The Great Staircase, Stafford House [now Lancaster House]

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Government Hospitality, Lancaster House

    At the time this picture was painted Lancaster House belonged to the Marquis of Stafford. He had taken possession of the unfinished building in 1828 from the Duke of York, changing its name from York House to Stafford House and taking on Benjamin Dean Wyatt as Architect-in-Chief. The Principal Staircase, which was Wyatt’s tour de force and included magnificent gilt iron balustrading by Joseph Bramah, was completed in 1829, the year before Stafford commissioned this painting to hang in the House. The artist David Roberts, who completed the picture in September 1832, strove to capture the sumptuous monumentality of Wyatt’s design. He considered the commission an honour, regarding his patron ‘not only one of the richest Noblemen in England, but one of the most refined taste, as regards the Arts…’.

    Conspicuous by their absence from this picture are the later large copies on the staircase of paintings by Veronese, created by Giuseppe Gallo Lorenzi in the next decade between 1841 and 1846. The sculptor of the statue in the picture is unknown, but the work may represent Jonah and the Whale, mentioned as being in the hall in the 1833 inventory of the house.

  • About the artist
    David Roberts, son of a shoemaker from Stockbridge, Edinburgh, began his career at the age of ten as an apprentice to a house painter. On completing his apprenticeship he was employed on the decoration of Scone Palace in Perthshire. He later became a scene painter for James Bannister, who ran a circus in Edinburgh, and at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, before moving to London in 1822, where he turned to easel painting. Roberts exhibited at the British Institution, Society of British Artists and Royal Academy. He is best-known for topographical paintings and illustrations resulting from trips to Spain and the Middle East. He died aged 68 at his home in Fitzroy Street, near Tottenham Court Road, London, and is buried at Norwood Cemetery.
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  • Details
    The Great Staircase, Stafford House [now Lancaster House]
    Oil on canvas
    height: 133.00 cm, width: 103.00 cm
    Purchased from Agnew's, May 1958
    Purchased from the artist by George Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Marquis of Stafford, 1st Duke of Sutherland (1758-1833) in 1832, for £200; by descent to George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 5th Duke of Sutherland (1888-1963); by whom sold through Christie's, London, on 22 October 1948 (Lot 48), bought in; with T. Agnew & Son, London; from whom purchased by the Ministry of Works in 1958
    GAC number