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Museum of London acquires beautiful panorama of lost Houses of Parliament

The Museum of London has acquired an epic 20 feet wide panorama of London, painted around 1815 by the French artist Pierre Prévost (1764-1823). It is a remarkable preparatory watercolour for a lost, full-scale 30m diameter panorama which was exhibited in Paris in 1817.

The panorama was acquired at auction at Sotheby’s for £200,000. There is only one other work by this artist of a similar size and quality still in existence, a view of Constantinople, which is in the Louvre.

Painted as the Napoleonic Wars drew to a close, the panorama is an immersive 360° view of London as the Duke of Wellington would have known it. Looking from the tower of St Margaret’s, the church situated within the shadow of Westminster Abbey, we are presented with a sweeping view over a sunlit city. Dominating the foreground is the Abbey and the old Palace of Westminster (the Houses of Parliament), which burnt down in 1834, and includes the medieval House of Lords chamber, target of the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

Prévost made panoramas of many European cities, but this particular example is thought to have been created at the height of his career. His first panorama of London, now lost, was made when he visited the city during the Peace of Amiens in 1802. He is thought to have returned to London in 1815, shortly after the Battle of Waterloo, to create this remarkable image of London.

This panorama has been acquired with the help of Art Fund, the Aldama Foundation and a group of individual donors, with additional support from Michael Spencer, the Leche Trust and other donors who wish to remain anonymous.

Sharon Ament, Director of the Museum of London, said: “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. Our art collection is wide-ranging, but we have nothing quite like this. It’s an exciting time for us to be acquiring new objects for the London Collection as we plan the New Museum in West Smithfield. We are hugely grateful to the Art Fund and others for supporting us in this unique acquisition.”

Stephen Deuchar, Director of Art Fund said: “The acquisition at auction of Pierre Prévost’s precious panorama of a long-lost London is a great coup for the Museum of London. We were very pleased to make a major grant towards this, helped along on this occasion by the enthusiasm of a group of our closest supporters.”

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