"Verklaaring van 't Klyne Tafereelije...", Anon.
Subject: Satire - Stock Trading
Period: 1720 (published)
Publication: Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid…
Color: Black & White
13.4 x 10.5 inches
34 x 26.7 cm
This engraving is from the important account of one the most infamous financial meltdowns in history, known as the Mississippi Bubble incident. This engraving shows nine people holding spheres above their heads, including Hercules in a lion's skin, a Dutch farmer, a small boy, John Law (at center), two ladies, and Bombario in harlequin dress. At top right is a small inset depicting Hercules about to slay the hydra, helping to illustrate the title, which draws a parallel between the many-headed hydra and the selfishness of some people. At left a greyhound runs away with a stock certificate in his mouth, oblivious to the rabbit beside him. In the foreground is a putto with Time's hour-glass on his head and holding a bladder of wind, walking through an opening in a wall, covered with verses in Dutch and French.
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 prices 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 nice impression with light soiling, a few minor creases, and professional repairs to several short separations along the centerfold and to some tears confined to the bottom blank margin.