Wenceslaus Hollar, View of the Tower of London, a drawing

England, around AD 1640

The drawing was made in pen and brown ink with watercolour over black lead. The view across the river Thames focuses on the square White Tower in the centre. In front of it, opening to the river through a low arch, is Traitors' Gate. Prisoners entered the Tower through this from the river. Surrounding the Tower are the walls and buildings which made it an important prison and fortress.

In the foreground is a three-masted ship flying the English flag of St George's Cross, which was customary for merchant ships. A few small boats row up the river to remind us how much the river was used for the transport of people and goods.

This drawing was made for a series of four etchings of views of London. These prints were presumably made to be sold on the English market. Hollar was in London between 1636 and 1644 and again from 1652 to 1677. He worked initially for the earl of Arundel and later for Charles II (reigned 1660-85). He made numerous etchings of English views, landscapes and churches, most notably Old St Paul's before its destruction in the Great Fire of London in 1666. It has been suggested that Hollar's views of London influenced the Italian artist, Canaletto, when he made his landscape drawings and paintings a century later.

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More information


A. Griffiths and G. Kesnerova, Wenceslaus Hollar: prints and (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)

L. Stainton and C. White, Drawing in England from Hillia (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)


Height: 111.000 mm
Width: 283.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1859-8-6-389



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