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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.

David Loggan (1633-92)

Charles II

William Faithorne (1616-1691) after Dirck Stoop (c.1610-1686)

Catherine of Braganza

After Peter Cross (c. 1645-1724); published by Richard Tompson (d. 1693)

Nell Gwyn as Venus

Attributed to Masson, Antoine (1636-1700) after Henri Gascar (1634/5–1701)

Nell Gwyn and her two sons

Gerard Valck (1651/2–1726) after Sir Peter Lely (1618-80)

Louise, Duchess of Portsmouth

William Faithorne (1616-1691)

Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine

After Sir Peter Lely (1618-80); published by Richard Tompson (d. 1693)

Mary Davis

Peter Vandrebanc (1649–1697) after Sir Peter Lely (1618–1680)

Charles II

Abraham Blooteling (1640-90) after Sir Peter Lely (1618–1680)

Charles II

Abraham Blooteling (1640-90) after Sir Peter Lely (1618–1680)

James II

Arnold van Westerhout (1651-1725)

James II

Peter Vandrebanc (1649-97) after Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646–1723)

James Scott, Duke of Monmouth

John Smith (1653-1742) after Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646–1723)

Prince James Francis Edward Stuart

Etienne du Mirail de Monnot (d. 1735), after James II (1633-1701)

For my son the Prince of Wales

Peter Vandrebanc (1649–1697) after Grinling Gibbons (1648–1721); published by David Mortier (1673–1728)

A statue of Charles II in Roman dress

Unknown printmaker; published by William Warter (active 1680–1698)

An Exact and Lively Mapp [...] of shows and humours upon the Ice of the River of Thames by London

Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677) after Sir Jonas Moore (1617–1679)


Unknown engraver; ?text by John Gadbury (1627–1704); published by Matthew Turner (active 1673–1683)

The Horrid Hellish Popish-Plot

Romeyn de Hooghe (1645-1708), published by Johannes Tangena (active 1683–1699)

The Restoration of the True Religion in Great Britain

London: printed by John Starkey and Awnsham Churchill

By the King and Queen: A Proclamation

Romeyn de Hooghe (1645-1708); published by Carel Allard (1648–1709)

William III and Mary II

After Robert White (1645-1703)

Titus Oates in the Pillory

After Thacker, Robert (fl.1670)

Prospectus Intra Cameram Stellatam