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Contemporary life

The reign of Charles II coincided with the blossoming of printmaking in Britain. While portraits were particularly popular, other subjects also flourished, reflecting a growing interest in the representation of the visible world. Whether pinned to the walls of taverns or coffee houses, displayed by 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.

These prints and broadsides depicted political intrigues, events such as the Great Fire of London, and pastimes such as horse-racing and theatre-going. These pursuits were outlawed during the Commonwealth era, but they were reintroduced at the Restoration and benefitted from Charles's enthusiasm for them. His conspicuous enjoyment underlined both his difference from the previous Cromwellian regime, and his legitimacy as royal successor.