A New View of 1815 London

By Victoria Hinshaw

A very exciting exhibition featuring a Panorama of London begins March 15  at the Museum of London, and will run until September 2019.  This extraordinary work was executed as a study for a panorama that was shown in Paris from 1816-1819 by artist Pierre Prévost. The full-sized work, several times larger than these studies, is now lost. One newspaper referred to the work as “London as the Duke of Wellington would have seen it.” Others have noted it is the London Jane Austen knew.

The artist, Pierre Prévost (1764-1823), viewed London from the bell tower of St  Margaret’s Church, adjacent to Westminster Abbey.

St. Margaret’s Church, London; note Big Ben behind the trees to the left

The first view in the scan above looks west from the edge of Westminster Abbey (at the left edge); the large building in the center, above, is the now-demolished Middlesex Guildhall and in the distance is St. James Park, and in a better reproduction, you can see Buckingham House, the palace, as it was in 1815.

Above, the studies split in half. The top image is west and north; the bottom image is east and south.

The Sotheby’s Auction Catalogue description:

Pierre Prévost – MONTIGNY-LE-GANNELON 1764 – 1823 PARIS

A PANORAMIC VIEW OF LONDON, FROM THE TOWER OF ST. MARGARET’S CHURCH, WESTMINSTER
Watercolour and bodycolour over pencil, squared for transfer in pencil, the squares numbered, on multiple sheets of paper laid onto canvas 850 by 6050 mm.

Looking north up Whitehall, the Banqueting House is seen at the curve; the steeple in the distance is St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields but Trafalgar Square which it faces today, was not yet created. The Sotheby’s Catalogue states, “To the centre of the composition, one can see the only remaining component of the Palace of Whitehall, the Banqueting House. Designed by the leading English architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652), the Banqueting House was commissioned by Charles I; in 1649, just 27 years after its construction, it was the site of his execution.  The neoclassical St. Martin-in-the-Fields stands nearby. The site of a church since the medieval period, this had been re-built by James Gibbs in the 1720s. Prévost’s view shows the area prior to the construction of Trafalgar Square in the 1820s, and the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields would therefore have appeared considerably different to how it does today. Contemporary accounts of the area describe the church as crowded in by surrounding buildings, which detract from the impressive nature of Gibbs’ edifice.”

Above, looking northeast, beyond Westminster bridge one see the City, mercifully shorn of its tall buildings with the outline of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the horizon slightly left of center.

The view above looks east across the Thames, with the Westminster Bridge on the left and the roof of Westminster Hall parallel to the river in the center. The buildings in the foreground were various elements of the Palace of Westminster which burned in 1834 and were replaced by today’s Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, incorporating the ancient and restored Westminster Hall.

The final sections, above and below, feature Westminster Abbey in its smoke darkened coating.

In the Georgian era, panoramas were popular exhibitions. The first opened in London in 1792 and according to The Guardian, viewers paid three shillings to view the painting which curved around a room “dramatically” lit.

In preparing this post, I was surprised to learn that the Museum of London is planning to move its entire Barbican operation to a new site in the old Smithfield Market, also located in the City of London. No doubt they will construct a fine exhibit space for this painting when they complete their plans and move, sometime in the next decade.

Being from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I have occasionally run across the stories of the German Panorama Painters who came to the city in the mid-19th century and painted many of these works installed in various cities.  The only remaining one I know of is in Atlanta,  Georgia, and recently reopened as the Cyclorama in the Civil War Museum.

However, the only panorama I have ever seen is the one that still exists in Waterloo, Belgium, picturing the famous battle in 1815 when the Duke of Wellington led the Allied forces to victory over the emperor Napoleon, pictured below.

More details  about the London Panorama from the Sotheby’s  catalogue:

“Of extraordinary size, detail and topographical accuracy, this view of London is a remarkable preparatory study for a lost panorama of approximately 30 metres in diameter, by Pierre Prévost, which shows the artist at the pinnacle of a highly successful career as a panoramist …. The illusion of depth, height and distance is testament to Prévost’s ability to work on such a large scale, and this complete, circular image, joined at Westminster Abbey, is one of the finest drawings of its type to have survived….

“By 1800 panoramas could be viewed in many European capitals. The works were usually exhibited for a short period of time in a rotunda, before travelling on, and ultimately were replaced or sold. The nature of this process has ensured the rarity of the completed panorama, as excessive handling and transportation in most cases resulted in their ultimate destruction.”

The Sotheby’s catalogue entry states: “While the final canvas created by Prévost would have been very much larger (it was exhibited in a purpose built rotunda on the rue Neuve Saint-Augustin in Paris, measuring 32 metres in diameter, over five times the size of this preparatory drawing), even this preliminary study is of an impressive size, and is highly finished ….

