Cartoon Study – The Final Pacification of Europe

The cartoon illustration I have chosen has its origin in the Napoleonic age specifically in June of 1803. The illustration has been labelled ‘European’ due to the stereotypes depicted in the cartoon which are largely European. Cartoon illustrations get their identity from the origin of the stereotypes and personalities that the illustrator chooses and the meaning that is intended to be conveyed. Since the meaning of a cartoon is almost always understood by the people living in shared specific social, historical, political, economic and cultural conditions, it can be understood why this illustration is considered ‘European’. The personification of European stereotypes along with the caption ‘The final pacification of Europe’ reads of European historical and political environment at the time which would be the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in the battle of Leipzig in October 1813, the capture of Paris in 1814 and his eventual exile to the island of Elba in April of 1814.

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‘The Final Pacification of Europe: Cartoon Study

In the cartoon, Napoleon Bonaparte is being hanged, his identity is discernible from his iconic hat, his enormous sabre and from his French military attire. Stereotypical representations of England, Germany, Russia, Prussia, Switzerland and Prussia all run left to right, blowing horns like those used by newsboys in Europe. They shout respectively: “Good news for Russia, for Prussia, for Old England, for Germany, for Switzerland, for Holland to lol-de-riddle lol”. Holland is the fat Dutch Burgher of caricature with a tobacco pipe in his hat, England is a civilian wearing top boots and no hat, the other three wear laced cocked hats. The visual metaphors in this picture may be seen in the image of Napoleon, his left hand that still seems to be moving, almost grasping at his sword, his hat that lies on his side. Cartoons are primarily intended to display humour but also act as commentaries on key aspects of reality. The image of Napoleon could have been a symbol that in the midst of celebration, the allies should take caution that Napoleon may not be defeated as yet. True to this Napoleon did escape from Elba in less than a year after his defeat and raise a grand army. The symbolic removal and laying down of his large hat however, is significant to me because despite his effort, he was defeated in the battle of Waterloo and exiled to St Helena where he died six years later of stomach cancer.

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The personification of European stereotypes that has led to the branding of this cartoon as ‘European’, can be seen in Holland’s fat burgher which to me implies a mockery of Holland’s position against the French revolution as Dutch forces were allied to Napoleon in his conquests. Furthermore, having been under their rule of Louis Bonaparte who fled to Austria after failing to resist his brother, Napoleon Bonaparte, it can be seen why an emotional bias is included against Holland. (Beller et al, 2007). Moreover, all other nations except England are depicted with members of nobility wearing laced cocked hat. This may be the illustrator’s way of showing the effects of Napoleon’s dictatorship on England. After his failure to defeat England at the battle of Trafalgar Bonaparte resulted to massive economic sanctions against England which subsequently led to increased unemployment and poverty as the government imposed heavy taxes on the population to fund the large army that was being developed due to overwhelming fears of a second attack by the dictator. Consequently, many civilians joined the army and those who did not lived in poverty and this could be what the illustrator tries to draw attention to.

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To conclude it is my view that this cartoon is quite well placed as ‘European’ due to the political, social and historical contexts embodied within the artwork. Despite this view, it should be noted that the captions and text are all in English which leads me to believe that it originated in England. However, I feel that contextual aspects are more prominent and tend to have more lasting impressions on people which may have been the reason that directed this branding.

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