The 20ft (6.1m) wide panorama was made c.1815 by the French artist Pierre Prévost (1764-1823). The 360-degree view of the city in sunlight was completed from the tower of St Margaret’s near Westminster Abbey. Dominating the foreground – along with Westminster Abbey – is the Palace of Westminster (the former Houses of Parliament), which burnt down in 1834.
Also visible in the composition are Hyde Park, Chelsea, the Middlesex Guildhall, St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, the Strand Bridge (now Waterloo Bridge), St Paul’s, and Battersea.
Though the work in question is sizeable, it was actually a preparatory watercolour for an even larger work: a 98ft (30m) panorama that was exhibited in Paris in 1817. There it was installed in a purpose-built, circular structure which has since been lost.
The Museum of London bought the watercolour for £250,000 (including buyer’s premium) at Sotheby’s sale of Old Master & British Works on Paper last month. It was purchased with help from the Art Fund, the Aldama Foundation and various other donations and trusts.
“We are thrilled to acquire such an evocative piece of London’s history. Not only does it highlight London as an important centre of international artistic exchange, it also reveals a fascinating moment in time,” said Sharon Ament, director of the Museum of London.
Only one comparable work is known, a view that Prévost completed of Constantinople, which is in the collection of the Louvre.