Frederick Mackenzie

The South Ambulatory, Westminster Abbey


Not on display

Frederick Mackenzie 1787–1854
Watercolour on paper
Support: 784 × 616 mm
Bequeathed by Leonard James Penna 1980

Display caption

This view was painted nearly forty years after William Blake first went to Westminster Abbey for James Basire. Then he drew the mediaeval monuments of kings and queens 'in every point he could catch, frequently standing on the monument and viewing the figures from the top'. In the left foreground of this watercolour is the canopied tomb of Queen Philippa of Hainault, much as Blake knew it in about 1774 when he drew his 'Portrait of Queen Philippa'. His later engraving after this is no.10 in this display. The railings round the tomb were removed in the 1820s.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry


Inscribed ‘Fredk Mackenzie - 1811’ bottom right
Watercolour on paper, image size 30 13/16 × 24 1/4 (78.3 × 61.5), extended at edges and laid on linen canvas, 32 13/16 × 26 1/8 (83.3 × 66.2)
Bequeathed by Leonard James Penna, 1980
Prov: ...; according to a note on the back of the old frame, ‘from the Holne Park sale 1932 of Lord Farnborough's collection’ (untraced); Leonard James Penna, Torquay, d.1979.

This view looks towards the Chantry Chapel of Henry V, d.1422, showing the two spiral staircases leading to the altar loft which crosses the ambulatory like a bridge above the King's tomb (for a detailed description of Henry V's Chapel, with plan and illustrations, see Royal Commission on Historical Monuments. Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London. I. Westminster Abbey, 1924, pp.71–3, pls.129–40). In the foreground on the left is the canopied tomb-chest of Queen Philippa of Hainault, d.1369 (the railings shown here were removed in the 1820s, and a thirteenth-century retable has subsequently been placed below the tomb), and beyond it the monument to Sir Robert Aiton, d.1638, its bronze bust flanked by the figures of Apollo and Athene. The screen of the Chapel of St. Nicholas is obliquely shown rising behind the figures in the foreground on the right.

Dated 1811, T03034 is almost certainly related to the series of drawings made by Mackenzie, Augustus Pugin (with whom Mackenzie occasionally collaborated) and others for Ackermann's History of the Abbey Church of St. Peter's Westminster, Its Antiquities and Monuments, 1812; thirty-three of its plates were engraved, by Bluck and others, after Mackenzie. T03034 was not engraved, probably because it included the figures of two female visitors standing in front of the chapel, drawn on a larger scale than was appropriate for such a work, since their presence obscured architectural detail. Mackenzie evidently tried to wash these figures out, but they remain in apparently ghostly form. Another view of Henry V's Chapel by Mackenzie, from a different viewpoint, was engraved for the 1812 publication with the title North East Area.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981

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