The Palace of Whitehall: The Westminster Side
Engravingpublished 6 December 1748
About the work
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'.
About the artist
Antoine Benoist was born to a family of artists in Picardy, France. In his teens he was brought to England by engraver and publisher Claude Du Bosc, to work on plates for ‘A Military History of the Duke of Marlborough’ (1736). In June 1741 he revisited Paris for less than a year. After returning, he was employed by the Bowles brothers to engrave Hayman’s designs for Vauxhall Gardens. He remained in London until March 1744, when France declared war on Britain. Following the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle he again returned to produce topographical, architectural and portrait prints and plates. He was also a drawing master and, in 1763, was living in St Martin’s Lane with a fellow drawing master and dealer named Beauvais. He died unmarried in 1770.
Architect and designer Inigo Jones was born in London; the son of a cloth-worker. He first visited Italy in c.1600, where he purchased a copy of Palladio’s ‘Quattro Libri dell’Architettura’. After returning to London in 1605 he was employed to design costumes and sets for Royal masques. In 1611 Prince Henry also employed him as Head of his Offices of Works. In 1614 Jones began a year-long trip through Italy with the Earl of Arundel, resuming his studies in Italian architecture. On his return he was made Surveyor of the King’s Works, responsible for maintaining the King’s palaces and designing and overseeing the construction of new buildings. Today he his is best-known for the Queen's House, Greenwich (1616-40), and the Banqueting House.
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.