The South-West Prospect of his Grace ye Duke of Marlborough’s House in St. James’s Park
About the work
This south-west view of Marlborough House includes trees, planted in formal rows, several figures, horses and a coach in the foreground.
Christopher Wren’s design for Marlborough House was for a brick building with rusticated stone quoins (cornerstones). The building was built between 1709 and 1711, on land leased to Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough by Queen Anne. It was used by successive generations of the Marborough family for over a century.
When the Victoria and Albert Museum, then known as the Museum of Manufactures, first opened in 1852, it was briefly housed in Marlborough House, before being transferred to Somerset House, and then the current museum building in South Kensington. From 1853 to 1861, Marlborough House was used by the National Art Training School (now the Royal College of Art). It was later enlarged by architect Sir James Pennethorne and became the London residence of the Prince of Wales, followed by the Queen Dowager, Mary of Teck. When Queen Mary died in 1953, Elizabeth II donated the house for use by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the building continues to be used for this purpose today.
About the artist
John Harris I, engraver and draughtsman, was probably born in Northamptonshire. Early in his career he produced mainly maps and plans. One of his earliest engravings is a ‘Survey of the Parish of Stepney and Stebunheath’, Middlesex, made up of ten sheets. He engraved similar multi-sheet maps of areas in Ireland, Scotland and Cambridgeshire. From 1711, he made architectural and bird’s-eye views. It seems he was also employed as a surveyor, drawing properties to order. Harris’s best known works were for ‘The History of St Paul’s Cathedral in London’ (1716). Although he produced views of American prospects for publisher William Burgis, there is no evidence that he visited the US. Later in his career he illustrated antiquarian county histories.
Little is known of the printmaker James Lightbody. Examples of his work were included in ‘Receuil de Marines et de Vaisseaux’, a collection of maritime prints, formed by the brothers Chéreau (one of the most prolific French print publishers) in 1754 in Paris for the Parisian connoisseur market and presented in a grand binding, created by the French bookbinder Antoine Michel Padeloup. Lightbody’s views of Portsmouth, Plymouth and Harwich were included. These prints had first been published in London in about 1710 by Thomas Taylor and engraved by H. Hulsbergh. The British Museum has a print of an elderly man walking with a crutch and stick, holding a begging bowl, which was etched by Lightbody.