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The Print Collection of George IV

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George IV's first recorded print purchase was made in 1783, the year the then Prince of Wales acquired his own residence of Carlton House, and he continued to amass prints throughout his life. His principal interests lay in the fields of satire, portraits, topography and depictions of contemporary events, from renowned beauties to scenes of daily life in China. But as one of the most prominent and controversial figures of his day, George IV was a subject as much as a consumer of prints, and an active participant in the commissioning and production of works in this medium, who on occasion attempted to manipulate the market and its products to his own end.

The king's life coincided with the golden age of English caricature, and his fraught relationship with satirists is of great interest. His attempts to control and suppress works can be set alongside his own caricature collection (numbering at his death over 2,000 works), now divided between Windsor Castle and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to which almost 10,000 satires then in the Royal Library were sold in 1921. The existence of a large body of receipts from print dealers in the Royal Archives and National Archives and other documentary evidence such as inventories and eyewitness accounts of royal residences allow the king’s collecting of such works to be studied in great detail, and many of the impressions he acquired can be identified.

A Royal Collection Trust book on George IV as a print collector, to be written by Dr Kate Heard, Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings, and scheduled for publication in 2018, will reconstruct his collection and examine his relationship with the print market.

Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827)

First and Second Floor Lodgers

Luigi Schiavonetti (1765–1810) after Robert Ker Porter (1777–1842)

Body of Tippoo Sultaun Recognised by his Family

Tommaso Piroli (1752–1824) after Friedrich Rehberg (1758–1835)

Emma, Lady Hamilton's Attitudes, Plate III

Tommaso Piroli (1752–1824) after Friedrich Rehberg (1758–1835)

Emma, Lady Hamilton's Attitudes, Plate VIII