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Darwin Correspondence Project

4.15 George Cruikshank, comic drawing

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A sheet of comic drawings titled ‘Comparative anatomy à la Darwin’, is signed by George Cruikshank junior, who has been variously identified as the great-nephew or the illegitimate son of his more famous namesake. Unfortunately, the publication in which it appeared and its date are unrecorded, but the allusion to Darwin’s theories in the Descent of Man and his visual association with an ape suggest that it dates from the early to mid-1870s. Darwin is pictured (top left) on the stereotypical pattern of an eccentric professor, with pince nez and an awkward bony frame. He is standing outside the Royal Society building, where a lecture on, or perhaps by, Darwin is announced. He doffs his top hat and shakes hands politely with an ape hanging from a tree on the other side of the design, and this acknowledgement of kinship is humorously echoed in the other pairings of humans and animals below. They play on the old idea of a physiognomic and psychological link between particular human types and the animal species they supposedly resemble - an idea that goes back to drawings by Charles Le Brun in the seventeenth century. Here a heavy-jowled bruiser in a pork-pie hat is paired with a bulldog, while a tall elegant man with a walking cane has a greyhound. A miser given to ruthless extortion is associated with a vulture, while a rotund John-Bull figure communes with a torpid hippopotamus. The title and idea of ‘comparative anatomy’ had already been used in satirical prints by the more famous George Cruikshank senior, whose playful fantasies his successor here emulates. Cruikshank junior contributed similar sheets of comic drawings to Judy, Or the London Serio-Comic Journal, where this one also may have appeared. 

  • physical location Darwin archive, Cambridge University Library 

  • accession or collection number DAR 225.181 

  • copyright holder Syndics of Cambridge University Library 

  • originator of image George Cruikshank junior 

  • date of creation unknown, probably early 1870s 

  • medium and material intaglio engraving 


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