James Gillray was one of the finest caricaturists of the Georgian period. First apprenticed as an engraver in London, Gillray then attempted to launch himself as a conventional artist by studying at the Royal Academy School. But it was in caricature where Gillray found his true calling. He is thought to have published over a thousand satires during his lifetime, drawing special attention for his lampooning of George III, the royal family, Napoleon and revolutionary France.
The Plumb-pudding [sic] in danger is one of Gillray’s most famous satires dealing with the Napoleonic wars in the early 19th century. British Prime Minister William Pitt sits on the left of the picture opposite Napoleon Bonaparte, both of who tear hungrily at the globe in a bid to gain a larger portion. Though the intention of the piece is simple (by lampooning the avaricious pursuit of international dominance by both the French and British governments), Gillray’s grotesque portrayal of the characters suddenly brings the cartoon alive. Note particularly the exaggeration of Pitt’s skinny physique and Napoleon’s beak-like nose: comical devices that would have quickly identified the subjects to his audience by appealing to popular conceptions of the two men.