[From Chrononhotonthologos, Phantasmagoria. Cotillions and Supper Entertainment in the Isle of Man 1793-1820 ]


Portrait of Napoleon 1804

In the issue of the Manx Advertiser for the 22nd of September 1804 there is an advertisement for a Grand Historical Picture of Napoleone (Napoleon) exhibited by special authority of the Hon. Lieutenant Governor, Lord Henry Murray. The event took pace at the theatre in Douglas and the large canvas was exhibited until the end of October. The painting containing nearly 500 feet of canvas was a representation of Napoleone Buoapart and the advertisement describes him as "the present usurper of the throne of France". The painting depicted Napoleon attended by, General Alex. Berther, Brigadier General of the whole Army, General Durve, First Aide-de-Camp, General Lasne, Ambassador at the Court of Portugal, General Beuaharnes, Commander of the House Chasseure, and son of Madame Buonaparte by a former husband. Also included in the painting were Roustant the Mameluke Chief that accompanied Buonaparte from Egypt and always attended him at their reviews in the costume of his country. Napoleon is mounted on a most ferocious charger presented to him by the King of Spain. The readers were reminded that Roustant is the Mameluke was reputed to have been employed by Buonaparte in strangling the late General Pichegru to the late King of France: dressed in a General's uniform, over which he wears the grey greatcoat he was disguised in the Battle of Morengo. "The above are portraits full and large as, and taken from Li----- (?) At a distance is seen the view of that magnificent Palace, The Thuilleries: founded by Queen Catherine D m dicis, in 1546,--(and in which this painting was executed). From one of the windows of the painting appear a division of troops that are considered the flower of the French army, particularly chosen from among those who served at the battle of Morengo. This interesting scene of novelty and perfection has been considered a treat to the amateurs of the fine arts, meeting with universal admiration as well as in Paris as in London, it was honoured by the presence of most of the Royal Family and upwards of fifty thousand spectators; being the only portrait Buonaparte ever sat for to a British artist; which is handed to the inspection of the public and so perfect a likeness, that, Tallen (his confidant) on returning to England, a prisoner from Egypt, said -'It is not a picture, but Buonaparte himself, and underwrote the passport of the painter, to the effect, which may be seen at the exhibition."

The picture was on view from nine until dusk and the cost of admission was one shilling, British. On account of the Theatre being engaged for another purpose, the exhibition only continued for a short time.

On reviewing the picture the Manx Advertiser for the 6th October recorded that, "Perhaps there never was exhibited in the Island, a more highly finished, and at the same time, a more interesting painting, than that now exhibiting at the theatre in town. The whole scene is truly admirable, - Buonaparte, (the hero of the piece) mounted on a Hanoverian Charger, is particularly striking. In short, it requires only to be seen to be admired; and none, we believe, having returned dissatisfied or disappointed from the exhibition"

That the inhabitants of the Island flocked to see an oil painting of Napoleon was remarkable but they wanted to see this "Usurper of the French Throne" whose

successful conquests in Europe were threatening the shores of the United Kingdom. Through the eyes of the artist was revealed a picture of a man who had had led the armies of France to victory, admired by some and feared by many. The exhibition of the portrait closed in October.

Transparent and Opaque Paintings 1811

In March 1811 an Exhibition of "Transparent and Opaque Paintings" took place near Mr. Stubb's Library on the Quay in Douglas. What it actually consisted of is unclear from the advertisement in the paper but from the description seems to have been three dimensional representations, "an exhibition of the most curious transparent and opaque paintings in perspective panorama, that were ever offered to public view; they have been honoured with the inspection of the Royal Family, foreign princes, ambassadors, and most distinguished personages and amateurs of the fine arts, gentlemen, travellers and the masters of the principal academies in the Kingdom, who have declared their approbation of this exhibition of works of considerable ingenuity, and totally void of the smallest impropriety. Mr. L (?) trusts that the above will prove a treat to the public, as one of the greatest novelties ever exhibited in the Island. - Open from 10 o'clock in the morning till 10 in the evening, near Mr. Stubbs's library, on the Quay. Admittance, Ladies and Gentlemen, one shilling, and children sixpence" Balloonist 1819

Mr. Livingstone advertised in the Manx Advertiser of the 14th October, 1819 calling himself an aeronaut, and that he intended making an aerial ascent from the Island next Spring in his magnificent balloon and car, provided he can obtain subscriptions to defray his expenses. Mr. L. intended to visit the Island for the purpose of ascertaining the probability of his success. The Advertiser however does not seem to have a followed-up advertisement so perhaps he could not raise the funds.

