British Satirical School (late 18th Century) – A Foreign Tree / Subitarius


1 in stock

Pen and ink with grey and colour washes on laid watermarked paper, presented in a new mount. A printed example of the drawing was published together with its partner, titled: ‘British Tree of True Liberty’; unfortunately, the author’s details are unknown.

Drawing: 12 x 8 5/8 in. (30.5 x 22 cm.) Watermark; FINCH
Mount: 18 ½ x 15 1/8 in. (47 x 38.5 cm.)

Please note: The print ‘British Tree of True Liberty’ shown in the secondary photo is unavailable and is not included in the sale of the drawing.



Condition: The colours have faded a little and the paper has some missing areas around the borders which have been infilled, the entire sheet has been cleaned and consolidated by lining onto archival backing paper. All work has been carried out by an accredited paper conservator.


The two pictures look at first glance quite similar; each depicts a similarly sized oak tree against the backdrop of a light sky. On closer inspection, however, that superficial resemblance only serves to cast in relief some very sharp disparities. Our drawing, captioned ‘A Foreign Tree’, is assigned the mock Latin genus ‘Subitarius’ (from the Latin subitus, meaning ‘sudden’ or ‘rash’). This oak looks sick; its branches are sparse, and at the top is a skull against a cloud of black smoke. Labels appear at the foot of the tree, as well as along each branch: ‘Confusion’, ’Infidelity’, ’Misery’. A snake marked ‘Imaginary Rights of Man’ curls around the trunk, and in the background are demonstrators and a guillotine. The other tree (seen in the photo of a print), captioned ‘British Tree of True Liberty’, is assigned the mock Latin genus ‘Stabilissimus’ (from the superlative of the Latin stabilis, meaning ‘stable’). This one is clearly flourishing; its leaves are abundant, and rays of sunshine radiate from the sky. Again, there are labels, but this time they read: ‘Happiness’, ‘Religion’, ‘Loyalty’ etc.



Unidentified / Unknown Artist