Republican Nomination


 “Phryne Before the Chicago Tribunal”
  Cartoonist:  Bernhard Gillam
  Source:  Puck
  Date:   June 4, 1884, p. 137

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
This Bernhard Gillam cartoon appeared in print just prior to the Republican National Convention in Chicago (the magazine was postdated). In it, Gillam mimics a well-known 19th-century painting by French academic artist Jean-Leon Gerome called "Phryne Before the Areopagus," down to the poses and gestures of the figures, in many cases. Phryne was a famous courtesan (prostitute) in ancient Greece, renowned for her beauty, by which she had accumulated great wealth over the years. At one point, she was charged with a capital crime and put on trial before the Areopagus (Athenian judicial court). Her defender, Hypereides, was making no progress with her pleas, so he brought the great beauty before the judges, tore off her clothes and expressed loud lamentations for her plight. Superstitiously fearing her power, the judges decided not to order her execution.

Here, Gillam portrays Republican presidential candidate (and soon-to-be nominee) James Blaine as the prostitute Phryne, having amassed personal wealth by allegedly selling his public services to the highest bidder. He is covered with tattoos referring to his scandals, an image used previously by Gillam in "Love's Labors Lost," and the candidate wears a magnetic pad, a mocking allusion to his charismatic ("magnetic") personality. New York Tribune editor Whitelaw Reid is Hypereides, Blaine's defender, who disrobes the prostitute. Various Republican leaders appear as the Athenian judges, reacting variously to the unveiling, from pleasure to contemplation to revulsion.

The figures in the back include (left to right): Senator and presidential candidate George Edmunds of Vermont, who places a hand on his bearded chin in a gesture of concern; Senator Benjamin Harrison of Indiana, who throws his arms up in dismay; Senator John Sherman of Ohio, who recoils in disgust; Senator (and soon-to-be vice-presidential nominee) John Logan of Illinois, who is amused; while Collector of the New York Port Robinson expresses shock.

The figures in the front include (left to right): Senator Warner Miller of New York, who laughs; former Treasury secretary Benjamin Bristow who sits with his eyes wide in amazement; assemblyman Theodore Roosevelt of New York, hands clasped, who ponders the situation; former Interior secretary Carl Schurz who raises one hand resignedly; former secretary of state (and soon-to-be senator) William Evarts of New York who smirks; and Harper's Weekly editor (and soon-to-be leader of the Independent/Mugwump revolt) George William Curtis who turns away from the sight.













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