This engraving shows an elevation of the Palace of Whitehall, bathed in sunlight, as seen from the Westminster side. Having seen El Escorial during a visit to Madrid in the company of the Duke of Marlborough in 1623, Charles I was inspired to plan the reconstruction of Whitehall ‘according to a model by Inigo Jones’. A letter from 1638 records that ‘His Majesty hath a desire to build (Whitehall) new again in a more uniform sort’. Jones created the first set of designs for Whitehall in 1638, but the issue of how to raise the necessary funds was under constant consideration and therefore, the works were postponed. Also, rebellions in Ireland and Scotland as well as the Civil War (1642–1651) caused delays. Further documents show that King Charles II ‘was unwilling to comply with some designs for the rebuilding of Whitehall’. While the reconstruction projects began during the lifetime of Jones, they underwent changes or were postponed for a later period. After Jones’s death in 1652, his clerk and draughtsman John Webb continued his work and made efforts towards the preparation of Whitehall for the reception of Charles II.
A group of drawings thought to represent Jones’s ideas of his proposed plan for Whitehall has survived. They were acquired before 1727 by the 1st Earl of Burlington and passed on to the Chatsworth Collection. In 1727, the architect William Kent (1685–1748) used the drawings in Burlington’s collection for his own publication: 'The Designs of Inigo Jones'.
John Webb was born in Smithfield London. Webb became clerk and draughtsman to Inigo Jones at a young age, living with him from the age of about 17. On Jones’s death in 1652, Webb and his wife inherited the architect’s books, drawings and a sum of money, and Webb went on to establish himself as an architect in his own right.
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