of Thomas Paine …
If the people of the great Republic knew the life of this generous, this chivalric man, the real story of his services, his sufferings and his triumphs – of what he did to compel the robed and crowned, the priests and kings, to give back to the people
liberty , the jewel of the soul …
they would repeat the words of Andrew Jackson: ‘Thomas Paine needs no monument made with hands;
he has erected a monument in the hearts of all lovers of liberty ’ ”
(Robert G. Ingersoll, Thomas Paine, North American Review, August 1892, in The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, New Dresden Edition, New York 1902, XI, 338 f.).
And at the house rue l’Odéon 10 in Paris, where he lived 1797-1802, a plaque reminds of him:
“ Thomas Paine. Anglais de naissance. Américain d’adoption. Français par décret … Il mit sa passion de la liberté au service de la Révolution française, fut député à la Convention et écrivit Les Droit de l’Homme. ”
Fine impression on large paper from the famous set of the “Monkeyana” , one of Landseer’s but few early and thus typical works :
“ That Thomas Landseer may be judged only by these illustrations a little book with woodcuts proves which show next to nothing of his intellect ” .
Worked since 1827 the 25 etchings incl. title were published in numbers and with classical captions till 1828 in three editions: standard edition in quarto, edition on larger paper in large quarto, edition with proofs in large quarto, too. Besides copies on mounted China.
Otherwise qualified by Rümann i. a.:
“ Much more important was Edwin’s brother Thomas Landseer …
… in the ’20s he distinguished himself by a series of 25 plates that were published 1828 under the title of ‘Monkeyana’ (ills. 57).
Technically his etchings are masterly ,
no less admirable the intellectual grasp of the subject. With much humor and sharp observation he transfers the plain life of his time to the monkey’s life. His sarcasm is biting, almost vicious. ”
Later Thomas Landseer devoted himself largely to the reproduction of the animal depictions by his brother Sir Edwin.
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