Above, Phryne Before the Chicago Tribunal, by artist Bernhard Gillam. Of the twenty-two cartoons in “The Tattooed-Man” series, the above is the best known, because of the reaction it generated. It ran as the centerspread in the June 4th, 1884 issue of Puck magazine, during the Republican nominating Convention in Chicago.
The Tattooed Man series parodied former Speaker of the House James G. Blaine, of the state of Maine, whose years in office were filled with corruption, self-enrichment, and improprieties. Blaine was widely known as “The Maine Liar”, filled with bluster and arrogance, but also with magnetism which helped him advance his career despite his corrupt record. In the series, Blaine is presented as a man tattooed from head-to-toe in his many sins, each tattoo illustrating one of his known flaws. It was these improprieties of Blaine, which brought down Republican chances in 1884, just as some Republicans today fear Newt Gingrich — whose hypocrisy and lies rival those of Blaine — would also do if he were to win the nomination.
This particular cartoon — patterned after “Phryné before the Areopagus” (shown below), a popular painting which debuted in 1861, by Jean-Léon Gérôme — caused a sensation in its depiction of the revealing of Blaine’s sins before the Chicago Convention delegates. To learn the full details, of this and others of the Tattooed Man cartoons, click here to read an excellent article by Harlen Makemson of Elon University, titled One Misdeed Evokes Another: How Political Cartoonists Used “Scandal Intertextuality” Against Presidential Candidate James G. Blaine.
Click on the above cartoon, to both view it in detail, and read the tattooes and captions.
Beneath, find the Puck editorial commentary which ran in the same June 4th, 1884 issue.
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