Puzzled which to Choose!! or The King of Tombuctoo offering one of his daughters in marriage to Capt. - [anticipated result of a African Mission]

The mission anticipated in Cruikshank’s caricature was the African Association’s trans-Sahara expedition of 1818–20, which sought, unsuccessfully, to reach central Africa from the north. The naval captain is Frederick Marryat (1792–1848), who was meant to accompany the expedition leader, Joseph Ritchie (c.1788–1819). Marryat, a friend of Cruikshank’s with whom he collaborated, was indisposed and Captain George Francis Lyon (1795–1832) volunteered for the position in Malta, where he met Ritchie by chance. The expedition started at Tripoli in November 1818 but was greatly delayed and very poorly organized. Ritchie died in November 1819 as a result of illness and the effects of heat; Lyon took command and returned to Tripoli in March 1820. He later described and illustrated the mission in his 'A narrative of travels in Northern Africa' (1821). Cruikshank’s image is full of racial stereotypes and heightened cultural differences. Resplendent in his blue naval uniform, Marryat stands as an exemplar of propriety and European civilisation. He bows before the squatting king, who has a large ring through his nose and, ludicrously, sports a large sword through his ear. The king’s daughters, depicted as versions of the 'Hottentot Venus' with grotesquely exaggerated features, adopt the pose of the three graces with mock coyness. In the background, uniformed British officers and sailors, their sensibilities both shocked and amused, view the scene watched by a crowd of African men, again with absurdly distorted faces. Cruikshank completes this uncomfortable satirical tour de force by implying cannibalism with human skulls on the spears of the king’s bodyguards. The basic format was repeated in his 'Probable effects of over female emigration...' (ZBA2723), which shows a bemused crowd of British men confronted by a group of leering black women.
Caricature with publisher's colouring. Published by G. Humphrey, 27 St James's Street, October 10, 1818. Part of the Michael Graham-Stewart Slavery Collection.

Object Details

ID: ZBA2511
Collection: Fine art; Special collections
Type: Print
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Cruikshank, George; Judel, after E. Humphrey, George
Date made: 1818
People: Judel, after E.; Humphrey, George
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Michael Graham-Stewart Slavery Collection. Acquired with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund
Measurements: Sheet: 273 mm x 378 mm; Image: 226 mm x 336 mm; Mount: 560 mm x 406 mm

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