King Charles I on Horseback, a woodcut

London, about AD 1730-50
Published by William Dicey and Company, Bow Church Yard, London

The cheapest van Dyck in town

This is an example of the cheapest sort of print available in eighteenth-century England. It was cut in a wooden block, printed in London, and crudely coloured using a stencil. Its publishers also led the market in ballads and chapbooks and other popular literature, with a base in Northampton as well as in London. Only smaller versions of similar designs were less expensive. Such prints sold for about one penny each and were displayed in country inns and cottages. They were rarely framed and although many were printed very few have survived.

As was often the case with such cheap prints, the design was copied from a more expensive engraving: in this case a print engraved by Joseph Sympson in 1731 after Anthony van Dyck's portrait of Charles I on Horseback. The painting is in the Royal Collection.

The letterpress text describes the planned but aborted marriage between Charles I when Prince of Wales and the sister of Philip IV of Spain. It may have been issued around the time of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 as a reminder of the Catholic inclinations of the Stuart family and an as antidote to other portraits of Charles I that presented him as the Royal Martyr.

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More information


S. O'Connell, The popular print in England (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

A. Griffiths, Prints and printmaking: an int, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

T. Clayton, The English print, 1688-1802 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1997)


Length: 58.000 cm
Width: 43.000 cm

Museum number

PD 1864-10-8-205



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