“The street scenes in the foreground bring a sense of life to the panorama, and allow the viewer to engage fully with the daily activity of the city’s inhabitants….Here, shops and professions are indicated in the foreground in remarkable detail. On Great George Street, the road running horizontally across the centre foreground, the shops include a wine and brandy merchant and a solicitor, whilst on Bridge Street, which runs towards Westminster Bridge, an apothecary, a shoe-maker and a children’s clothes store are indicated. ”

I hope many people enjoy seeing the London Panorama of 1815.

 

 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – A Tale of Two Churches – Part Two

Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

After our morning in Ewelme, we headed off with Beth behind the wheel, on to our next adventure.

Which turned out to be The Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, more usually called Dorchester Abbey, a Church of England parish church in Dorchester on Thames, Oxfordshire.

 

 

Formerly a Norman abbey church, Dorchester Abbey was built on the site of a Saxon cathedral.

The church of Dorchester Abbey, as it stands today, was built entirely by the Augustinian Canons, although there are traces on the north side of Saxon masonry, probably part of the ancient cathedral.

Between 1998 and 2006 the Dorchester Abbey Campaign Committee raised £4,000,000, allowing the Church Council and the Dorchester Abbey Preservation Trust to undertake significant works in the abbey. These include the Cloister Gallery managed by the Dorchester Museum Committee and restoration of medieval and Victorian wall paintings. Dorchester Abbey Museum was longlisted for the Gulbenkian Prize in 2006.

Afterwards, we strolled the surrounding historic village of Dorchester-on-Thames.

Eventually, we found ourselves at The George, where we sat and enjoyed lattes in the sunshine. The George has a galleried yard dating back to 1495 and it used to serve coaches on the Gloucester-Oxford-London route. The George was used as a filming location for ITV’s Agatha Christie’s Poirot in the episode Taken at the Flood in 2006.

Visit The George and you’ll truly feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.

Several episodes of Midsomer Murders were also filmed in Dorchester, and the photos below will demonstrate why – the bypass road has been diverted so that Dorchester sees little traffic and the village retains it’s historic flavour. It would be hard to find anything as lovely or as quintessentially “oldy worldly” English as Dorchester.

The toll house.

Outside the churchyard is The Toll House, an octagonal brick building erected in 1820. Tolls were collected until 1873, and the building now houses an architectural firm.

Robert Adam, Designer for the Ages

Victoria here, recently home from an antique show in 2011 Naples, Florida — where there was a great deal of attention to the designs of an 18th century Scotsman, the renowned Robert Adam. I stopped counting how many tables, chairs, commodes, candlesticks and more were labeled “in the style of Adam.” More than 200 years after he lived, Adam’s designs are the standard by which all others are measured.

We’ve had many posts on Adam houses here (3/29/10, 3/31/10,4/3/10,6/5/10, 1/16/11) and there will be more soon.

Robert Adam (1728-92) and his brother James (1730-1794) both gained prominence as architects, though it is Robert who has the more brilliant reputation. Today, Adam style is popular and instantly recognizable, whether in a fireplace, a chair or decorative arts.

Sons of William Adam, a leading architect in Edinburgh, the Adam Brothers were contemporaries of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Thomas Gainsborough, Capability Brown, the great landscape designer, and Thomas Chippendale, whose furniture graces many Adam designs. Adam and his brothers worked in their father’s business and also attended school in Edinburgh. The elder Adam was not only an architect; he was a man of learning and his home was the scene of conversations among some of the leading intellectuals of his day such as Adam Smith, Alexander Carlyle, and David Hume. This atmosphere influenced his
sons as they grew up.

The library at Mellerstain House in Scotland is an example of designs begun by William Adam and finished later by son Robert. The firm continued under the brothers after the father died and they had received a number of commissions before Robert Adam left for his Grand Tour of Italy at the age of 26.

Clearly Robert had aspirations as a gentleman and prided himself in letters home on his acquaintances among the British gentry and aristocracy whom he met in Italy. Adam studied with the painter Panini, Piranesi and others who honed his knowledge of classical art. He became a friend and competitor of William Chambers, who gained fame as the architect of Somerset House, the Strand, London.

Robert Adam returned to England in 1758 and took up his practice, cultivating clients among the highest circles. Many of Adam’s greatest accomplishments were in remodeling or adapting the original plans for buildings under construction; he was not without enemies.

At left, the Oval Staircase at Culzean Castle, also in Scotland.
Adam’s work is known for its sense of scale, of the human dimension in design. He adapted neoclassical, baroque and rococo themes in forms that delighted the eye without overwhelming the senses. His style has been repeated over and over in various “revivals.”

