Relieving Guard at the Vatican


This pencil caricature depicts King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy and Napoleon III as soldiers changing guard, while Pope Pius IX peers around the corner. The caricature relates to the intricate maneuvering in the mid-19th century among France, Austria, the Papal States, and Italian nationalists that preceded the unification of Italy. French and Austrian troops had been in Rome to protect the Papal States since 1850, when Pius IX began to fear the rise of anti-papal nationalists. In 1858, the Sardinians entered into an agreement with Napoleon III to fight Austria for the regions of Lombardy and Venetia – one of the first wars of Italian unification. The drawing is almost certainly from early 1858, before Napoleon III entered into a separate agreement with the Austrian king that circumvented Victor Emmanuel. The caricature, which was published in Punch on October 8, 1864, is signed and dated by John Tenniel (1820-1914), a British illustrator. Tenniel was recognized as a gifted political cartoonist, but is best known for his illustrations for the original Alice in Wonderland. The drawing is from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection at the Brown University Library, the foremost American collection devoted to the history and iconography of soldiers and soldiering, and one of the world’s largest collections devoted to the study of military and naval uniforms.

Last updated: September 25, 2015