Perspective View of Westminster Abbey

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Government Art Collection

    This perspective view was published for use in conjunction with an optical diagonal machine. The machine comprises a large, double convex lens, with a mirror directly behind it, attached at an angle. The lens and mirror were mounted onto a box or stand. As the viewer looks through the lens, the image is reversed and an illusion of recession is created. Because the lens is larger than the distance between the human eyes, when the viewer is close to the convex surface of the lens, the distinct images seen by each eye are interpreted by the brain as a single image, viewed from a considerable distance.

    Such prints were popular throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Print publishers selected views which allowed the greatest illusion of recession to be achieved. For the best results, the far objects should be located in the centre of the composition. Many perspective views were published in the UK. However, this example was issued by a French publisher, Daumont, operating from premises on rue St Martin in Paris. Daumont is known to have issued 86 different perspective views, for use with the optical diagonal machine, in total.

  • About the artist
    Thomas Bowles, designer and engraver, was the son a print publisher, also named Thomas Bowles (1689/90-1767). Bowles junior was born in London and trained as an engraver. He engraved botanical plates for ‘Pomona, or, The Fruit-Garden Illustrated’ (1729) and produced numerous topographical engravings. Bowles is chiefly known for his designs for 30 published views of the principal buildings in London, most of which he engraved himself. He was also a skilled scene painter. He died in December 1762 and was survived by his wife, Margaret, and his father.
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  • Details
    Perspective View of Westminster Abbey
    Coloured engraving
    Purchased from Parker Gallery, March 1976
    GAC number