Narcissus; or the Man who was Mashed on Himself.

Item Description

Bernhard Gillam. Chromolithograph. Puck. September 17, 1884.

Months after the 1884 presidential election, Grover Cleveland attributed his victory over Republican James Blaine to the public outcry stirred by Bernhard Gillam’s Tattooed Man caricatures (just as the acquittal of Great Britain’s Queen Caroline in 1820 has been attributed to William Hone’s caricatures [see right]). In the 22-part series published in Puck throughout 1884, Gillam inscribes Blaine’s skin with keywords that refer to the controversial scandals and offensive remarks from his storied political past, transforming him into the freak-show exhibit, the Tattooed Man.
Gillam portrays Blaine as Narcissus, a mythological Greek cursed to be so spellbound by his reflection that he dies of starvation staring into a pool. However, in Gillam’s rendition, Blaine is not only mesmerized by himself but is also blind to his Cain-esque tattoos. In this caricature Gillam, a Republican himself, challenges Blaine to recognize the public’s negative opinion of him, not the doting perspectives of his followers, NY Tribune editor Whitelaw Reed and vice-presidential candidate John Logan (pictured here as sunflowers that follow Blaine instead of the sun). Only then can Blaine repair his image and prevent the death of his presidential ambitions, as alluded to in the tombstones pictured in the corner of the caricature.