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Download Fortune (Vol. 156, No. 4, August 2007) PDF

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Extra resources for Fortune (Vol. 156, No. 4, August 2007)

Sample text

97 Hogarth’s answer to this ‘sinful’ legacy was to turn the ‘radical heat’98 of iconoclastic iconography against itself. His vision of artistic freedom is emphatically populist, comprising a fusion of beauty and the sublime, spectacle and sensationalism, classical and ‘low’ pleasures. 99 These satirical techniques, plus the ‘shockingly lurid colours’,100 place the painting much closer to caricature than history painting. 104 But the much richer legacy was for the caricature tradition. Sin, Death and the Devil was a vivid announcement of the satirical reinvention and appropriation of Milton that ran in parallel with the more renowned Romantic ‘Satanisation’.

107 Sin, Death and the Devil’s iconoclastic frisson was a flagrant challenge to the growing authoritarian tendencies of the government. The disfigured body of the Queen is not only a travesty of royal succession; it is also an assertion of the ‘seditious’ power of the unregulated caricature imagination and its ‘industriously dispersed’ reproductive imagery. Gillray’s digs at the proliferation of illustrations of Milton is an ironic, sideways allusion to the ideological importance of controlling the circulation of political symbolism.

This chapter takes up in a quite literal way the idea that forgery spectacularised the contradictions of the credit economy. The anti-hero of the following narrative is not the literary forger or bravura impostor but the spectral figure of the engraver: the generic producer of, on the one hand, both genuine and counterfeit currency and, on the other, the ‘shadow’ economy of popular graphic caricatures. Romantic-period anxieties about authenticity and value achieved a form of visual apotheosis through the ‘formidable’ power of the caricaturist (and the source and significance of that word ‘formidable’ will be revealed later).

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