‘The Arts and Manufactures of Ireland.’ 1850. Lithograph, 5 x 9½ inches. There can be no doubt about the racism of this design, which condescendingly characterizes the Irish as ‘the finest peasantry in the world’, even though no such contingent would be represented at the Great Exhibition. Endowed with the coarse features associated with yokels, dressed in rags and holding cudgels, the men are shown as stereotypically ‘stupid Oirish’ while the young woman is described as ‘wild’. This imagery closely reflects the negative view of the Irish in England in the middle of the century and Sala adds a final hit in the form of a potato figure bearing the legend ‘Repeal’ on its cap, a reference to Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal Association and its aim of dissolving the union between Ireland and Great Britain. Repulsively, Sala makes the figure out of empty sacks – an allusion to the Famine of the 1840s, while making a joke out of the period’s mass-starvation. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Photograph and text by Simon Cooke. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.


Sala, G. A. The Great Exhibition: ‘Wot is to Be’. London: London: The Committee for Keeping Things in Their Places [Ackermann], 1850

Created 31 August 2021