British Museum collections, £12.99
Height: 231.000 mm
Width: 397.000 mm
Prints and Drawings
Giovanni Antonio Canaletto, View of London from the north, a drawing
London, around 1751
This drawing shows a favourite eighteenth-century view of London from high ground in Islington. St Paul's Cathedral dominates the skyline. The entire town can be seen from the eccentric tower of Hawksmoor's church St John's Horsleydown, south of the river to the east, to Westminster Abbey dominating the west. The Foundling Hospital with its walled forecourt appears in the middle ground on the right hand edge of the sheet, on the northern edge of town. These landmarks stand out from the mass of smaller buildings punctuated by the spires of dozens of parish churches.
When Canaletto (1697-1768) returned to London in the middle of 1751 after some months in Venice, he was commissioned by Robert Sayer to produce drawings for a series of London views: a print after this view by John Stevens, three prints of Ranelagh Gardens, two of St James's Park and four of Vauxhall Gardens. The prints remained popular for many years, appearing in the catalogue of Sayer's successors Laurie and Whittle in 1794.
The careful outlines and the slightly laboured appearance of this drawing are explained by the fact that it served as a model for the engraver. Although Canaletto's characteristic penwork can be seen, especially in the freer drawing of the foreground foliage, the style is in clear contrast to the liveliness of his rapid sketches or drawings that were produced as finished works in their own right.