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'The last moments of King Charles the First'

9 of 11 portraits of William Juxon

'The last moments of King Charles the First', by James Scott, published by  Thomas Boys, published by  Rittner & Goupil, after  William Fisk, published 1838 - NPG D32081 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

'The last moments of King Charles the First'

by James Scott, published by Thomas Boys, published by Rittner & Goupil, after William Fisk
mixed-method engraving, published 1838
22 3/8 in. x 16 1/8 in. (569 mm x 411 mm) paper size
acquired unknown source, 1963
Reference Collection
NPG D32081


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Sittersback to top

Artistsback to top

  • Thomas Boys (active 1840s-1859), Fine art publisher. Artist associated with 17 portraits.
  • William Fisk (1796-1872), Portrait and history painter. Artist associated with 5 portraits.
  • Rittner & Goupil (active 1836-1839), Publishers. Artist associated with 15 portraits.
  • James Scott (circa 1809-circa 1889), Engraver. Artist associated with 132 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

This print places the viewer face-to-face with Charles for the gruesome spectacle of his execution. He looks directly out with Christ-like calm amid the bustle on the scaffold. The nearness of the axe blade strikes a chilling note in expectation of what is about to happen.
William Fisk painted a number of historical scenes from the reign of Charles I. Although he studied contemporary portraits and costumes, drama and pathos are more important than historical correctness. For example, Oliver Cromwell was not present at the execution but can here be seen peering out of a Banqueting House window.

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Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Subject/Themeback to top

Events of 1838back to top

Current affairs

The Anti-Corn Law league is established in Manchester, led by Richard Cobden and John Bright, aiming to create a fully free-trade economy. The People's Charter is published, demanding many constitutional amendments that would become central to future democratic reform, including universal male suffrage and secret ballots. Despite having one million signatures (and 5 million by 1848), the petition was rejected. Slavery is completely abolished.

Art and science

Turner's The Fighting Temeraire is exhibited at the Royal Academy. The Temeraire, which had broken the line at the Battle of Trafalgar, was a reflection on the rapid changes of the industrial age. This was demonstrated this year when Isambard Brunel's Great Western crosses the Atlantic, in just fifteen days - a ship under sail could take a month. The London-Birmingham railway is also completed, the line engineered by Robert Stephenson.

International

The first stage in the formation of independent Boer republics in South Africa, as the Republic of Natal is formed in South Africa, following the Boers defeat of the Matabele of Mzilikasi. This comes two years after the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of the British-ruled colony of South Africa set out on the Great Trek, in search of their own independent state. The Central American Federation, an experimental republic formed of several Latin states splits.

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