Adam designed houses with layouts suitable for various kinds of parties, with rooms set up for promenading, greeting friends, and engaging in various activities. One room might be reserved for cards, another for dancing, another for conversation. Adam liked to emphasize the drama of the house by changing design themes and colors from room to room. Recurring elements of design such as the acanthus leaf were woven throughout, giving the rooms a feeling of unity.

Ceiling designs were reflected in the carpet patterns. From time to time he chose special themes drawn from his experiences and from the popular design books that circulated in the period. For example, the ruins at Pompeii had been excavated in the 18th century and the wall paintings reproduced and published.

While the major elements of Adam design grew out of Palladianism and its inspiration in Italy, one can also identify the influences of French artists such as Claude and Poussin, whose paintings of idyllic classical scenes featuring ancient ruins, were very popular in the 18th century.

Adam was an architect who wanted to control all elements of the design interior and exterior. He hired excellent furniture makers, such as Chippendale, and employed the most respected artists for interior decoration, such as Antonio Zucchi and Angelica Kauffman.

Dozens of volumes have been written about Adam, his buildings, his interior designs, his artistic theories and his lasting influences.  You could easily spend your life learning about and visiting his creations. We’ll be looking at a few more very soon right here.

In the meantime, we start with the sublime.  This is the Adam-designed Pulteney Bridge in Bath across the  Avon. Truly a beautiful structure.

And to descend to the ridiculous, here is an over-the-top effort to convert a modern bathroom to the ideas of Adam’s style.  What do you think?  Would you prefer a chandelier in your loo? 
 
 
 

The London and Waterloo Tour – Hampstead, the Heath and Kenwood House and Gardens

What can I say about Hampstead Heath except that it lives in the mind as a preserve for brigands and highwaymen; a wild and woolly expanse of nature that can only be traversed at one’s peril? Okay, okay, I know that it has shrunk’s considerably in size until it now totals 790 acres and that the Heath has grown decidedly tame, more’s the pity, but I still want to see it with me own eyes. Located just four miles from Trafalgar Square, the Heath is one of the highest points in London, includes 26 ponds, a few bogs and includes an area of land that runs from Hampstead to Highgate.

In June, I want to visit Hampstead and see the Heath. Hampstead is supposed to be worth a trip in and of itself, a picture postcard pocket of London. I’m looking forward to exploring an area of London I haven’t seen before and to strolling the streets and promenade, visiting the shops and the Spring at Well Walk and to simply enjoying the scenery. Oh, and to stopping in at Louis Patisserie, which everyone says has the best cakes and pastry ever. Afterwards, I plan to head out on foot across the Heath to Kenwood House.

Kenwood House is a former stately home on Hampstead Heath with an art collection boasting Rembrandts, Turners, Reynolds, Gainsboroughs and Vermeers. The House itself is a stunning neoclassical white villa whose Adam Library is considered one of the most important rooms designed by Robert Adam in the country. The home was owned by the great judge, Lord Mansfield. Later Earls of Mansfield redesigned the parkland and Kenwood remained in the family until 1922.
When developers attempted to buy the estate, the house and grounds were saved for the public by the brewing magnate, Edward Cecil Guinness, the first Earl of Iveagh, who bought Kenwood House and 74 acres of parkland in 1925. In 1928, when he died, the Earl bequeathed the Kenwood Estate and part of his collection of pictures to the nation. As you may expect, I’m especially anxious to see The Brummell Children, painted 1781-82 by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yes, that Brummell, and his brother, William.

This is the first year that I’ve been gardening seriously – from digging out the garden, to planting it and to babying it. So I’m especially eager to see Kenwood’s gardens, which were laid out by Humphry Repton in the 1790s. Thankfully, the farm, dairy, stables, kitchen garden, lakes, woods and meadows are all still in existence, as is Repton’s strictly ornamental false bridge shown at right. You can read more about the gardens here.
Oh, and if you happen to be a Blondie fan, she’ll be giving a concert at Kenwood House Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 7:30 p.m.

My London by Victoria Hinshaw

Inspired by Kristine’s London, posted on April 7, 2010, I decided to write about MY London.

I first visited as a college student and remember only Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a few nameless pubs, and the Tower of London. My next visit was a few years later, shortly before Christmas. I loved the lights on Regent’s Street and my introduction to Liberty, a fabulous store to which I return almost every time I get to England. Once I finished my holiday shopping, I attended a performance of Handel’s The Messiah at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the presence of the Queen Mother. I actually got a glimpse of her as she entered. Needless to say it was a memorable experience.

