Joseph Rayner Stephens
12 of 37 portraits by James Posselwhite
Joseph Rayner Stephens
by James Posselwhite, after Benjamin Garside
stipple and line engraving, 1839
15 3/4 in. x 11 1/2 in. (400 mm x 293 mm) paper size
acquired unknown source, 1947
Artistsback to top
This portraitback to top
None of Stephens' violent rhetoric is alluded to in this portrait; instead his sober appearance and gesture to the Bible create an air of benevolent respectability. Less than a month after 25,000 runs of this print were issued Stephens denounced Chartism in reaction to the Newport Rising. Chartists responded by publicly burning his portrait; an act of iconoclasm that reveals the symbolic value invested in the Northern Star prints.
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1839back to top
Current affairsThe Bedchamber crisis strains relations between the government and the monarchy, after Queen Victoria refuses to dismiss her Whig-appointed ladies of the bedchamber at the request of the new, Conservative Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. Peel resigns and Melbourne returns as Prime Minister.
The Grand National is first held at the Aintree race course, won by the horse Lottery, and the first Henley Royal Regatta, the rowing event, is held on the Thames.
Art and scienceThe French and British scientists Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot separately publicise their experiments with the new form of photography.
The prolific journalist Harriet Martineau publishes her three decker novel Deerbrook, the story of middle class country life.
InternationalThe first Opium War with China is sparked after the British government refuses to try six British soldiers accused of killing a Chinese man protecting a temple from looters. Relations were strained as Britain had promoted the drug opium in China to boost trade. Winning the war, Britain secured vital trading rights.
African captives aboard the Spanish ship La Amistad revolt, resulting in a highly publicised court case.
Visit From Your Armchair
Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize
An online exhibition celebrating the very best in contemporary portrait photography.
Explore our community photography project, which presents a personal record of the UK during lockdown.
Sculptures in 360°
See sculptures and fascinating objects from our Collection from all angles.
David Hockney: Drawing from Life
Watch highlights from our special exhibition, which had to close early in March 2020 due to lockdown.
Tell us more
Framed & unframed prints
Choose your favourite portrait from our Collection as a framed or unframed print for your home.