Alexander Nasmyth (British 1758-1840) A prospect of London, seen from the Earl of Cassilis's privy garden, with Waterloo bridge beyond 139.5 x 208 cm. (55 x 82 in.)
Lot 58
Alexander Nasmyth (British 1758-1840) A prospect of London, seen from the Earl of Cassilis's privy garden, with Waterloo bridge beyond 139.5 x 208 cm. (55 x 82 in.)
Sold for £ 446,650 (US$ 622,846) inc. premium

Lot Details
Alexander Nasmyth (British 1758-1840)
Alexander Nasmyth (British 1758-1840) A prospect of London, seen from the Earl of Cassilis's privy garden, with Waterloo bridge beyond 139.5 x 208 cm. (55 x 82 in.)
bears an inscription 'painted by/Alex Nasmyth/Edinburgh 1826' on the reverse, oil on canvas


  • Provenance:
    Commissioned by Archibald Kennedy, 12th Earl of Cassilis and 1st Marquis of Ailsa (1770-1846);
    Lady Anne Kennedy, his daughter, who married Sir David Baird, 2nd Bt;
    Thence by descent to Sir David Baird, 5th Bt.;
    Ian MacNicol, Glasgow, 1958;
    Lord Inchcape;
    Sothebys, London, 12 July 1989, lot 79; sold on behalf of the British Rail Pension Fund;
    Private collection.

    Edinburgh, Institution for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Scotland, 1827, no. 110;
    London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of Scottish Art, 1939, no. 175;
    London, Victoria and Albert Museum, International Art Treasures, 1962, no. 32;
    London, Oscar and Peter Johnson, Quintessence of Civilisation, October-November 1971, no. 12

    J.L. Caw, 1940, p.335, (illustrated)
    W. D. MacKay, The Scottish School of Painting, 1906, p. 176
    J. C. B Cooksey, Alexander Nasmyth 1758-1840, 1991, p. 92-93, illustrated pl. 7

    Dominated by the practically new Waterloo Bridge, this splendid vista of Regency London was one of Alexander Nasmyth’s most ambitious works. Commissioned by Archibald Kennedy, 12th Earl of Cassillis (and later 1st Marquess of Ailsa), the view is taken from the Privy Garden of his town house at 1, Whitehall Gardens, and incorporates several famous landmarks, the two most central of which no longer exist.

    Waterloo Bridge itself, designed by John Rennie and begun in 1811 as the Strand Bridge, was completed six years later by which time it had been renamed by Act of Parliament in commemoration of the Duke of Wellington’s glorious victory over Napoleon’s armies in 1815. Opened amidst pomp and ceremony by the Prince Regent on 18th June 1817, the second anniversary of the battle, it was subsequently described by Canova as “the noblest bridge in the world, worth a visit from the remotest corner of the earth”; be this opinion true or false the bridge was, without doubt, one of the most graceful in Europe but sadly it was dismantled in 1936 despite vociferous public protests. Even more lamented by London aficionados however, was the loss of the Adam brothers’ imposing riverside development of twenty-four terraced houses collectively known as the Adelphi which, as its centrepiece, featured the celebrated Royal Terrace of eleven residences presented as a 41-bay architectural frontage supported by the distinctive arched vaults at river level said to be “a reminder of the Etruscan Cloaca of Old Rome”. Situated between the Earl’s home and Waterloo Bridge, Nasmyth observes the Adelphi with a meticulous attention which simply reinforces the feelings of outrage when this classic creation was so brutally demolished in 1936-38. Fortunately, Sir William Chambers’ Somerset House complex, sited beyond the Adelphi and obviously designed to outshine it, has not only survived but is currently enjoying a renaissance which its architect and his contemporaries could not have dreamt of. Of the various churches which protrude above the London skyline, St. Paul’s still occupies centre stage although the spires of both St. Mary Le Strand and St. Clement Danes are equally recognisable.

    As with any London panorama of this date, the Thames is shown crowded with all manner of craft, large and small, emphasising it as the city’s main thoroughfare before later road improvements bore fruit. In addition to the passenger skiffs and the trading barges which supplied London’s every need, Nasmyth also offers the viewer a tiny glimpse of the once commonplace river pageantry with his portrayal of the Lord Mayor’s ceremonial barge, heading downriver in company with several smaller ones. Decked out with flags emblematic of the City and its institutions, the handsomely-gilded mayoral barge was a familiar sight on the Thames until the mid-nineteenth century and its inclusion here adds a splash of colour to the rendition of the river’s southern bank.

    Archibald Kennedy, 12th Earl of Cassillis (1770-1846), inherited his title in 1794 having married the Scottish heiress Margaret Erskine [of Dun] the previous year. The couple had six offspring, including two sons, but as they were all adult by the time this work was commissioned, the small children seen with their dog in the Privy Garden are likely to be two of the 12th Earl’s many grandchildren, no doubt in town with their parents for the season. Archibald Kennedy’s second son, John, married Lady Augusta Fitzclarence, one of the illegitimate children of the Duke of Clarence and Mrs. Jordan, with the result that when the Duke inherited the throne as William IV, he created Archibald, his daughter’s father-in-law, Marquess of Ailsa in 1831.
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