The Palace of Whitehall: The Westminster Side
Engravingpublished 6 December 1748
About the work
This engraving shows a proposed elevation of the new Palace of Whitehall, as seen from the Westminster side. This classical design, which was never realised in this form, was made by architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652). The plans for the palatial complex also incorporated a Banqueting House, which remains a feature of Whitehall today.
King Charles I intended to rebuild Whitehall Palace to outshine the impressive El Escorial palace, near Madrid, built by Philip II of Spain. A letter from 1638 records that ‘His Majesty hath a desire to build (Whitehall) new again in a more uniform sort’. Jones created the first set of designs the same year, but the issue of how to raise the necessary funds was under constant consideration and therefore, the works were postponed. The Irish rebellion of 1641 as well as the Civil War (1642–1651) also caused further delays. While the reconstruction projects began during the lifetime of Jones, they underwent constant changes or were postponed. After Jones’s death in 1652, his clerk and draughtsman John Webb continued his work.
Inigo Jones was regarded as the first architect in England to reflect the spirit of the Renaissance in its classic purity, following in the footsteps of the great architect of the Veneto: Andrea Palladio. Jones’s architectural style distances itself from the red-brick Tudor style, paving the way for the elegant classical Palladian style that was manifested in several harmonious and symmetrical buildings. Jones’s legacy to the repertoire of classical architecture in Britain has been a constant source of inspiration for the later generations of Stuart and Georgian architects who continued to explore and refine the Palladian, classical style.
About the artist
Antoine Benoist was born to a family of artists in Picardy, France. In his teens he was brought to England by engraver and publisher Claude Du Bosc, to work on plates for ‘A Military History of the Duke of Marlborough’ (1736). In June 1741 he revisited Paris for less than a year. After returning, he was employed by the Bowles brothers to engrave Hayman’s designs for Vauxhall Gardens. He remained in London until March 1744, when France declared war on Britain. Following the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle he again returned to produce topographical, architectural and portrait prints and plates. He was also a drawing master and, in 1763, was living in St Martin’s Lane with a fellow drawing master and dealer named Beauvais. He died unmarried in 1770.
Architect and designer Inigo Jones was born in London; the son of a cloth-worker. He first visited Italy in c.1600, where he purchased a copy of Palladio’s ‘Quattro Libri dell’Architettura’. After returning to London in 1605 he was employed to design costumes and sets for Royal masques. In 1611 Prince Henry also employed him as Head of his Offices of Works. In 1614 Jones began a year-long trip through Italy with the Earl of Arundel, resuming his studies in Italian architecture. On his return he was made Surveyor of the King’s Works, responsible for maintaining the King’s palaces and designing and overseeing the construction of new buildings. Today he his is best-known for the Queen's House, Greenwich (1616-40), and the Banqueting House.
John Webb was born in Smithfield London. Webb became clerk and draughtsman to Inigo Jones at a young age, living with him from the age of about 17. On Jones’s death in 1652, Webb and his wife inherited the architect’s books, drawings and a sum of money, and Webb went on to establish himself as an architect in his own right.