Patience on a Monument

Description: 

Lady Cecilia Johnstone is in profile, seated on a large golden chamber pot. Her brow is slightly furrowed and her gaze intensely focused. She rests her chin in her hand, her elbow propped upon her knee; the other hand falls in front of the pot and holds a piece of tissue that says “Tranquility.” Behind the pot a young winged cherub covers his nose. At Johnstone’s feet lay a skull and cross bones, the lightly colored live version of the face next to the skulls with eyes wide open and eyebrows raised up at the figure on the pot. The monument is raised on a stone foundation, on which a verse:


By Patience Minds an Equal Temper Know,


Nor swell too high, nor sink too low;


Patience the fiercest grief can charm,


And fate’s severest rage disarm;


Patience can soften pain to ease,


And make despair and madness please


This divine Cecilia found.


And to her Husband’s ears, confine the sound.


Primary Works: 

verse
A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day

Accession Number: 

791.9.19.1

Printing Context: 

Patience on a Monument appeared in Hannah Humphrey’s print shop window on September 19, 1791, where it could be purchased and/or viewed by the public.

Associated Events: 

The allusion to St. Cecilia’s Day is not literal: St. Cecilia’s day is celebrated on November 22 by the Roman and Orthodox Catholic Church; this print was published on September 19, 1791.

Associated People: 

Lady Cecilia Johnstone (d. 1817; The life of Lady Cecilia Johnstone is slightly more obscure than the rest of her fellow aristocratic females made famous by Gillray; she was, however, a consistent member of this group, which included Lady Albinia Buckinghimashire and Lady Archer. Thomas Wright calls Lady Cecilia Johnston a “lady of unblemished character, who had been married upwards of thirty years and had three children.” Her husband was a lieutenant-general, whom survived to live the remainder of her life in an apartment in Hampton Court (R.H. Evans and T. Wright, Historical and Descriptive Account 415-416).


St. Cecilia: St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music, artistically remembered in Handel’s cantata “Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day” which was based on John Dryden’s “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day" (1687) (J.P. Kirsch, "St. Cecilia" The Catholic Encyclopedia).


Associated Texts: 

John Dryden’s “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day” (1687) is an ode that celebrated St. Cecilia’s Day at the annual public concert hosted by the Musical Society in London. The ode describes the belief that the angels' song effected the motion of the celestial spheres (S. Greenblatt, ed. Norton Anthology of English Literature).

Subject: 

Lady Cecilia Johnstone is in profile, seated on a large golden chamber pot. Her brow is slightly furrowed and her gaze intensely focused. She rests her chin in her hand, her elbow propped upon her knee; the other hand falls in front of the pot and holds a piece of tissue that says “Tranquility.” Behind the pot a young winged cherub covers his nose. At Johnstone’s feet lay a skull and cross bones, the lightly colored live version of the face next to the skulls with eyes wide open and eyebrows raised up at the figure on the pot. The monument is raised on a stone foundation, on which a verse:


By Patience Minds an Equal Temper Know,


Nor swell too high, nor sink too low;


Patience the fiercest grief can charm,


And fate’s severest rage disarm;


Patience can soften pain to ease,


And make despair and madness please


This divine Cecilia found.


And to her Husband’s ears, confine the sound.


Theme: 

Gillray’s caricatures of Lady Cecilia Johnstone exaggerate her slenderness into rail-thin limbs and a sharp face. Appropriated aspects or designs of monumental and divine subjects, here the catacomb of St. Cecilia (as indicated by "Vide__St. Cecilia’s Day", the skull and cross-bones, the stone foundation), create a disparity between style and subject that leverages the critique of either or both. St. Cecilia as the patron saint of music is an ironic allusion for Lady Cecilia Johnstone, who was renowned for her jarring voice and outspokenness; the irony is doubled through the discrepancy created by placing a saint on a chamber pot as its divine monument.


The short, playful verse was a common device in caricature used to enhance, clarify, or add to the visual image’s meaning by creating an ironic relationship of image to text. Here the easy rhyme and tempo contrasts with the popular critique of Lady Johnstone’s voice, adding to the irony within the disparity between it and sacred music.


The antiqueness of the monument and the skull and cross-bones visually emphasize Johnstone’s age. The scatological motif—the monument as a chamber pot, more specifically the allusions to Johnstone’s constipation (repetitions of Patience in the verse, the furrowed brow)—suggest that Johnstone’s voice only stops when the voice of her bowels takes over. This connection satirically levels her speech with fecal excretion.


Significance: 

Older aristocratic women were subject to harsh critiques by caricaturists playing off of the public visibility characteristic of the aristocracy and the particular dangers and vices presented by old women. Lady Cecilia Johnstone was only one of a group of old aristocratic women who Gillray satirized for various moral breaches (C. McCreery, Satirical Gaze 238). In this image, he conveys the social depravity of the aristocracy by comparing Johnston’s uncouth outspokenness to feces. Gillray mocks the voice of the aristocracy, and in doing so also reveals its prominent presence in and its dictation to the middling classes who is prints entertained.


At the same time, the print makes a comic comment to and about romantic aesthetics: Gillray appropriates the setting of the divine monument and makes it absurd, one, by situating it as a chamber pot and two, by choosing an ugly old woman, rather than a saintly or beautiful young model, for the “sitter” of the portrait. Finally, he opens the creation of high art to the public, non-professional hand, most explicitly in the subtitle “carv’d from a Modern Antique in the General Profession.” In this way, the print demonstrates the leveling capabilities of caricature, able to pit style and subject matter against each other unlike other aesthetic mediums of the day. This antagonism engenders an irony that is especially appropriate for portraying women, who in this period faced a paradoxical negotiation of expectations and responsibilities, not only in their antagonized but interdependent public and private spheres, but also in their portraiture, as aesthetic doctrines recorded and reinforced this paradox.

Function: 

Patience on a Monument is a social caricature that made use of traditional romantic aesthetic preferences to mock the presumptions of "high" style. It also chastised its highly public victim, Lady Cecilia Johnstone, and in doing so warned the public of following her example.

Bibliography: 

Evans, R.H. and Wright, T. Historical and Descriptive Account of the Caricautres of James Gillray. London: Chatto and Windus, 1874. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1851.


Greenblatt, Stephen, gen ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature 8th ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2006.


Kirsch, Johann Peter. "St. Cecilia." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 1 Apr. 2009 .


McCreery, Cindy. The Satirical Gaze: Prints of Women in Late Eigteenth-Century England. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2004.


Wright, Thomas, ed. The Works of James Gillray, the Caricaturist. London: Chatto and Windus, 1874.


Long Title: 

Patience on a Monument: Engrav’d from a Modern Antique in the Profession of the General. Vide—St. Cecilia’s Day
 
 

Engraver: 

 

Delineator: 

 

Image Date: 

19 September 1791
 

Publisher: 

Hannah Humphrey