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Studies & Designs: View of a Seashore with a naked Giant lying in the right Foreground surrounded by tiny Figures
The Trustees of the British Museum
John Whessell (c.1760-1806) after Wilson
Studies & Designs: View of a Seashore with a naked Giant lying in the right Foreground surrounded by tiny Figures
Published 1811
Soft-ground etching, with etching
157 x 209 mm
6 3/16 x 8 1/4 in.
View of a seashore with a gigantic naked figure lying in the right foreground, surrounded by miniature people - all within an etched rectangular border
Purchased from Samuel & Sons, 1863
Lettered below the image: 'Wilson del | Whessell Sc'
It has been suggested that Wilson's inspiration for this curious composition came from Swift's Gulliver's Travels or alternatively the description by the ancient author Philostratus (Imagines, II, 22) of Hercules among the Pygmies (see Bibliography, J. K. Welcher & R. Joseph and R. Halsband respectively).
D53/13 Studies and Designs done in Rome in the Year 1752, p. 13
D96 Gulliver Bound by the Lilliputians, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven
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From a set of small soft-ground etchings by Whessell at the British Museum ( E60/1- E60/44). These were made after Wilson's drawings in the sketchbook of the same title at the Victoria & Albert Museum (D53-D53/81). The present one is taken from p. 13 (D53/13). In 1811 the etchings were published by the Oxford-based publisher, Robert Archer in more than one format - this one with an introduction and list of subscribers.
The political satire, Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift was first published in 1726 with the title, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships. Immediately popular, it was amended in 1735 and remained a universal favourite throughout the 18th century and beyond. The present print may illustrate Part 1, describing Gulliver's first voyage, when he is washed ashore after a shipwreck and finds himself the prisoner of a race of tiny people, less than 6 inches tall, who are inhabitants of the island country of Lilliput. Alternatively the subject may be the classical one of Hercules among the Pygmies, which would accord with Wilson's known familiarity with ancient authors and explain the gigantic figure's nudity.
Archer 1811, p. 25; J.K. Welcher & R. Joseph, 'Gulliverian Drawings by Richard Wilson' Eighteenth Century Studies, vol. 18, no. 2 (Winter, 1984-1985), pp. 170-85; R. Halsband, 'Comments on "Gulliverian Drawings by Richard Wilson"', Eighteenth Century Studies, vol. 19, no. 2 (Winter, 1985-1986), pp. 254-56.