This print shows the entrance to Westminster Hall. The two towers, which stand to either side of the arched entrance, are decorated on the exterior with statues within niches.
Westminster Hall is the most substantial surviving part of the Palace of Westminster. When first built by William II (William Rufus) in 1097, it was some 240 feet long and 40 feet high and was used as a banqueting hall. After the building was damaged by fire in 1291, it was restored by Edward II. Further alterations were made by Richard II between 1397 and 1399, when the walls were elevated by a further two feet, and a stately porch and impressive oak hammer-beam roof were installed. The hall has witnessed numerous significant historical events; Charles I was tried and condemned within it in 1649 and, four years later, Cromwell was installed as Lord Protector there. Today, it is the vestibule of the House of Commons, connected to Sir Charles Barry’s Palace of Westminster (built 1840-66) by St Stephen’s Hall.
This aquatint print was published by Rudolph Ackermann as an illustration to ‘The Microcosm of London’, a series of aquatints with accompanying texts concerned both with both the antiquities and contemporary life in London.
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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