This book examines the role of political likenesses in a half-century that was crucial for the political modernisation of Britain, a two-party system that began to take shape and politicians became increasingly accountable and responsive to public opinion. Political language, especially electoral rhetoric, has been accorded considerable weight by recent studies in building broad coalitions of political support in popular and electoral politics. The book studies political likenesses, the key mode of visual politics at this time, as part of a nuanced analysis of contemporary political culture and the nature of the representative system. It examines a diverse range of material including woven silk portraiture, oil paintings, numismatics and medals, banners, ceramics, statuary and memorials as well as items printed on paper or card. After an analysis of the visual culture spawned by the reform bills of 1831-1832, the book shows how Conservative and Liberal/Reformer identities were visualised through semi-official series of portrait prints. The pictorial press, photographs and portrait testimonials, statues and memorials, MPs were venerated as independent representatives and champions of particular localities, trades, interests or issues, and not party hacks. Depictions of Lord Palmerston and his rivals, including Lord John Russell and Lord Derby, in the 1850s and 1860s often underplayed in pictorial representations to emphasise physical and political vigour. The role of political portraits and cartoons in the decade after the passing of the 1867 Representation of the People Act is also discussed.
The period from 1830 to 1880 was characterised by a vibrant visual culture
in which politicallikenesses were central, and without understanding this
it is impossible to understand the broader evolution of political culture in
this period. This book has addressed the narrowness of a number of assumptions to be widely found in the historiography of Victorian politics. Existing
accounts have paid little attention to political portraiture. Since the 1990s
historians influenced by the ‘new political history’ or the ‘linguistic turn’ have
Representing the representatives:
MPs and portraiture
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
politicallikenesses was not limited to leading figures. These images reveal a
more personal side to the representative system before the mass politics of
the post-1880 era, in contrast to the earlier chapter on party portraits. The
previous chapter focused on group portraits that
The politicallikeness attained a remarkable popularity and cultural resonance
between 1830 and 1880. Portraits and political cartoons were produced commercially on an ever-increasing scale. The proliferation of likenesses was not simply
due to the exploitation of new visual technologies, but clearly answered a very
real demand. This book examines the role of politicallikenesses in a halfcentury that was crucial for the political modernisation of Britain, in which
the electorate gradually expanded, a two-party system began to take shape and
were made of politicallikenesses. This chapter does not offer an exhaustive account of depictions
of Gladstone and Disraeli in the 1868–80 period, but focuses on how they
symbolised the two parties and the extent to which they had any control over
their images, and places these in the context of political developments after
1867. The role of national leaders in an era of mass politics created by the
expansion of the electorate has long been recognised. For historians of popular
Liberalism such as Eugenio Biagini and Patrick Joyce, the appeal of Gladstone,
politicallikenesses to large audiences. As with HB, the avoidance of excessive
physical caricature meant that Punch cartoons were seen as good likenesses.
In 1851 the Morning Chronicle argued that the cartoons of HB and John Leech,
Punch’s main artist, were ‘most valuable as portrait galleries’.92 These images
mattered, and through their regular repetition to a large, middle-class audience
they were important in representing prime ministers and party leaders to
a broad public. This was recognised at the time. Russell’s nephew admitted
that, for better or worse, Punch
undermine the constitution.
With its focus on caricature and political satire, this chapter may appear to
be slightly removed from the central theme of this book: the politicallikeness.
However, this chapter provides an essential context for what follows and it is
worth briefly stating what it is and is not intended to do. This chapter does
not intend to be the last word on the decline and transformation of caricature
in the 1830s, a subject to which Brian Maidment offers a much more comprehensive guide.1 Rather, it aims, firstly, to highlight important changes in visual
other sitters. For example, Althorp’s and Stanley’s likenesses were singled out
for approbation and criticism by different commentators.67 As this suggests,
politicallikenesses were carefully scrutinised for their quality by contemporary observers, but such judgements were always essentially subjective.
Hayter finally finished his monumental picture in 1843. It included 375
individual portraits and was 170 square feet in size. It was exhibited at the
Egyptian Hall in London from April to August 1843, but the costs exceeded
the receipts by £700.68 When the