This 18th-century view of the canal in St James’s Park, seen from Horseguards Parade, includes fashionably dressed people promenading in the foreground and Buckingham House in the distance. During the 18th century St James’s Park was a place where fashionable Londoners went to socialise and be seen. However, by night it became a haunt for prostitutes.
St James’s Park was remodelled and opened to the public by Charles II. The canal, a 775 by 38 metre stretch of water, was probably originally designed by French landscaper André Mollet. Between 1826 and 1827 the perfectly straight canal was remodelled into a more natural-shaped, meandering lake by architect and town planner John Nash, under the instruction of George IV, who was then Prince Regent.
Canaletto painted several large views of St James’s Park in 1749. He probably made the drawing for this print, first published in 1751 by print, map and chart publisher Robert Sayer (1724/5-1794). An original drawing of St James’s Park by Canaletto was listed in the catalogue of the collection of art collector and connoisseur Charles Rogers (1711-1784), when Rogers’ collection was sold in 1799. The drawing is now lost but it may have been the work this print is based on.
Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto) was born in Venice, the son of a scenery painter. He probably trained under his father and assisted his father in Venice and later Rome, before returning to Venice to join the Venetian painter’s guild. His early works were mainly ‘capricci’, sold locally. During the 1720s he began painting Venetian views and met his foremost patron; Englishman Joseph Smith. Smith lived on the Grand Canal and built up the most important collection of Canaletto’s work. It was sold to George III in 1762 and remains in the Royal Collection. Canaletto moved to London in 1746, living in Soho for ten years. In 1763, after returning to Venice, he was elected to the Venetian Academy and appointed head of the Collegio dei Pittori.
A View of the Canal in St. James’s Park, Buckingham House, etc., taken from the Parade / Vue du Canal et de la Maison de Buckingham dans le Parc de St. James
republished 12 May 1794
Purchased from Sotheby's, 28 June 1950
Sold through Sotheby's, London, ‘Old Master and Modern Engraving and Etchings’ sale, on 28 June 1950 (Lot 351; with GAC 1134); from which sale purchased by Richard Walker on behalf of the Ministry of Works
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