Logo: Silhouette of William Hunter

Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery William Hunter Collections:
GLAHA 9194

This information is © The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow 2018

Click on image to see a larger version

GLAHM 9194: Samuel Foote in 'The Devil Upon Two Sticks' 30/11/1769 - click to view larger image

Samuel Foote in "The Devil Upon Two Sticks" 30/11/1769


CRE FINLAYSON, John; (English; 1730-1776) AFTER ZOFFANY, Johan; (English; 1733-1810)

printed in black
45.5 x 55.4
s. b.r. "J. Finlayson fect."; Inscr. b.c. "Published Novr 30th 1769"; inscr. b.l. "J. Zoffany pinxt"
16 O'DONOGHUE, Freeman 1908 Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, London 1908
From a group of theatrical mezzotints in Hunter's print collection. In this famous play, Hunter's profession literally put him in the footlights. Samuel Foote's The Devil Upon Two Sticks was one of the hits of the 1768 season, making capital from a real-life drama enacted at the Royal College of Physicians in September 1767, in which Hunter played a leading role. Zoffany exhibited the painting of this subject at the Society of Artists in May 1769; Finlayson's mezzotint was published on 30 November. The play, the painting, and the mezzotint gave a very public airing to a dispute in the medical world, between the Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians, and the Licentiates, of which Hunter was one of the most prominent. The College restricted its fellowship to graduates of the English universities (Oxford and Cambridge), thus barring equally distinguished Dutch, or Scottish graduates, such as Hunter. The extraordinary financial success of Foote's play depended on popular knowledge of the assault on the College in September 1767 carried out by a group of disgruntled Licentiates, including Hunter, who stormed the building accompanied by a blacksmith to remove the locks. The event was familiar to many through an engraving, The March of the Medical Militants, published by Robert Sayer on 1 September 1768. The scene represented by Zoffany became infamous, and was frequently played on its own. Dr Last - a country cobbler - is being given his vvia voce examination for entry to the College by The President, Hellebore (Sir William Browne). After the examination, Dr Hellebore gives a lecture about Animalculae, which seems to reflect some of Hunter's teaching. Besides the President, Sir William Browne, who greatly enjoyed seeing himself on stage, several of Hunter's other friends were ridiculed. Fellow collector, Dr John Fothergill (1712-1780), who appeared in the play as Dr Broadbrim, wrote to Hunter asking him to intercede with his friend the Lord Chamberlain (Lord Hertford): 'Pray, dear Doctor, will it be practicable for Lord H - to dismiss me with any decency from the stage?' In addition to being a comic genius, Samuel Foote (Truro 1721-1777 London) was something of an art lover. He was a member of Joshua Reynolds's famous Club, and attended dinners at the Royal Academy in the 1770s. He owned Zoffany's painting of The Devil Upon Two Sticks, which hung in his villa 'North End' with an earlier painting of himself and Mr Hayes in The Mayor of Garratt (1763).

Click here for a printable version

For more information please contact Malcolm.Chapman@glasgow.ac.uk