This is a decorated ceramic chamber pot. It contains a 3D figure of the French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte, on top of the Latin label PEREAT (Let him perish). It is typical of the sort of scurrilous images of the French Emperor produced in Britain around 1805. From 1803-1805, at the height of Napoleon’s expansionary ambitions, a large French army was stationed at Calais and the English expected an invasion. One reaction to the threat was to treat Napoleon as a public object of derision – in short to laugh at him.
A chamber pot is designed to be used as a toilet during the night, and kept under a bed or in a cupboard. The underlying meaning of putting Napoleon’s head in a chamber pot was perfectly clear, although this particular pot was probably made for decorative rather than practical purposes. It is now a rare example but may well have been produced in numbers.
The most popular method of satirizing Napoleon was in the form of printed sheets. In these cartoons Napoleon was portrayed as a little man out of his depth; as too big for his boots; or as a monkey. The sheets were printed individually and sold in print shops for 6p if they were plain, and for a shilling for a coloured version. People who bought them shared them for a laugh but they were also collected by aristocrats who put them in albums.
A rash of derisory images appeared both in France and Britain after Napoleon invaded Russia and after he escaped from Elba, and again in 1815 after the Battle of Waterloo when Napoleon was shown in tears and in positions of abject humiliation.
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This object is in the collection of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove