Representing the representatives
MPs and portraiture
in Politics personified
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This chapter shows how portraits of MPs presented them as independent representatives and parliamentarians rather than merely party hacks or delegates. The proliferation of parliamentary portraits shows that the popularity of political likenesses was not limited to leading figures. The development of visual technologies after 1830 meant that likenesses of ordinary backbench MPs, as well as those of the leading politicians, were increasingly available. Many public roles, including that of MP, were unsalaried, and a sense of public duty was an important motivation in serving in such positions. The testimonial depended upon voluntary efforts and subscriptions, reflecting the free and independent approbation of the community. Long-serving MPs came to be personally identified with their constituencies and their distinctive political cultures. Photographic portraits of MPs, increasingly common from the late 1850s as cartes de visite or in other formats, provided another medium for the projection of their individuality.

Politics personified

Portraiture, caricature and visual culture in Britain, c. 1830–80

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