The Fall of Icarus

James Gillray, English, 1756 - 1815


published April 28, 1807

Hand colored etching on paper

Sheet: 13 1/2 × 9 in. (34.3 × 22.9 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Gift of Jane and Raphael Bernstein



Hannah Humphrey (about 1745-1818), London


Place Made: England, United Kingdom, Europe


19th century

Object Name


Research Area


Not on view


The Prince of Wales, later George IV, and his male siblings were particular targets for their corpulence, as were the leaders of the government in the early 1800s, described as members of a broad-bottomed administration. Gillray’s Fall of Icarus is a "pointed" version of the political descent of the bottom-heavy Lord Temple, who supposedly absconded with office supplies at the end of his tenure—thus the writing quills that make up his feathers. King George III is the sun who melts the sealing wax on Temple’s wings. Temple had previously stated that he had a large stake in the country, and in Gillray’s satire a literal stake implies that his comeuppance is in the interest of the people. As was the case throughout Gillray’s career, but particularly in its final years, an amateur submitted the general design (and, here, a poem), which Gillray worked up into the finished print for a fee.

From the 2021 exhibition A Legacy for Learning: The Jane and Raphael Bernstein Collection, curated by Jami C. Powell, Curator of Indigenous Art; Katherine W. Hart, Senior Curator of Collections and Barbara C. & Harvey P. Hood 1918 Curator of Academic Programming; John R. Stomberg Ph.D, Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director; Jessica Hong, Associate Curator of Global Contemporary Art; and Melissa McCormick, Professor of Japanese Art and Culture at Harvard University

Course History

WRIT 5, Poor Taste, William Boyer, Winter 2014

Exhibition History

Pinpricks and Pomposity: The Inventiveness of English Visual Satire, A Legacy for Learning: The Jane and Raphael Bernstein Collection, Class of 1967 Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire, April 17–August 28, 2021.

Publication History

John R. Stomberg, A Legacy for Learning: The Jane and Raphael Bernstein collection; Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College, Hood Museum of Art, 2021, Plate 24, p.41, listed p.98.


Andrew Edmunds, London, England; sold to Jane and Raphael Bernstein, Ridgewood, New Jersey, November 26th 1992; lent to present collection, 2010; given to present collection, 2014.

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