This view looks north, along the Thames, from Lambeth Bridge. On the left is the newly completed Palace of Westminster, with Westminster Abbey beyond it. The Victoria Tower, which dominates the view of the palace, was only finished in 1860, just two years before this work was painted. To the right of the painting is the red brick gatehouse of Lambeth Palace, the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Beyond the gatehouse, on the far right, is the church of St Mary-at-Lambeth.
Henry Pether’s paintings typically depict moonlit scenes reflected on water. This work is unusual for showing a scene in daylight, although it does demonstrate the painter’s interest and accuracy in depicting architectural subjects. Pether often produced alternative paintings of the same view. A similar work by the artist, showing the Victoria Tower and the Clock Tower (encasing Big Ben) still topped with the cranes involved in their construction, was sold through Christie’s, London, in 1996. While a second similar Pether work, showing the scene in moonlight, sold through Bonham’s, London, in 2002.
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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