This is one of two paintings by the Flemish-trained Siberechts in the Tate collection. The artist began specialising in pictures of country estates when he settled in Britain in the 1670s. The name of the estate's owner, and probable commissioner of the painting, is now lost. At one time thought to be The Grove in Highgate, the building has been identified by local historian Roy Allen as being in Belsize, Middlesex (what is now Belsize Park in northwest London). In 1696, when this picture was made, the whole of Belsize belonged to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey (the Abbey and other landmarks are visible on the horizon). The road in the foreground is what is now Rosslyn Hill. The coach is heading towards Hampstead.

The country house and estate portrait, of which Siberechts was the most accomplished practitioner, was a fashionable genre in Britain by the late seventeenth century. The typical bird's-eye view allows a maximum amount of detail to be depicted, including possibly the best recorded vegetable and fruit garden of the period.

Further reading:
John Harris, The Artist and the Country House, London 1979, pp.47, 73, reproduced pl.69 (as The Grove, Highgate, London)
Karen Hearn, 'Rewriting History on the Walls', Country Life, vol.191, no.21, 22 May 1997, p.55, reproduced pl.6 in colour

Terry Riggs
October 1997