Gillray was the most inventive and savage exponent of satirical printmaking which mocked the foibles and hypocrisy of the ruling classes in England, as well as in France where Napoleon was brilliantly and unforgettably (albeit unfairly as he was above average height) lampooned as ‘little Boney’. The hand-coloured satirical etchings, produced and sold by the publishers William Humphrey and later by his sister Hannah in St James’s, were aimed at the political metropolitan elite who were familiar with the figures and the underlying political stories addressed in Gillray’s work.
A persistent target of Gillray’s biting satire was the extravagance, overindulgence, political plotting and sexual peccadillos of the Prince Regent (the future George IV) who impatiently awaited, along with his friends in the aristocratic Whig party, the death of his father George III. In the present print from 1792 Gillray shows the Prince at the end of an epic lunch with his waistcoat straining to keep in his girth, and surrounded by evidence of his dissolute lifestyle: unpaid bills; dice for gambling; medicine to treat ailments brought on by his indulgence (such as the ‘Drops for a Stinking Breath’); and through the window a glimpse of the unfinished colonnade of the Carlton House, the palatial residence that George had built at vast expense in Pall Mall in London. Gillray’s vivid and witty portrayal of the Prince Regent exemplifies his brilliance for incisive satire and his unmatched ability to critique the loucheness of Regency England.