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Pierre Lombart, The Headless Horseman, engravings

1655/1715

British Museum

British Museum

These three signed portraits were all printed from the same copper plate by Pierre Lombart (1613-82), a French engraver who worked in London between 1650 and 1660. The changing identity of the subject mirrors the political turmoil in England after the Civil War and the execution of King Charles I in 1649 (reigned from 1625).

The first state of the plate displayed Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England from 1653 to 1658, splendidly mounted and attended by a groom. This design was an established image of sovereign power. Lombart simply engraved Anthony van Dyck's 1633 painting of Charles I on Horseback with M. de St Antoine in Attendance, still in the Royal Collection today, (probably working from one of several copies). By substituting Cromwell's portrait for the King's, introducing a landscape background with a battle and a new inscription, Lombart followed in print the changing fortunes of his subjects in life. In 1655 he was paid twenty pounds ‘for presenting several portraits of his Highness [Cromwell] to the council', one of which was probably this engraving.

After Cromwell's death in 1658, Lombart burnished out his head, and substituted a portrait of Louis XIV (reigned 1643-1715), the King of France. Subsequently, Louis was scraped out and Cromwell's head re-engraved. Later again, probably after Lombart's death, Charles I's portrait was restored, but in the final state of the plate, Cromwell's portrait reappears for the last time. Throughout these alterations, the horse and rider, with commander's baton and elegant armour, were left unchanged.

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  • Title: Pierre Lombart, The Headless Horseman, engravings
  • Date Created: 1655/1715
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 540.00mm (trimmed); Width: 349.00mm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: engraving
  • Registration number: 1935,0413.50
  • Producer: Print made by Lombart, Pierre. After Dyck, Anthony van
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Browne, Ulick de Burgh

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