"The World in Masquerade / Baal of de Waereld in Maskerade",
Subject: Satire - Stock Trading
Period: 1720 (circa)
Publication: Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid…
Color: Black & White
15.3 x 7 inches
38.9 x 17.8 cm
This satirical engraving is from the important account of one the most infamous financial meltdowns in history, known as the Mississippi Bubble incident. The engraving depicts the world as a masquerade, with an atheist in a bishop's robe, a statesman dressed as a harlequin, and "all the world for intrest [sic], love or fear conceal themselves and in disguise appear." There are columns of verses in English and Dutch below the scene.
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 (Carte du Mexique et de la Floride) 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.
A faint damp stain and light soiling in wide, blank margins.