‘Miscellaneous Arts and Manufactures.’ 1850. Lithograph, 5 x 9½ inches. Sala takes this opportunity to mock consumerism and the adulteration of goods that were provided for urban consumers. In the top tier milk is depicted as a combination of water, salt, chalk, treacle, arsenic and horse’s brains, with the ingredients being carried by agitated puppets, and no sign of a cow. The bottom tier likewise comments on the poor quality of contemporary goods: washing powder wrecks clothes, to the astonishment of a housekeeper, and a newly-married man, who can only afford the cheapest furniture, sits on a collapsing chair. The Great Exhibition was supposed to be a showcase of the highest quality artefacts, but Sala mocks the reality of capitalist exploitation which leads to constant short-changing and inferior standards. [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