Thomas Rowlandson


Billy Lackbeard and Charley Blackbeard playing at football  1784

engraving with hand colouring

8½ x 13 ins (21.6 x 33 cm)

Published Feb 7th 1784 by W. Humphrey, no.227 Strand.


No. 6406 in the British Museum catalogue of political and personal satires.

They stand facing each other in profile, each with his left leg raised, and looking up at India House, upside-down in the air, which they are treating as a football. Pitt is slim and elegant; behind him on a reading desk is an open volume inscribed Blackstone, to show that Pitt (a barrister) had studied law. Behind Fox is a table is partly visible showing dice-box and dice; at his feet are playing-cards.

The earliest pictorial example of the expression “political football”

Much celebrated watercolour painter, illustrator and caricaturist, Rowlandson depicted lively and satirical scenes of contemporary life, both domestic and political. He was considered the leading comic artist from the heyday of British caricature.