© Royal Collection Trust | Licence: All Rights Reserved
© Royal Collection Trust | Licence: All Rights Reserved

Old Somerset House c. 1772

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From the Collection


A pencil and watercolour drawing of the river front of Old Somerset House, with groups of figures in the gardens. Inscribed on the verso on pencil: 'T. Sandby fect' (in the same hand as on RCIN 914704) and in another hand 'Somerset House'.

Thomas Sandby made several drawings of Old Somerset House and the banks of the river Thames, many of which date to around 1752, the date that Paul Sandby joined his brother permanently in London after a period with the Board of Ordnance in Scotland; Paul often supplied the figures for his brother's drawings. Views of the banks of the Thames were made popular by Nathaniel and Samuel Buck, and John Maurer, but especially Canaletto, who was in England between 1745–55.

The present drawing, however, is apparently a later version of the subject, based on the dates of the figures, many of which can be found in drawings in the Royal Collection and other collections. This drawing may be 'The Garden Front of the Royal Academy' exhibited by Thomas Sandby at the Royal Academy in 1772, no. 230. The drawing bears the same inscription on the verso as RCIN 914704 and appears to have been trimmed and framed as a companion piece; that drawing may have been exhibited at the Royal Academy the following year. Among the figures in the gardens, the gentleman in tricorne hat gesturing with one arm is found in a counterproof of a drawing of Thomas Sandby (RCIN 913549, the original in the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven) and both Thomas Sandby and his wife in RCIN 917875; the young girl alongside is in a drawing of the 'Ladies Waldegrave' (RCIN 914390); and the woman is very similar to the governess in the version of the same drawing in the V&A (D.1835-1904), and two other drawings of the North Terrace of Windsor Castle (collection of The Duke of Buccleuch and Queensbury at Drumlanrig, and collection of Mr C. R. N. Routh). The woman and children on the steps appear in RCIN 914456 (as well as 914704, the companion piece), the man in the arcade is in RCIN 914495, and the group on the grass is in RCIN 914646 with pencil traces suggesting the youth on the left was originally placed closer to the rest of the group. Spaces have evidently been left in the drawing by Thomas for figures to be added, probably by Paul, and the drawing shows the extent to which Paul recycled and reused figures from his stock to populate his own and his brother's drawings.

Another version of this drawing appears in the Crowle Pennant at the British Museum, with figures in earlier costumes. Another version is also illustrated in William Whitley's Artists and their Friends in England, 1928, vol. 1, pl. 12. Oppé questions whether this drawing could be 'A Drawing View from Somerset House by Sandby', bought by George IV when Prince of Wales from Colnaghi, 20 June 1804 for £1 11s 6d, as the description does not quite fit, and because that drawing was bought with RCINs 914724 and 914725, whereas this drawing appears to have been a companion to RCIN 914704.

Descriptive Medium: 'Pencil and watercolour', 'watercolour, pencil'

Additional Makers: Paul Sandby (1731-1809) (artist)

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© Royal Collection Trust

From the Watercolour World


Somerset House, Strand, London, England