David Hess was a Swiss artist and soldier in the Dutch army. He conceived of a series of anti-French caricatures and negotiated with ‘Humphries’ in London to engrave and print them. This work is assumed to have been accomplished anonymously by forty-year-old James Gillray, at the height of his fame as a caricaturist, and issued in a bound edition of 1200 copies. Three years later, a new edition was released in Venice, with the descriptions translated from Dutch to Italian and printed alongside the French.
We also acquired Revolutions-Almanach von 1799 (Göttingen: Johann Christain Dieterich, 1799), in which six plates are reproduced (stolen?) in a much reduced format. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) 2013-0210N
Years later in The Athenaeum (London, 1886) the Hess/Gillray publication was still remembered. “The French Revolution had a profound effect upon satirical art, made it fierce as well as furious, and partially renewed that savage and brutal spirit which prevailed in the lifetime of Luther and during the Thirty Years’ War. But it likewise gave new life.”
“The Revolutions - Almanack of 1799, by David Hess, has some unusually good cuts, including one on Bruderschaft in “Hollandia regenerate,” which represents the “brother of mankind” being assailed by his neighbours, who pull his hair, punch him, throttle him, tear his coat, and knock his head with a chair. Meanwhile the heraldic seven arrows are trampled underfoot and a cat tears them to pieces.”
“Hess was a clever satirist whose works must have increased many a man’s resolution to resist the new doctrines. His prints retain considerable value to this day, and should be studied by those who wish to understand the history of opinion at that time. …Of his prints against Napoleon M. GrandCarteret writes:”
“‘Souvent aussi, ces compositions, toujours bien exécuteés, voient leur intérét augmenté par le souffle de liberté qu’elles laissent entrevoir, par cette protestation d’une ame indigneé qui jette, en 1815, un cri de victoire strident, Enfin! et dès lors Hess semble considérer sa mission de combattant du crayon comme terminée.’”