Balthazar Nebot

Covent Garden Market


Not on display

Balthazar Nebot active 1730–1765
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 648 × 1228 mm
frame: 876 × 1460 × 80 mm
Purchased 1895

Display caption

Nebot’s view of Covent Garden looks west towards St Paul’s Church. It records the activities and architecture of Covent Garden which, by the 1730s, was at the heart of London’s artistic community. It was a popular urban subject, also painted by Samuel Scott, among others. The market was first developed in the 1650s. Twenty years later the Earl of Bedford was given permission to ‘hold forever a market in the Piazza on every day in the year except Sundays and Christmas Day for the buying and selling of all manner of fruit, flowers, roots and herbs’.

Gallery label, February 2016

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Catalogue entry

N01453 Covent Garden Market 1737

Oil on canvas 640×1230 (25 1/2×48 3/8)
Inscribed ‘B.Nebot. F. 1737’ along the edge of the market-woman's stool to the left of the rails, lower left of centre
Purchased by the National Gallery 1895; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1955
PROVENANCE ...; Lord Dover (?by 1833–6), by descent to 4th Viscount Clifden, by whose executors sold Robinson & Fisher 25 May 1895 (? 686 as by Pugh) bt for the National Gallery
EXHIBITED On long loan to London Museum, c.1945–65
LITERATURE C.H. Collins-Baker, ‘Nebot and Boitard’, Connoisseur, LXXV, 1926, p.3, fig.1. Also repr.: Survey of London, XXXVI, 1970, pl.28a, wrongly dated 1735

This view is from the south-east of the Piazza, near the Russell Street entrance, looking west, showing the east (sham entrance) front of St Paul's Church, the sundial column surmounted by a sphere erected in the centre of the Piazza in 1668–9 (demolished 1790) and King Street with part of the north side of the Piazza on the right.

Fruit and vegetable stalls and booths line the south side of the Piazza. It was from this side that the market developed. Described as ‘new’ in 1654, the market was authorized by letters patent obtained by the Earl of Bedford (as landlord) in 1670, authorizing him and his heirs (later Dukes of Bedford) ‘to hold forever a market in the Piazza on every day in the year except Sundays and Christmas Day for the buying and selling of all manner of fruit, flowers, roots and herbs’. Some brick-built permanent shops were erected along the south side in 1678; more were added in 1705–6 (only one corner of these is visible in Nebot's view: the others are out of sight on the left). Compared with the crowded scene in Samuel Scott's ‘Covent Garden Piazza and Market’ of c.1754–8 (in the collection of the Duke of Bedford, repr. Survey of London, XXXVI, 1970, frontispiece) the market in Nebot's view is quite small. The size and diversity of the market increased rapidly from c.1740; by the early nineteenth century it extended over the whole of the Piazza.

Noting the date of 1737 on this picture, Collins-Baker (1926) comments that ‘only two years later than Hogarth's Rake's Progress, and nine years before Canaletto's arrival in England, Nebot was producing ... genre combined with the sort of topographical painting which we usually regard as post-Canaletto’.
A version possibly by another hand, with a few small variations, was sold at Christie's 26 October 1945 (137). Another, with several extra figures, is in Lord Lonsdale's collection.

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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