Carlo Bossoli (Italian 1815-1884) A view of Westminster Palace from Lambeth; A view of the City of L
Lot 95*
Carlo Bossoli (Italian 1815-1884) A view of Westminster Palace from Lambeth; A view of the City of London from Bank each 67.5 x 94.5 cm. (26 1/2 x 37 1/4 in.) (2)
Sold for £34,800 (US$ 56,358) inc. premium

Lot Details
Carlo Bossoli (Italian 1815-1884) A view of Westminster Palace from Lambeth; A view of the City of L
Carlo Bossoli (Italian 1815-1884)
A view of Westminster Palace from Lambeth; A view of the City of London from Bank
a pair, both signed 'C.Bossoli' (one lower right, one lower left)
oil on canvas
each 67.5 x 94.5 cm. (26 1/2 x 37 1/4 in.) (2)

Footnotes

  • Seemingly recognisable as Charles Barry’s fantastical Palace of Westminster, a secondary glance at the building’s façade instantly reveals several architectural features at variance with the usual familiarity of one of London’s most iconic images. The reason for this apparent enigma however has a simple explanation, namely that this view of one of the world’s most famous buildings is taken directly from an earlier design of Barry which was published in the Stationer’s Almanack in 1837. Although this first model was swiftly amended by the architect, it must be presumed that Bossoli believed this published proposal to be the final one and thus incorporated it into his own view of how the great edifice would appear to Londoners long before the building itself was even begun.

    The previous home of Parliament, a somewhat haphazard cluster of premises mostly dating back centuries, had burnt down in a catastrophic fire in 1834 resulting in an opportunity to rehouse it and the offices of state in buildings far more appropriate to Britain’s standing as a world power. Architects were invited to prepare designs “in the Gothic or Elizabethan style” and, in all, ninety-seven proposals were submitted from which the scheme by Charles Barry was eventually chosen. Barry, a gifted though rather conventional architect, was conscious of his limited experience of “the Gothic” and thus enlisted the help of Augustus Welby Pugin, a young man who had already made a name for himself with his brilliant illustrations for his father’s books on Gothic architecture. With Barry providing the practical plans and Pugin the picturesque decoration, the two men proved an ideal partnership whose combined vision produced the building which, more than almost any other, has come to symbolize not only London but also parliamentary democracy in its wider sense.

    Construction began in 1837, with Mrs. Barry laying the foundation stone in 1840; the House of Lords opened in 1847, followed by the Commons in 1851; and the Clock Tower was completed in 1858. When the Victoria Tower was finally roofed in 1860, only then was the great project deemed to be finished and hailed as the most splendid example of Perpendicular Gothic in the land. All this lay in the future however, and when Bossoli painted his version of what would soon dominate the north bank of the Thames, the opposite bank was still undeveloped and in its natural state. It was not, in fact, until 1866 that work began to tame the south bank with the Albert Embankment and a generation earlier, greensward still stretched right to the water’s edge to provide open space from where folk could gather to gaze upon the national seat of power as they went about their more mundane business. As one final contrast, Bossoli chose to portray another harbinger of the future by showing the little paddle-steamers on the river busily plying their trade as ferries, yet another of the innovations whose introduction coincided with the advent of the Victorian Age.

    ----

    Essentially a grand square, albeit without a name, the confluence of several historic London thoroughfares, including Cornhill, Lothbury, Princes’ and Threadneedle Streets was, in the mid-nineteenth century, arguably the richest urban locality in the world. Dominating the picture, on the right, is the porticoed splendour of the Mansion House, the official residence of the City’s Lord Mayor, whilst directly opposite is the Bank of England’s austere eastern façade next to which is the columned frontage of the Royal Exchange. Despite their much earlier origins, all three of these great buildings were relatively new, the handsome Royal Exchange having been opened by Queen Victoria as recently as 1844 following the destruction of its Elizabethan predecessor by fire in 1838. Likewise, the Bank of England’s monolithic structure – the third on the site – was begun only in 1788 and characterised by its outer or ‘curtain’ wall designed to protect the premises after the security scares of the Gordon Riots in 1780. Oldest of the three is the Mansion House itself, completed in its present form in 1752 despite later alterations, whilst just visible in the far distance, albeit by courtesy of some artistic license, is Wren’s ‘Monument’ to the Great Fire of 1666 included, no doubt, to add just a little extra embellishment to an already splendid vista.

    Despite the massive grandeur of the architecture and the hazier environs beyond however, Bossoli has also managed to convey all the prosperous bustle of mid-Victorian London with remarkable insight. With the Royal Navy enforcing the ‘Pax Britannica’ across the world and the riches of the Empire pouring into London’s docks, the City of London was at the zenith of its commercial power and the whole scene is redolent of all that wealth, money and privilege as the artist captures this revealing snapshot of a confident nation at the high-water mark of its history.

Saleroom notices

  • The nationality of the artist should read 'Swiss'
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