The Great Elk 1820

The skeleton of the Great Elk housed in the Manx Museum use to greet the visitor at the entrance but since the remodelling of the reception area it has been moved to the gallery on the right. When I was young I can remember having to pass this giant and feeling some fear and trepidation that it may spring into life and chase after me. Perhaps it was the Curator's way of hinting that little boys had to be on their best behaviour when visiting the Museum. Discovered in 1819 at Ballaugh it became a wonderful curiosity and was exhibited there by Mr. Thomas Kewish in 1820. The conclusion, as to its origin, was that the animal had been trapped in the biblical flood in the days of Noah. In May of that year Mr. Kewish took it to England and exhibited it.

The Manx Advertiser newspaper issued on 23rd February 1820 advertised a Great Antediluvian Natural Curiosity being exhibited in a large building, erected for the purpose, in the garden of Mr. Thomas Kewish, near the Ballaugh Brewery. It was the complete skeleton of a once formidable and enormous Elk, "Exceeding in magnitude every thing of the kind hitherto discovered in the known world. This wonderful corroborating evidence of the visitation of the flood, is particularly deserving of very general inspection, and must to a naturalist be a source of profound and useful contemplation. It stands (from the hoof to the summit of the antlers, which are a distant from each other at the extremities nearly eight feet) thirteen feet in height Its length from forepart of the head to setting of the tail, eight feet. Each horn is five feet ten inches in long - at the palm, eighteen inches broad - has on the right seven, and on the left eight fine branches. The whole of the bones are in the highest state of preservation, put together with the greatest anatomical accuracy and are considerably larger than those of the strongest horse. The skeleton was found on the 14th March 1819 in a solid body of shell marl, 18 feet beneath the surface, in a part of a field close to the brewery of Ballaugh which, since the memory of man, had not been dug up, and from every appearance the body must have remained there since the deluge. The considerations naturally induced from an actual inspection of this unique curiosity, are of too expanded a nature for any advertisement; suffice it therefore to say, that persons desirous of being gratified from ocular demonstration, will be admitted from seven in the morning to nine at night, on all days but Sunday, until the month of May next, when it is propose to remove the exhibition to England.

Ladies and Gentlemen Is. Tradesmen and children 6d British each Ballaugh, March 20, 1820."

Wax Work Figures 1820

The Manx Advertiser dated the 3rd August1820 ran an article about Mr. Williams who had brought to Douglas a very elegant collection of wax figures of mostly modern characters. They had been much admired in Dublin and received the approbation of the connoisseur and antiquarian. According to Mr Williams the figures were superior to any before seen in this town. His advertisement announced, "Mr. Williams's Grand Cabinet of Wax Figures as large as life. The proprietor of this cabinet is happy in announcing to the nobility, gentry and public of the Isle of Man that he has, by great expense, and by means of foreign connections brought together the finest collection of Wax Figures at present exhibiting in Europe which he is convinced will be acknowledged by all who shall honour it a visit. Opens in Douglas, for a short time only, in the Assembly Room, Fort-street, admittance 1s, British."

Manx The Advertiser's reporter in the issue of 10th August 1820 said that, "the wax works figures now exhibiting in the Old Assembly Room, (Fort Street)) afford to the public an ample treat, in the opportunity of an introduction to no less celebrated personages than the late ever-to-be-lamented Princess Charlotte, the Prince of Coberg, the great sovereigns of Europe, naval and military heroes, and many of the political characters of the age. - The visitors to this grand exhibition have already been numerous and respectable, and the proprietor, was have no doubt, will be amply remunerated for the expense and trouble he has been at in bringing them to the Island."


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