‘A likeness notwithstanding the Disguise…..’ Richard Cooper
This curious print from 1745, although small and intended to be ephemeral, is historically fascinating and highly attractive. It will go on show, alongside many better-known and bigger works, in one of our opening exhibitions for 2011: Imagining Power: the Visual Culture of the Jacobite Cause.
The print (which does not explicitly name its subject, referring to him dismissively as ‘the Son of the Pretender’) advertises the massive reward of £30,000 offered by the British government in early August 1745 for the capture of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, who had landed in Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides in late July. Its satirical thrust derives largely from the prince’s balletic pose and elaborate Highland costume or ‘Disguise’. This is the first image to depict the prince clad in tartan.
Prior to the momentous events of the ’45 Rising, the prince had only worn Highland dress to parties in Rome, but, once in Scotland, he swiftly realised its symbolic power, capable of instilling a sense of tribal loyalty and romantic attachment to an Italian-born Stuart, who now declared: ‘I am come home’. Equally, as here, it could be used by those opposed to the Jacobite cause to suggest that the Young Pretender should not be taken too seriously (notwithstanding a price on his head equivalent to around £2,500,000 today!).
Richard Cooper, who designed and made this work, was born in London but spent his entire career in Edinburgh. It probably dates from before he had actually seen Charles, who made his triumphant entrance to the city, dressed in a tartan short coat, bonnet and cockade, 17 September 1745. We should not necessarily read the image as evidence of personal political hostility. Many artists were highly pragmatic in their acceptance of commissions and some of Cooper’s closest associates were active Jacobites, not least his own apprentice, Robert Strange, who was ‘out’ in the ’45.