An aside about Liberty of London. Have you seen the great stuff now in Target Stores from Liberty? They have a current ad campaign in lots of glossy mags such as Vogue and Vanity Fair.

Although I adore the great museums of London: the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and many more, I have a special affinity for the smaller museums where I can browse without rushing to be sure I don’t miss anything. One of these is Apsley House, the home of the first Duke of Wellington, but Kristine has already described it, so I will just say, “Me too.”

Among my faves is Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Square. Soane (1753-1837) was a brilliant architect. His house was not only a residence but also his school at which he trained young architects. It sums up all that is generous and eccentric about the British character, at least to me, for he left it to the nation to be open free in perpetuity.

Typical of the convoluted sagas of many British families is the story behind the Wallace Collection, an outstanding art museum in Hertford House, Manchester Square. The entire tale is told on their website; it includes royal mistresses, stupendous fortunes, illegitimate sons, marriage to a floozie, and generous public bequests.
 

Another museum I enjoy visiting is the Geffrye Collection of period rooms. right.

I’ll mention two more small museums I like:

The Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, just across Lincoln’s Inn Fields from Sir John Soane’s. It was begun in 1799 and has some of the original collections, including  John Hunter’s (1728-1793) on the development of bones as well as specimens collected by renowned botanist Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820).

And the Fan Museum in Greenwich. Not as famous as Greenwich’s other museums or the Observatory, but delightful all the same.

I often spend time pawing around in libraries and research centers, so I have to include The British Library, the National Archives, the Family Record Center, the Westminster Archives, the Colindale Newspaper Archives of the BL, and the Guildhall Library, all of which have helped my researching. This trip in June 2010 will mark my first trips to the VandA Art Library and the Hertfordshire Archives. Wish me luck!! I know there are lots of you out there who, like Kristine and me, love to pour over new sources of information wherever they are. Someday I want to obtain a membership in the London Library in St. James Square, the epitome of a research heaven.

As I have outlined before, I adore exploring houses, both modest and sumptuous. Among less pretentious are the Dickens House and the Carlyle House, where we see how the merely comfortable lived. But the big treasure houses are even more fun. Three of my favorites are out in the suburbs today, but they were once country retreats.

Anyone who loves the stories of Sally, Lady Jersey (see this blog’s post of April 2, 2010) should visit Osterley Park. There she (granddaughter of the banker Robert Child)and her husband entertained lavishly. The house is magnificent and well worth the trouble of getting there.

Ante Room, Syon

The same thing goes for Syon House, home of the Dukes of Northumberland, which has perfect Robert Adam décor. The circuit of rooms, from the starkly classical black and white of the entrance hall, through the brilliantly colored Ante-Room to the dining room, the Red Drawing Room and the Library, provides the ideal impression of a great country house.

Chiswick House

The third outlying property is Chiswick House, the Palladian model built by the 3rd Earl of Burlington in 1729. It became the property of his youngest daughter, Lady Charlotte Boyle, wife of the 4th Duke of Devonshire. During the time of the Fifth Duke and his Duchess Georgiana, it was a center of aristocratic social and political life. The house is a perfect jewel box surrounded by a lovely garden.

Now that I am sounding rather like a travelogue, I want to advise visitors to London to take advantage of the reasonably priced and never disappointing London Walks. I have never had a bad experience with any of their offerings, and I have taken many including Explorer Days Out. The only problem is that the crowds get large during the height of the tourist season. Just make sure that you are dealing with the original London Walks, not some rip-off outfit.

In the many times I’ve been to London, I’ve stayed in all sorts of places, from huge tourist hotels (dumps) to small BandBs to one memorable interlude at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park (guess which I liked best). I’ve rented apartments in several neighborhoods and a house in Chelsea. London is hard on the budget, but if you look carefully, there are reasonable accommodations and almost-inexpensive food choices (try Indian).

Over the years, I was lucky enough to see Rufus Sewell play Septimus in Arcadia by Tom Stoppard (probably the most exciting night of theatre I’ve had), the Royal Shakespeare company and several operas at Covent Garden. I wish they would have fewer Broadway musicals in London – the two cities sometimes seem almost interchangeable (Lion King, Chicago, Chorus Line, etc. etc. etc.—who cares?). But I admit I love to see British plays when they come to the U.S., so I am totally hypocritical on this topic!

Just so this is not an endless list (which it could easily be) or more stuff that sounds too much like bragging, I will conclude My London with another fun pub, worth visiting for its décor as well as its pints. Blackfriar’s Pub is usually jammed. So be prepared to wait for a table. Take along a book!

In closing, I quote the inimitable Dr. Johnson (1709-1784):
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

That goes for this woman too!