Library Artwork: Political and Judicial Caricatures

Study Room 306 holds several examples of political and judicial caricature portraits.

British newspapers from the Edwardian and Victorian eras are full of scandalous trials, giving the defendants and lawyers involved a certain celebrity status. Like modern tabloids, the newspaper reports captivated the public’s imagination through stories of intrigue, love, violence, and especially murder. The magazine Vanity Fair, which is still in print today, often published caricatures of well-known barristers and judges in their “Men of the Day” series, and likewise this period was instrumental to the development of our modern political cartoons and caricatures. Study Room 306 houses several pieces from this period, including two illustrations from Vanity Fair’s “Men of the Day Series” (The Tichborne Case, 1873; The Claimants Council, 1873), three caricatures by Edmond Xavier Kapp, and two prints of engravings by T. Woolnoth.

Political caricatures by Edmond Xavier Kapp: (L-R) Edward Marshall-Hall, Sir Horace Edmund Avory, Viscount Finlay Nairn

Edmond Xavier Kapp, a London-born artist who served as an official war artist for the United Kingdom from 1940-41, produced many portraits during his lifetime.

  • Sir Edward Marshall Hall KC (1925): Edward Marshall Hall KC (King’s Counsel) (1858-1927) was an English barrister and orator who became known as “The Great Defender” after he served on several high-profile trials for accused murders. His career was dramatized by the BBC in a 1988 television mini-series and in a 1996 radio series.
  • Viscount Finlay Nairn (1925): Robert Bannatyne Finlay (1842-1929) was the 1st Viscount Finlay, and a noted lawyer, doctor, and politician from Scotland who rose to become Lord Chancellor of Great Britain.
  • The Honorable Mr. Justice Avory (1925): An English lawyer, jurist, and member of the Privy Council, Sir Horace Edmund Avory (1851-1935) served on many highly publicized trials (including as prosecuting council against author Oscar Wilde). Due to his reputation as a cold and relentless lawyer and the sensationalism brought about by Edwardian and Victorian newspapers, Avory became known as the “Old Bailey’s Hanging Judge” and “Acid Drop.”

Two portraits by T. Woolnoth: L: John Coply, 1st Baron Lyndhurst (1846). R: John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon, Lord High Chancellor of England (1840)

Born in 1875, T. Woolnoth was an expert English artist and engraver. He completed many portraits over his life time, two of which are showcased here, as well as contributing sketches and engravings of flora and fauna to illustrate books and articles.

  • John Coply, 1st Baron Lyndhurst (1846): Born in Boston before the American Revolution, Coply was a prominent English politician and lawyer. He served as Lord Chancellor on three occasions under three separate monarchs (George IV, William IV, and Victoria) between 1827 and 1846.
  • John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon, Lord High Chancellor of England (1840): John Scott, another English politician and lawyer, served as Lord Chancellor twice between 1801 and 1827 under George III and George IV.

Two pieces from Vanity Fair’s “Men of the Day” series: (L-R) The Claimants Council (1873) and The Tichborne Case (1873)

Two other pieces of note are the caricature portraits of two judges in traditional wigs: The Claimants Council (1873) and The Tichborne Case (1873), which come from vintage editions of Vanity Fair, as part of their “Men of the Day” series.

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