Bloomsbury Auctions held their rather clumsily titled Caricatures: Napoleonic & Georgian Social & Political Satire sale in London earlier this week. The catalogue, which can be found by clicking here, contained a large quantity of prints by Gillray, Rowlandson, the Cruikshanks and other big-hitters of the late Hanoverian English caricature, as well as a smattering of prints by continental artists.
The sale seems to have gone well, at least from the vendor and auctioneer’s perspective, with most of the lots fetching well above estimate (which is why collectors of more modest means would be wise to avoid the big London salerooms if possible – more international interest and typically higher rates of commission on sales).
The highlight of the sale was Lot 51: this original coloured edition of Gillray’s The Plumb Pudding in Danger, _ or _ State Epicures taking Un Petit Souper (1805). This is arguably one of the most enduring and iconic pieces of political satire ever produced, and for that reason it carries a market value which is well in excess of any other English caricature of the period. It’s reputation as the grand premier cru of the English satirical print collecting world was firmly established at the Bonham’s caricature sale back in 2003, when a copy sold for the record breaking price of £12,500 (including the sales premium).
That record was finally broken earlier this week, with Lot 51 at the Bloomsbury Auctions sale achieving a hammer price of £15,000. Take into account the 24% auctioneer’s commission which is charged on top of the sale price, and the buyer will have paid just over £18,500 for the privilege of adding this Plumb Pudding to their collection. Whichever way you cut it, that’s one expensive piece of pudding.