In this view of Westminster Hall, groups of people are gathered in discussion within the hall, the oldest extant building of the Palace of Westminster. Above them is the impressive hammer-beam roof, designed during the reign of Richard II.
This aquatint print is the result of a collaboration between the English artist Thomas Rowlandson and French architectural draughtsman Augustus Charles Pugin. Pugin drew the architectural scenes and Rowlandson added the characters. It is an illustration to ‘The Microcosm of London’, a series of aquatints with accompanying texts concerned both with the antiquities of London and contemporary life in the city. The work was published by Rudolph Ackermann, the most important publisher of illustrated books in England during the first half of the 19th century, who worked from ‘The Repository of Arts’ (the premises of his publishing business) on the Strand. Issued in monthly installments from 1808 to 1810, ‘The Microcosm of London’ eventually comprised three volumes, which together contained over 100 illustrations.
Thomas Rowlandson, caricaturist and draughtsman, attended the Royal Academy Schools. After his studies he worked in watercolours and developed a style influenced by Gainsborough and French Rococo art. From 1784 he received commissions for publications and later gained the patronage of the Prince of Wales. He also produced satirical images, illustrating well-known scandals and characters. Despite gaining a substantial inheritance in 1789, by 1793 he was in poverty. However, his financial worries eased when he received commissions from Ackermann, which led to his involvement with A. C. Pugin in ‘The Microcosm of London’. Rowlandson later produced sketches for the adventures of ‘Dr Syntax’ (1812-21), also published by Ackermann.
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