In this night view of Gun Wharf, by the Tower of London, moored boats can be seen to the left of the composition. Shipping containers and items of winching equipment are seen in the foreground. To the right is St Thomas's Tower, part of the Tower of London, built between 1275 and 1279 by Edward I as additional royal accommodation. One of the windows within the tower is lit up and smoke rises from a chimney above. Outside the tower, two of the Queen’s guards stand motionless on the river bank, holding rifles. In the distance, further along the river, the Custom House building, designed by Sir Robert Smirke, can be seen.
A similar painting by Henry Pether, almost identical in composition and size, was sold through fine art auctioneer Christie's, in London, in 2006. Two other versions are in the collection of the Guildhall Art Gallery in London: one of the same dimensions, showing the tower in daylight, and another titled ‘Traitor's Gate, Tower of London’, which is smaller than this work.
Henry Pether was from a family of painters, who specialised in moonlit scenes; the most famous being his father, Abraham. He exhibited paintings at the Royal Academy (1828-62), Society of British Artists (1833/4, 1855) and British Institution (1865). He lived at addresses in Southampton, Greenwich, Camden Town and south London, probably moving to escape creditors. In 1837, when an inmate of a debtor’s prison, he was described as ‘Surveyor, Artist, Engineer, and Architect’. He applied for patents relating to mosaic tiles, a lamp globe and other architectural materials (1839-76). The tiles were exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851. At that time he lived in Kennington with his wife, Sarah, and children Fanny (14), Harry (10) and Kate (9).
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