Marie Duval's cartoons

Meet 19th century cartoonist Marie Duval.

Untitled, frontispiece, Judy Volume 18 (1875-10-20) by Marie DuvalOriginal Source:

Isabelle Émilie de Tessier (1847 – 1890) was a London actress, cartoonist and illustrator who worked under the pseudonyms ‘Marie Duval’, ‘Noir’, ‘S.A. The Princess Hesse Schwartzbourg’ and ‘Ambrose Clarke’.

Marie Duval’s work first appeared in a variety of the cheap British penny papers and comics of the 1860s–1880s, or the First Great Age of Leisure, for urban working class people.

An actress as well as a cartoonist, she lived and worked in a London environment of music halls and unlicensed theatres, sensational plays, serials, novels and comic journals. Her drawing style was theatrical, untutored and introduced many techniques that only became common in much later cartooning.

Between March 1869 and July 1885, Duval drew hundreds of comic strip pages and vignettes for the magazine Judy, or the London serio-comic journal and spin-off compilations, focusing on the humour, attitudes, urbanity and poverty of the types of people she knew.

Her masterstroke was the development of the character Ally Sloper, a ne’er do well London ‘everyman’, resulting in dozens of strips that were collected into books. Under her influence, Sloper was to become the comedy icon of his age.

The Guildhall Library's Marie Duval exhibition was the first ever exhibition dedicated solely to her work as a nineteenth century pioneer of the art of comics. Much more of Duval’s work is also available to view online at The Marie Duval Archive:

The exhibition and Archive have been produced by the University of Chester, in partnership with Guildhall Library and with the support of the British Library and the London Library. It was made possible by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Early Career award.

Dramatic criticism, 1883. Judy Volume 32, page 27. (1883-01-17) by Marie DuvalOriginal Source:

Dramatic Criticism

In one of her most deft and complex drawings, Duval manages to make use of the pretensions of theatre production to mock the audience, whilst using the pretensions of the audience to mock the players.

Her readers, meanwhile, see audience members, players and stage as little more than wooden dolls, childish daubs and walking sticks.

Rinkophobia. Judy Volume 20, page 62. (1876-11-22) by Marie DuvalOriginal Source:


Duval frequently incorporated ‘overdrawing’ of more conventional images, from other print sources –particularly of young women who are conventionally attractive to men. She also included this copying and tracing alongside her own, more pneumatic style, to indicate differences in age, status and character.


Artistic wallpaper. Judy Volume 20, page 262. (1877-04-04) by Marie DuvalOriginal Source:

Artistic wallpaper

Another mediaeval love affair. Judy Volume 17, page 83 (1875-06-16) by Marie DuvalOriginal Source:

Another Medieval Love Affair

Krikketekrakkle. Judy Volume 23, page 92. (1878-08-28) by Marie DuvalOriginal Source:


Krikketkrakkle is a deft use of a flying insect as a representation of the cartoonist – here a botherer of kings – as a parodist of the faux medievalism of Duval’s children’s book Queens and Kings and also of the conventions of theatre staging.

Round the corner. Judy Volume 10, page 140. (1872-01-31) by Marie DuvalOriginal Source:

Round the corner

In this drawing, the experience of theatre performance parallels Duval’s visual staging of a known theatre comedy routine.

The inhabitants of a crowded room find excuses to leave, one by one, until the room is left unattended and mayhem ensues among the household pets.

How Mrs Todgers tackles the ocean. Judy Volume 15, page 212. (1874-09-09) by Marie DuvalOriginal Source:

How Mrs Todgers tackles the ocean

The great popularity of outings to the seaside meant that, in fact, an excursion from London turned out to be very much the same sort of experience as remaining in the city.

Mrs Todgers is crushed, bustled, manhandled, frightened and placed in situations beneath her dignity – just like in ‘town.’

The Kings of Koo. A Rare and Choice Collection of Queens and Kings and Other Things page 41. (1874) by Marie DuvalOriginal Source:

The Kings of Koo

Subverting Victorian notions of ‘the innocence of childhood’, Duval’s drawings for children present the vagaries of adulthood as utterly comprehensible to children.

Iky Mo, his little game. Ally Sloper’s Comic Kalendar page 5. (1878) by Marie DuvalOriginal Source:

Iky Mo, his little game

In Duval’s hands, Sloper quickly became a recognisable male cipher for the whole of the precarious, urban, disheveled and rackety London life of the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s that Duval, and her readers, knew.

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