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Vanity Fair Print - 'Parliamentary Practice' - Sir Thomas Erskine - Lawyer

 

Lawyer - Vanity Fair print

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Lawyer, Legal, Sir Thomas Erskine, Vanity Fair print by Ape, "Parliamentary Practice " , May 6th 1871.


Condition: Minor mark bottom right, some minor offsetting on left.

Title: 'Parliamentary Practice'
Medium: Chromolithograpgh print dated 1871 Image Size: 370 x 210mm, 14.5 x 8.25 "
Order No. 7314 Price: £55.00 Paper Size: 385 x 250mm, 15 x 10 "
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Ape - Carlo Pellegrini

was born in March 1838 in Capua, near Naples, Italy to a noble family. His character was prominent and boldly individual from a young age.

He was educated at the Collegio Barnibiti, and then at Sant' Antonio in Maddaloni, near Naples. As a young man he caricatured Neopolitan Society, modeling his portraits on those of Melchiorre Delfico and Daumier and other French and British artists of the period. Pellegrini claimed to have fought with Garibaldi; however, those who knew him well dismissed this as fantasy.

Deciding to leave Italy in 1864 after a series of personal crises, including the death of his sister, he travelled to England via Switzerland and France. He arrived in London in November 1864; he later claimed to have arrived destitute, and to have slept on the streets and in doorways. However, this claim may have been another fantasy designed to make him seem to be a Bohemian artist. In London he became a friend of the Prince of Wales.

It is not recorded how Pellegrini met Thomas Bowles, the owner of Vanity Fair magazine, but he quickly found himself employed by that publication and became its first caricaturist, originally signing his work as 'Singe' and later, and more famously, as 'Ape' (Italian for Bee). Pellegrini's work for the magazine made his reputation and he became its most influential artist, in which his caricatures were to be printed for over twenty years, from January 1869 to April 1889.

His 1869 caricature of Benjamin Disraeli was the first colour lithograph to appear in the magazine, and proved immensely popular. It was the first of a highly successful series of more than two thousand caricatures published by Vanity Fair. Although the later caricatures by Sir Leslie Ward are perhaps now more well known, those by 'Ape' are regarded by many collectors as being artistically and technically superior. Apart from drawing his caricatures for the magazine Pellegrini attempted to set himself up as a portrait painter, but this venture met with limited success.

Pellegrini met Degas in London in the 1870s, and in about 1876-7 painted his portrait, inscribed 'à vous/Pellegrini' (to you/Pellegrini). In return, Degas painted Pellegrini's portrait, similarly inscribed. Pellegrini was a member of the Beefsteak Club in London and there met Whistler, who became a great influence on his work; indeed, he even attempted to paint portraits in the style of Whistler, but, as said earlier, this venture met with limited success.

Pellegrini was also a member of The Arts Club from 1874 until 1888. Pellegrini was extremely careful about his appearance, and would wear immaculate white spats with highly polished boots. He grew long Mandarin-like fingernails, would never walk when he could ride, and had a limitless fund of amusing stories and eccentricities. He spoke broken-English, and would often bring macaroni dishes to elegant dinner parties. He would refuse invitations to country houses out of fear of strange beds, and had a habit of keeping a cigar in his mouth as he slept.

There is some confusion as to the subject of this initial cartoon, his biography published in Vanity Fair suggests that it was of Lord Beaconsfield, whereas other sources name Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli as his first published lithograph. Ape frequently worked from memory, but when he did work from life, he preferred to have a friend present to engage him in conversation.

He was connected to the English High Society and had many friends there, although his socialite, generous nature usually left him in financial straits. He was considered to be objectionably dressed. Pellegrini continued to work for this publication, with little interruption, until his death in January 1889 at the age of 50 years. He died of lung disease at his home, 53 Mortimer Street, near Cavendish Square in London. He is buried in Saint Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery, London, England.

His caricatures were known to never slander a foe and never to adulate a friend, however the subjects of his pencil considered him as a friend and were the most ardent of his admirers.

Other Works by Ape

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Lawyer, Legal, Sir Thomas Erskine, Vanity Fair print by Ape, "Parliamentary Practice "

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