The pursuit of Knowledge, J. Gillray
In this well executed satire, two Frenchmen, who have been attempting to tame crocodiles, are ruthlessly attacked by the reptiles. Here, Gillray satirizes Napoleon’s Institute d'Égypte, a group of engineers who were sent to Egypt to record and document their findings using “scientific” methods that were both archeological and quasi-sociological. The crocodiles are shown emerging from the reeds and rushes that line the banks of the River Nile. Their sinuous tails and large jaws are delineated with remarkable accuracy. In the center foreground of the image, a large crocodile chomps onto the Frenchman’s leg. In response, the “tamer” yells in pain and drops his whip and the bridle he holds–a specially designed saddle for the animal also lies on the ground. His fellow researcher can be seen on the right edge of the sheet running from a crocodile who has clamped onto his jacket. Raising his hands, he drops a manual titled “Les Droits du Crocodile,” or the “Rights of the Crocodile.” Sheaves of paper and an educational tract litter the foreground of the image. Among the possible uses for the crocodile the images depict crocodiles pulling carriages on land, pulling a boat through rivers, and saddling the crocodile to ride as a horse.