The Sons of Edward IV

French artist Paul Delaroche (1797–1856) painted a number of English history subjects that were published as popular prints. He incorporated the realistic detail of genre painting into dramatic historical scenes suited to the taste of the time. His painting, The Children of Edward IV, completed in 1831 and now in the Louvre Museum, pictures Edward V and his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York, at an emotional moment. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, they hear footsteps. Listening carefully, Richard thinks they are saved, but Edward understands that they are still in danger. Unfortunately he was correct—the princes were murdered. Some historians blame their uncle, who succeeded to the English throne as Richard III, while others suspect his successor Henry VII. Neither man could become king if the princes lived. These events were dramatized in Shakespeare's play Richard III.
Interest in Delaroche's painting inspired a new play by Casimir Delavigne (1793–1843), The Children of Edward. First performed in Paris in 1833, the play in turn inspired a suite of prints titled The Sons of Edward. The image shown here was printed by the relatively new process of lithography. Lithography, literally drawing on stone, allowed artists to reproduce works more quickly than traditional engraving. Speed was important to capture the market created by the production of Delavigne's play, and lithography offered excellent contrasts of dark and light to heighten the suspense of the picture. The lithograph was designed by Octave Tassaert (1800–1874), an artist known for prints and paintings that conveyed a psychological approach to emotions, which is visible in the brothers' expressions. It was drawn by Hippolyte Garnier (1802–1855) and printed by Delaunois. Theatrical images have always been popular as prints, and an American collector donated this print to the Museum in 1920.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
ca 1833
Shakespeare, William
Edward V King of England
Tassaert, Octave
graphic artist
Garnier, Hippolyte-Louis
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
overall: 35.5 cm x 37 cm; 14 in x 14 9/16 in
image: 30.5 cm x 36.5 cm; 12 in x 14 3/8 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Popular Entertainment
London, England
European History
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Graphic Arts
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Earle Huckel

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