The history of Caricature, as part of a discipline in modern graphic design, may be traced back to the cultures of ancient Egypt, Greek and Rome and in the middle ages to Leonardo da Vinci's attempts to comprehend the concept of ideal beauty, by analyzing "the ideal type of ruggedness".
|An Egyptian funeral boat|
|An Unfortunate Egyptian Soul|
Caricatures are designed to oversimplify and exaggerate each subject's distinctive features, while still maintaining a recognizable likeness, in order to convey a visual message. According to Thomas Wright, a message has been conveyed to us from the distance of the ages by an Egyptian image in which a small boat with provisions that runs into the back of a larger funeral boat, upsetting the tables of cakes and other supplies. Thus this scene has the characteristics of a caricature. Wright, provides other Egyptian examples in which animals are employed in occupations usually reserved for humans which appear to be humorous , and he discusses examples of the ancient Greeks who were especially partial to representations of monsters, frequently using their images in their ornaments and works of arts.
|The Egyptian God Typhoon|
|A Greek Gorgon|
|The Roman Sannio, from an engraving in the "Differetatio de Larvis Scenicis" by the Italian antiquary Ficoroni, who copied it from an engraved gem. He wears the Foccus or low shoe peculiar to the comic actors.|
In particular, Greeks adapted the figure of the Egyptian god Typhoon to represent their Gorgon, as the above images show the Greek Gorgon was a rather close emulation of Typhoon. The image of Typhoon with its broad, coarse, and frightful face, lolling out his large tongue , appeared frequently on the Egyptian monuments. According, to Pliny in his "Natural History" among the pictures exhibited in the Forum at Rome there was one in which a Gaul was represented, "trusting out his tongue in avert unbecoming manner". Perhaps by using a Gorgon-type caricaturization, Romans were trying to exhibit their displeasure with Gauls. The Roman popular character Sannio, or buffoon, whose name is derived from a similar Greek character and who was employed in performing burlesque dances, making grimaces, and in other acts calculated to excite the mirth of the spectators, was another example of these ancient caricatures.
|An artist studio in Pompeii|
|The Oldest drawing in British Museum, 1320 AD. Two demons tossing a monk headlong into a river.|
|Luther Inspired by Satan|
In the Middle Ages religious anxieties were mixed with carnivals, festivals and enjoyment of the ludicrous. A manuscript from this time provides an example of two demons playfully tripping a monk and throwing him into a river. According to James Parton, "Reformation began with laughter, which church itself nourished and sanctioned ... upon edifices erected before the year 1000 there are few traces of the devil, and upon of those of much earlier date none at all; but from eleventh century he begins to play an important role". Artists competed with each other to give the devil the most hideous looks, and as time passed he looked more and more ridiculous. However, Luther spoke of the devil very seriously, as he thought that devils are present everywhere and in every action. People laughed at clergy, "the clergy, self-indulgent" in the words of Parton "preached self denial; practicing vice, they exaggerated human guilt. " Parton writes " among the curiosities which Luther himself brought from Rome in 1510, was a caricature suggested by the Ship of Fools, showing how the Pope had fooled the whole world with his superstitious and idolatries. ... Luther himself was a caricaturist ... The famous pamphlet of caricatures published in 1521 by Luther's friend and follower, Lucas Cranach, contains pictures that we could easily believe Luther himself suggested."
|The Pope Tossed into Hell, Lucas Cranach, 1521|
Between 1490 and 1495 Leonardo da Vinci (1452- 1519) developed his habit of recording his studies in meticulously illustrated notebooks. His work covered four main themes: painting, architecture, the elements of mechanics, and human anatomy. It appears that as much as he was interested in the human anatomy, through his sketches of various facial characteristics he was also interested in understanding of the human emotions and the impact of the ravages of time on the battered faces of various characters. These sketches which are collected into various codices and manuscripts, are indeed real precursors to modern caricatures.
|Study of Aesthetics in Five Rugged Heads, Leonardo da Vinci c. 1495|
|The parable of the blind, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1568|
In political cartoons the intriguing conceptual complexity of historical events, within a cultural context is presented with stark, simple imagery and witty, sarcastic statement, that when carefully analyzed lead to discovery of many important historical facts that offer authentic and accurate insights into the various cultural biases, human right issues, public anxieties, and democratic wishes of a particular age. They shed light on enigmatic causes of historical events and describe the trajectory of a civilization through time towards achieving humanistic ideals . Since the early eighteenth century, political cartoons have opened a sharp visual communication window into the past. The key to the caricature is an exaggeration of those aspect of a narrative that the artist wants to highlight. The personage of a tyrant, a charlatan politician or a corrupt clergyman in the hands of an artist turns to a revealing caricature that no amount of censorship can cover up. In this regard political cartoons have become a unique visual communication device since the 17th century, providing political editorials and socio-cultural commentaries. The main aim of this visual communication is to shape public opinion by using a verity of artistic, cultural, and psychological techniques, including resorting to nationalism, symbolism, hyperbolic suggestions, labeling, analogy, and irony. But, most often, they use sarcastic metaphors, satirical comparisons, and over the top description of reality to simplify complex political events so that the general public can comprehend their significance, from a particular perspective.
Perhaps the first political cartoonist was the Dutch artist Romeyn de Hooghe (1645-1708), who at the service of William of Orange, later King William III of England, repeatedly caricatured James II and Louis XIV, sometimes using pseudonyms on his most audacious images. He painted, engraved, sculpted, designed medals, enameled, taught drawing school, and bought and sold art as a dealer, but above all he was a graphic designer who etched allegories and mythological scenes, portraits, caricatures, political satires, historical subjects, landscapes, topographical views, battle scenes, genre scenes, title pages, and book illustrations.
|Louis XIV as Apollo led by Madame de Maintenon, Romeyn de Hooghe, etching from 1701|
|The farmer crushed by "Taille, Impots et Corvee"; by tithe, taxation and statute-labour. Coloured engraving.|
|The Third Estate, the clergy and the nobility shouldering the national debt. French Revolution. Engraving; 1789.|