"Bespiegeling voor de Geldzugtige Wereld, in't Begin op en Ondergang van den Actiehandel", Anon.
Period: 1720 (circa)
Publication: Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid
Color: Hand Color
19.5 x 17.3 inches
49.5 x 43.9 cm
This satirical engraving is from the important account of one the most infamous financial meltdowns in history, known as the Mississippi Bubble incident. A translation of the title is, "Contemplation for the greedy world on the rise and fall of the stock-jobbery." The view satirizes people's obsession with money and speculation on the stock-market. It is based on an broadside of circa 1650 by de Jonghe. The scene is centered on the seated figure of John Law counting his money while all around him are scenes of complete chaos; robbery, hangings, riots, and swindles. Throughout the engraving are numerous little gnomes defecating mounds of gold coins. The engraving is extremely topical in view of the speculative foolishness that led to the present financial crisis.
John Law, a Scottish financier, established the Banque Generale (central bank) in France. He was then granted control of Louisiana and founded the Compagnie de la Louisiane d'Occident, in 1717. Law developed an elaborate plan to exploit the fabulous resources of the region, which quickly gained popularity and people rushed to invest, not just in France, but throughout Europe. This resulted in the development of several other overseas companies, such as the English South Sea Company and a number of smaller companies in the Dutch Republic. The share price of the Compagnie de la Louisiane d'Occident rose dramatically in a frenzy of speculation. In 1720 the bubble burst; speculators cashed in, caused a run on the shares, and the company went bankrupt. As a consequence of the failure, confidence in other similar companies failed, and thousands of individual investors across Europe were ruined.