August Artwork of the Month: 'Statesman No. 1' by Ape

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01 August 2017

This month's artwork, a cartoon of Benjamin Disraeli by Ape, marks the 150th anniversary of the Second Reform Act 1867.

Passed on 15 August 1867, the Act built on the Great Reform Act of 1832 and doubled the electorate from one to two million men.

However, the right to vote continued to be based on gender and property qualifications, with all women and many men remaining disenfranchised.

Disraeli and the Second Reform Act

The Act was pushed through Parliament by Benjamin Disraeli, the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Though he had opposed earlier Reform Bills introduced unsuccessfully by the Liberals, Disraeli believed that a Conservative Reform Act could benefit his party electorally while limiting the extension of the right to vote.

Public and political pressure led to the Act being far more radical than Disraeli had originally intended. However, he received widespread acclaim, particularly for the skilful way he had negotiated its passage through Parliament.

‘Statesman No. 1’

After the resignation of Lord Derby, Disraeli served as Prime Minister between February and December 1868, when the Conservatives lost the General Election.

This caricature was published in January 1869, a month after Disraeli’s defeat. Drawn by Carlo Pellegrini (A.K.A. ‘Ape’) and titled ‘Statesman No. 1’, it appeared in a new weekly magazine called ‘Vanity Fair’.

• View the full cartoon

‘Vanity Fair’ soon became known for its full-page colour lithographs of politicians and other public figures. The ‘Statesman’ series eventually numbered around 800 portraits.

Disraeli, who was of Jewish heritage, served again as Prime Minister from 1874-80 and is considered one of the most influential political figures of the Victorian period.

Further information

Image: 'Statesman No. 1: Benjamin Disraeli' by Ape (Carlo Pellegrini), colour lithograph published in 'Vanity Fair', 30 January 1869 (WOA 0242)

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Works of Art (Speaker's Advisory Committee)

The Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art is appointed by the Speaker to advise on matters relating to works of art in the House of Commons