Bursting the Westminster Bubble?

Today we have a famous iconic image, controversial in its time, being reused by Dave Brown of the Independent to illustrate a topical political tableau.

I’ll start with the painting. It is a study of a child by Britain’s most famous Pre-Raphaelite artist, Sir John Everett Millais, and it subsequently became world famous when it was used over many generations in advertisements for Pear’s Soap. It was controversial during Millais’s lifetime as it led to a widespread debate about the relationship between art and advertising, something that Warhol many years later would turn back on its head.

Saturday 22nd November. The Independent – Dave Brown/John Everett Millais

The painting portrays a young golden-haired boy looking up at a bubble, symbolising the beauty and fragility of life. On one side of him (on the right hand side of the picture) you can just about make out a young plant growing in a pot, emblematic of life, and on the other is a fallen broken pot, emblematic of death. He is spot-lit against a gloomy background. The arrangement of the objects in the scene was based on 17th-century Dutch precursors in the tradition of vanitas imagery, which commented upon the transience of life. These sometimes depicted young boys blowing bubbles, typically set against skulls and other signs of death. (See here)



Sir John Everett Millais, 1886 – Oil on Canvas, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, England.


The Thursday by-election in Rochester and Strood, caused by a second recent defector to UKIP from the Tories is over – and Mark Reckless, for UKIP, takes the seat. Speculation that other Tories are waiting to see the result before they decide to jump ship is rife. Brown cleverly uses a bubble modelled after Nigel Farage with a pin to prick Cameron’s puce-coloured condom head – popping his bubble – as Reckless sneers on. Poor Ed Miliband is once more depicted by Brown, not as a young plant, but as a dying red rose (Labour) symbolising the relentless pounding in the press he is taking as “not being up to the job”.

Chris Walker.


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