Lot 12
  • 12

JOHN LAMB, PRIMUS AND HIS SON, JOHN LAMB, SECUNDUS | London to Hong Kong in two hours! A Panorama

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • London to Hong Kong in two hours! A Panorama
  • watercolour on paper, laid onto linen;together with John Lamb, Secundus's notebook containing the journey's full narrative  
  • 37.5 by 5338.5cm., 14¾ by 2101¾in.


By descent within the artist’s family to the present owner


London, Barbican Art Gallery, Panoramania!: The Art and Entertainment of the “All-Embracing” View, 1988-1989. no. 153
Bonn, Bundeskunsthalle, Sehsucht, 1993
on loan to The Museum of London (1983-2018)

Catalogue Note

This exceptionally rare panorama, which measures over fifty metres in length, dates to circa 1860 and brings to life the epic journey over land and sea between Britain and the Far East.

The journey is dramatic and eventful. Beginning at London Bridge Wharf, we are invited to board the steam ship ‘Happy Go-Lucky’. Setting sail, the ship glides past, amongst other sites of interest, Billingsgate Fish Market, the Tower of London, and London Docks, before heading out into the English Channel. At Ostend we enter the bustling train station and after a ‘scramble for our tickets’, we travel south to Marseilles by rail. There, in an attempt to ‘fortify our shattered frames’, we stay at the ‘splendid’ Grand Hotel des Empereurs, before re-connecting with our ship. Crossing the Mediterranean, via Malta and Mount Carmel, we arrive at Jaffa - which looks ‘curious’ in the moonlight. From there the journey is made overland (the voyage predating the Suez Canal), taking in Jerusalem before travelling onto Suez. In the desert we encounter an encampment of Bedouin Arabs, narrowly escape a ‘band of lawless robbers’, experience a mirage and admire the ‘wondrous’ Pyramids. Upon reaching the coast, we sail down the Red Sea and across the Indian Ocean. 

At Ceylon we explore the island, marvelling at natural wonders such as the exotic ‘Banyan Tree’, and witness a tiger hunt. At Point de Galle ‘the port from whence Steamers and ships of all Nations start for their long voyages to all quarters of the Globe’, we observe soldiers of the Poonah Light Horse, a native cavalry regiment that had remained loyal to Queen Victoria during the Indian Mutiny of 1857.

On board ship once again, we encounter a ‘furious’ storm in the Straits of Malacca and although the ‘Captain was well prepared’, we are forced to repair our damages at Singapore. After a short stay, we travel onto Hong Kong and on arriving in Victoria Harbour we see yet more soldiers, this time preparing to return to India after seeing action in the China War. In the city itself, we pass the infamous Chinese baker shop ‘Esing’, the proprietor of which attempted to ‘kill the English Residents… by poisoning the Bread’. Finally, after a mere two hours of travel, the journey comes to an end before an illuminated fountain, which is composed of the ‘brilliant colours of countless lamps.’

The panorama was painted as a collaboration between John Lamb, Primus, and his son John Lamb, Secundus. Both were employed as shipping agents in the city of London, but were artists of some standing: Lamb, Primus exhibited at the Royal Academy in the early 1830s, while his son did the same at the Dudley Gallery, between 1889 and 1909.

Almost as a precursor to the cinema, the Lambs intended the work to be viewed as a moving image and it would originally have been mounted onto wooden spools, which were to be operated by hand. The panorama was also to be accompanied by a narrative, written by Lamb Secundus, and his humorous text survives in its original form and is included with this lot.