Summary

The present picture is probably identifiable with a painting sold by Samuel Scott at auction in April 1765 as a 'Sun Set, with a View of Nine Elms' together with its pendant 'A Morning, with a View of Cuckold's Point' (N 05450) (Tate 1988, p.193).

Nine Elms is situated on the south bank of the Thames, just to the west of Vauxhall, an area currently occupied by New Covent Garden Market and Nine Elms Lane. The view chosen by Scott therefore looks west towards Battersea, and the evening sun. Here the river runs in a straight line directly west. In the foreground of the picture, at the extreme left, is presumed to be Nine Elms pier. The tall trees behind may be identified as the very elms after which the area was named. At the extreme right on the horizon, beyond the windmills one can make out the tower of a church, probably St Mary's, Battersea.

Samuel Scott's earliest known marine paintings, which date from the mid-1720s, were highly influenced by the Dutch painter Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633-1707). Although he was later also inspired by the example of the Venetian Antonio Canaletto (1697-1768), he remained wedded to Dutch traditions of landscape painting, as the present picture reveals. It is not known precisely when he painted this picture, although it may have been around 1761 when he is documented as having sold a version of its pendant.

The dimensions and subject of the picture, which is comparatively long and narrow, suggest that both it and its companion were made as 'overdoors', works which were designed specifically to be mounted over doors, as part of a decorative scheme. Although Scott made numerous similar works as overdoors and overmantels (to hang above mantelpieces), the present pendants are the only known ones in which the artist has deliberately contrasted two times of the day, as well as two distinct areas of the river.

The whereabouts of the present picture was unknown for over 160 years when it was sold by auction in 1927 as 'The Thames at Battersea', together with its pendant, then called 'The Thames at Deptford'. At that point the works were sold separately, the present work being acquired by the Tate Gallery in 1970, reuniting it with its pendant, which had been presented to the National Gallery in 1944 and transferred to the Tate Gallery in 1953.

Further reading:
Richard Kingzett, 'A Catalogue of the Works of Samuel Scott', Walpole Society 1980-1982, vol. 48, 1982, pp.76-77, plate 28b
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth. British Painters born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery 1988, pp.193-6, reproduced in colour

Martin Postle
June 2001