Search results

Start typing

This exhibition is in the past. View our current exhibitions.

The circulation of images

Detail from RCIN 750165 showing a broadsheet relating to the alleged Popish plot©

The reign of Charles II coincided with the blossoming of print production in England, and the monarch and his court provided compelling subject matter for printmakers and a rapidly growing market. Whether pinned to the walls of taverns or coffee houses, displayed and advertised by book and printsellers or pasted into collectors’ albums, prints allowed the public to inform themselves, display their loyalties, or simply be swept up in the intrigues of the age.

Skilled European printmakers migrated to London throughout the seventeenth century, contributing to an increase in the quality and quantity of print production in England. This was particularly noticeable in the refinement and popularisation of the mezzotint, a form of engraving that was introduced to England by Charles II’s cousin, Prince Rupert. The mezzotint (literally ‘half-tone’) was well suited to reproducing paintings, allowing prints after Peter Lely’s portraits to be issued in large numbers.

Though he possessed some functional prints such as maps, and granted official positions to talented printmakers, Charles II himself did not amass a notable collection of prints (and none of those exhibited here is known to have been in his collection) – his greatest contribution to the field was as a captivating subject.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.