The title of this engraving by Thomas Bowles reveals the artist’s intention to commemorate the building of the Monument, commissioned from Christopher Wren, in the wake of the Great Fire of London. The huge pillar, a fluted Doric column some 202 feet tall, was unveiled in 1677. It was topped by a flaming urn as a reminder of the dreadful fire that had consumed London. In less than a week, during September 1666, the fire destroyed 13,200 houses, 87 churches and St Paul's Cathedral. There is no sign of the utter chaos and devastation wreaked by the fire in this peaceful, urban scene. Here, horse-drawn carts and carriages travel along Fish Street Hill, which leads south past the Monument to the church of St Magnus Martyr and London Bridge. The façades of newly constructed buildings gleam in the sun. Couples chat to shopkeepers in doorways, a man herds cattle and sheep to market, and a woman carries a basket on her head. The impression is of London having risen triumphantly from the ashes.
The image was first published in 1751 by John Bowles. This example is later. A further version was included in West’s Collection of Views, assembled in c.1840 by Francis West, a Fleet Street optician for whom printselling was a sideline.
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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