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Darwin Correspondence Project

4.19 George Montbard, caricature

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In this watercolour drawing by Charles Auguste Loye, who called himself George Montbard, Darwin is in a ‘Gallery of ancestors’. He is improbably pictured as a connoisseur in a sleek cut-away tail coat, training his lorgnette on a portrait of one of these ‘ancestors’, a creature midway between an ape and a human. The jutting brow and beard are common to both of them, and Montbard has given Darwin an even flatter skull than his simian forebear. In popular works on physiognomy and in descriptions of Darwin himself, a high forehead and domed skull were marks of intelligence, which are here playfully negated. 

Montbard was a French author, illustrator and caricaturist who came to Britain as a political refugee after being involved in the Commune in 1871. He worked for Vanity Fair, but it is not known where, or even if, this caricature was published in lithographic form. It is likely to date from the 1870s, when jokes arising from Darwin’s theories of human ancestry expounded in Descent of Man were commonplace in British journals. The flow and economy of line are, however, distinctively different from the English style of comic draughtsmanship. 

  • physical location Darwin archive, Cambridge University Library 

  • accession or collection number DAR 225.178 

  • copyright holder Syndics of Cambridge University Library 

  • originator of image George Montbard (signed ‘MONTBARD’ at lower left) 

  • date of creation unknown (1870s?) 

  • computer-readable date unknown, c.1870-01-1 to 1880-12-31? 

  • medium and material watercolour 

  • references and bibliography J. van Wyhe, ‘Iconography’, p. 185, as ‘sent to Darwin’. 


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