View full screen - View 1 of Lot 71. ENGLISH SCHOOL, CIRCA 1649 | London, a view of the Piazza, Covent Garden.

ENGLISH SCHOOL, CIRCA 1649 | London, a view of the Piazza, Covent Garden


10,000 - 15,000 GBP

The Property of a Gentleman

ENGLISH SCHOOL, CIRCA 1649 | London, a view of the Piazza, Covent Garden

ENGLISH SCHOOL, CIRCA 1649 | London, a view of the Piazza, Covent Garden


10,000 - 15,000 GBP

Lot sold:



The Property of a Gentleman



oil on canvas

unframed: 57.7 x 107.5 cm.; 22¾ x 42⅜ in.

framed: 67 x 118 cm.; 26 3/8 x 46 1/2 in.

Please note, Condition 11 of the Conditions of Business for Buyers (Online Only) is not applicable to this lot. 

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20th Century lining is solid and stable. Painted surface is a little flat but ultra violet light reveals only widely scattered retouchings except at the left and upper right, where there are larger patches of reglazing in the sky and retouchings to the roofs of the building to the extreme left. Ready to hang in it's carved and giltwood frame.

The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot.  

In the possession of the family of the present owner for at least three generations.

J. Cornforth, 'The Earliest View of Covent Garden', in Country Life, vol. CXLIX, no. 3857, 13 May 1971, p. 1182, reproduced;

R. Strong, J. Harris and S. Orgel, The King's Arcadia: Inigo Jones and the Stuart Court, London 1972, p. 184, cat. no. 346, reproduced p. 185;

J. Harris, The Artist and the Country House, London 1979, p. 39, cat. no. 34, reproduced;

R. Strong, The Renaissance Garden in England, London 1979, pp. 146 and 235, partially reproduced p. 146, fig. 90;

J. Harris, in Inigo Jones. Complete Architectural Drawings, J. Harris and G. Higgott (eds), exh. cat., London 1989, p. 192, reproduced p. 193, fig. 54 (as by an unknown French painter, circa 1640);

M. Galinou and J. Hayes, London in Paint. Oil paintings in the collection at the Museum of London, London 1996, p. 117;

R. Pennington, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etched Work of Wenceslaus Hollar 1607-1677, Cambridge 2002, p. 149, under cat. 909;

D. Duggan, 'Isaac de Caus: surveyor, grotto and garden designer', in Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes, 29:3, 2009, pp. 153 and 166, note 14.

London, Photographers' Gallery, Pictures words and views about Covent Garden its past its present and its future, June 1972 (photograph exhibited);

London, The Royal Institute of British Architects, The Quartercentenary of the Birth of Inigo Jones (1573-1652), 21 December 1972 - 9 January 1973 (photograph exhibited);

London, The Banqueting House, The King's Arcadia: Inigo Jones and the Stuart Court, 12 July - 2 September 1973, no. 346;

Woburn, Bedfordshire, Woburn Abbey, The Great Russell Heritage, 4 July - 11 August 1975.

This canvas represents the earliest painted view of Covent Garden, and one of the first close-up depictions of one of London’s most iconic quarters. It is an extremely rare example of 17th-century British urban topographical painting, showing the piazza before a market was begun there in 1649-56, after Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford (1587-1641) was granted a licence to develop ‘howses and buildings fitt for the habitacons of Gentlemen and men of ability’ in 1631,1 and just over a decade after Inigo Jones’ St Paul’s church (at the centre of the composition), built in the Tuscan order, was consecrated in 1638. Indeed, the portrayal of the church helps to date the painting, since the addition visible on the south side (next to the left arch) is known to have been built between 1647-49. A similar feature was added to the north side in 1656, but since this does not appear here, its omission provides a terminus ante quem for the view.

Before this picture came to light in 1970, the earliest known painting of Covent Garden was thought to be that in the collection of the Earl of Pembroke at Wilton House, datable to circa 1666-67.2 It depicts the piazza from the south side (from Bedford House, the garden of which is partially visible on the left, here), and includes a tree in the centre of the piazza. An etching by Wenceslaus Hollar is believed to predate the present work by around two years, and includes a cross on the pediment of the church, which does not appear here.3

1 The French architect, garden and grotto expert, Isaac de Caus (1590-1648) built the piazza houses (on the right-hand side of this composition), which in their regular width and height and classically-treated façades, were regarded as particularly novel.

2 See J. Cornforth, ‘Covent Garden: Ave Atque Vale’, in Country Life, 13 August 1970, vol. 148, no. 3825, p. 388, reproduced fig. 1.