The Sons of Edward IV

The Sons of Edward IV

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French artist Paul Delaroche (1797–1856) painted several subjects from English history 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, in the Tower of London awaiting Edward's coronation – or possibly another fate. In an emotional moment, they hear footsteps. Listening carefully, Richard thinks they are saved, but Edward understands that they are still in danger. The traditional view, based on Shakespeare's play Richard III, is that the princes were murdered in the Tower. Some historians blame their uncle, who succeeded to the English throne as Richard III, while others suspect his successor Henry VII who actually had more to gain from their deaths. New research suggests there may have been another factor, such as a terminal illness, which has been overlooked due to the dramatic power of Shakespeare's text.
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 that were 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 in 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 scenes have always been popular as prints, and an American collector donated this print and another from the series to the Museum in 1920.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Other Terms
print; lithograph; Planographic
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
Credit Line
Gift of Earle Huckel
London, England
European History
See more items in
Work and Industry: Graphic Arts
Popular Entertainment
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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