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valley of death

The Valley of the Shadow Death

A hand colored copper plate engraving, by James Gillray, first pulished by Samuel William Fores in 1788 this image issued by Henry G. Bohn in 1847-1851 as part of The Works of James Gillray from the Original Plates with the Addition of Many Subjects Not Before Collected.

This image was inspired by the news of Sir Arthur Wellesley’s victory over French forces under Junot at Vimeiro in Portugal (August 21, 1808). Although claims of Napoleon’s imminent doom, bolstered by the Spanish resistance, were premature, victories at BaylÚn and Vimeiro, among others, proved that the French were not unbeatable. Gillray ironically portrays Napoleon as Christian, the protagonist of John Bunyan’s anti-Catholic tract, The Pilgrim’s Progress. The beleaguered Emperor faces a frontal attack from Death on a Spanish mule, a Portuguese wolf, a Sicilian terrier, and the British lion, while his Russian ally, portrayed as a bear, seems restless. On the left, Napoleon’s brother, King Joseph of Spain, only his crown and his hands visible, drowns in the Ditch of Styx. An Austrian eagle swoops down from the sky, while out of the murky ditch in the foreground hop, slither, and crawl Dutch spitting frogs, an American rattlesnake, and a “Rhenish Confederation of Starved Rats.

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