Regency Caricatures saved for Brighton's Royal Pavilion

  • 28 May 2010

With help from the Art Fund, Brighton's Royal Pavilion has acquired an important collection of political caricatures from the Regency period.

The images, which depict George IV in his various roles of Prince of Wales, Prince Regent and finally King, find a good home at the Royal Pavilion which was built by George at the turn of the 19th century.  The Art Fund contributed £14,624 towards the acquisition, which costs a total of £58,870.

The addition of the 235 colourful prints means that The Royal Pavilion and Museums Foundation now has a national collection second only to that held by the British Museum.  Although it is not unusual for individual prints to come up for sale, it is rare for such an extensive collection to become available.

The Royal Pavilion and Museums Foundation applied to the Art Fund and other funding bodies in order to raise the total of £58,870. Despite the Art Fund’s pledge of £14,624, as well as £15,000 from the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund, £7,000 from The Pilgrim Trust and £22,246 from the Royal Pavilion and Museums Foundation's own reserves, there was a shortfall of £15,000.The Foundation turned to the Friends of the Royal Pavilion and Museums, and the Members’ appeal brought in £18,920, nearly £4,000 more than required. The excess will now be used towards the cost of conserving the caricatures.

David Beevers, Keeper of the historic Royal Pavilion, said: “Thanks to the generosity of the Foundation’s supporters we have saved this important part of the golden age of political caricatures. These philanthropic individuals stepped in to allow us to secure the deal when we were £15,000 short and the whole project looked in jeopardy. Thanks to them we have these works of immense historic value as part of our collection.”

Jenny Lund, curator of fine art, said: "They are incomparable, and offer an extraordinary insight into the politics, the costume, the manner, the very fabric of life in the Regency period.  Not only do they bring a vivid immediacy to historical events, they are of unsurpassed research value."

The political cartoons depict what was happening at the time of their creation and they date from the end of the 18th century to the middle of the 19th.  The prints, from Lord Baker of Dorking’s extensive collection are by artists from a colourful period of political caricature (1784-1832).  The collection, formed over forty years by Lord Baker, includes material relating to events in George IV’s life as well as prints of George IV’s wife Caroline, his numerous mistresses, and his brothers.  Taken as a whole, the prints offer an insight not only into the politics, but also into the costume, manner, and social life of the Regency period. 

Brighton Pavilion's press release