The Great Court of the British Museum, £9.99
Height: 510.000 mm
Width: 675.000 mm
Bequeathed by John Charles Crowle (1811)
Prints and Drawings
Thomas and Paul Sandby, The Piazza, Covent Garden, watercolour and pen and ink over graphite
London, around 1765
Covent Garden, to the north of the Strand, took its name from the former convent garden developed in the 1630s by Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford, who had employed the architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652) to create an elegant square surrounded by arcades. This boldly composed view is seen through the arcade in the north-east corner. The arcade, rather than the square itself, was commonly referred to as the Piazza.
The eighteenth-century residents of Covent Garden were - like those of neighbouring Charing Cross, Leicester Fields and Soho - tradesmen and artists rather than aristocrats. The entertainment industry was centred there on Covent Garden and Drury Lane theatres, and on the informal world of coffee houses, taverns, turkish baths and brothels.
A sheet on one of the arches announces a benefit performance of The Earl of Warwick at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden for the actress Mary Ann Yates. Benefit performances where profits went to particular individuals were regular features of eighteenth-century theatre and tickets and notices like this one were specially produced for them.
The overall design corresponds with a print by Edward Rooker of 1766, but there are many differences both in the figures populating the scene and in architectural details. It would have been made after a fire destroyed the south-eastern corner of the square in 1769.