Samuel Scott

A View of Westminster Bridge and Parts Adjacent

engraved 1758

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 298 x 540 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Robert Vernon 1847
Reference
N00314

Display caption

Scott painted this view of Westminster Bridge as a pair to a 'View of London Bridge before the Late Alterations', shown nearby. The two pictures make a deliberate contrast between the old (Old London Bridge) and the new (the recently completed Westminster Bridge), further emphasised by the choppy tidal current shown in the former, and the calm waters of this picture. Scott painted several versions of it, all of which appear to be based on a detailed panoramic drawing which he kept in his studio until his death. The details of Derby Court, on the extreme right, and Dorset Court next to it, are meticulously depicted, as is the busy river traffic, which was such feature of eighteenth-century London life.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

N00314 A View of Westminster Bridge with Parts Adjacent engr. 1758

Oil on canvas 300×540 (11 3/4×21 1/4)
Presented by Robert Vernon to the National Gallery 1847; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1919
PROVENANCE ...; Robert Vernon by 1847
EXHIBITED Guildhall Art Gallery 1955(12)
ENGRAVED Line-engraving by P.C. Canot, pub. 25 February 1758, as a pair to ‘A View of London Bridge...’ (after no.145, q.v.)
LITERATURE Vernon Heath, Recollections, 1892, p.348; Kingzett 1982, pp.60–2, as ‘Westminster Bridge with Neighbouring Houses’, version C, p.61

There are four other versions (see below) of this view. It is rarely possible to suggest precise dates for Scott's London views, still less for the different versions of them. A date of c.1750–7 is suggested for N00314 since it was this version which was engraved by Peter Charles Canot and published (as a pair to the engraving of no.145, q.v.) on 25 February 1758. The engraved title reads in full, ‘A View of Westminster Bridge with parts adjacent as in the Year 1747’, but in fact none of the oil versions of this view could have been painted (or at least completed) as early as 1747, since all of them show the wrought-iron lamps upon the bridge's turrets, which were not placed there until October 1750.

Details of Canot's engraving and of subsequent reissues are given in Kingzett 1982 p.62, (E2). One of the eighteenth-century reissues (lettered ‘A View ... as in the year 1760’) is reproduced in Hugh Phillips, The Thames about 1750, 1951, p.131, fig.145, with a key identifying the range of buildings adjoining the bridge's Westminster abutment as (from left to right) Manchester Stairs, Manchester Court, the backs of the Dorset Court houses (united by a single pediment to appear as a single house) and the side of Derby Court.

Kingzett notes that all versions of this view are based on a large panoramic drawing (340×1092, 13 3/8×43, fig53) which apparently remained in Scott's studio until his sale of 1773 (and is now in the British Museum, 1865–6–10–1324; Kingzett 1982, D 97, p.19b). He points out that this drawing must have been made before the arches' abutments were completed, i.e. before 19 January 1745, but that all the versions painted in oils show not only the completed arches but also the lamps in position on their turrets, instancing this as a case where Scott ‘used an earlier drawing for the framework of the picture and added the subsequent architectural features by the time he came to paint the scene’.

Kingzett (1982, pp.60–2) notes four other versions of the painting: A, 685×1143 (27×45), in the collection of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers; B, 457×1372 (18×54), in the collection of the Earl of Radnor (fig.54); D, 400×762 (15 1/2×30), private collection, UK; E, 940×1522 (37×60), in the collection of Lord St Just. He suggests that the tightness of handling and lack of atmosphere in N00314 are due to the fact that this version was painted for the engraver's use.


Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988

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