"[Lot of 2] De Inventeur der Windnegotie, op zyn Zegekar [and] De Eklips der Zuider Zon…", Anon.
Subject: Miscellany - Financial Scandal of 1720
Period: 1720 (published)
Publication: Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid
Color: Hand Color
These satirical engravings are from this important account of one the most infamous financial meltdowns in history, that swept through Europe in 1719-20. John Law, a Scottish financier, established establish 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 others 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. The general term bubble was thereafter applied to such schemes.
1) The first (7 x 8.5") involves what became known as the Mississippi Bubble incident. A translation of the title is, "The inventor of stock-jobbery in his triumphal car," which is pulled by a pair of Gallic roosters, the national symbol of France. John Law is also pictured in a tower 'guarding' the Mississippi, and as a beggar hawking share certificates. The engraving is flanked with Dutch text.
2) In the second (9.5 x 8.5"), an obelisk decorated with the arms of Amsterdam, Haarlem, and Leiden is shown on a sea shore with several figures which are numbered in accordance to the verses below. On the right Fraud is shown, with a mouse-trap on her head, blowing into the back of the John Law's head (the promoter of Wind schemes) with a bellows. At central, Erasmus, in the habit of a pilgrim, and Mercury exchange a money bag, while a cherub representing Fame holds a wreath to the obelisk and blows his trumpet. To the left an old and young man discover that their treasure chest is full of cabbage and another bellows. A monkey in the foreground is stoking a fire made up of share certificates, while investors jump off a cliff in the background. Dutch and French text describe the engraving at bottom.
There is a repaired tear in the bottom blank margin.