The chance to own the earliest recorded image of the 260-year-old London landmark that was a backdrop to the Olympic beach volleyball games is being offered by a Vienna auction house.
The image of the New Horse Guards building taken from St. James’s Park and painted by Venetian master Canaletto is veray similar to a painting snapped up by Andrew Lloyd Webber for a cool 9 million GBP.
But with pic in Llyoyd Webber’s collection on a slightly larger format and showing the Old Horse Guards in 1749 shortly before it was knocked down, the painting now on sale is a bargain with its estimated price tag of just 2 million GBP.
Painted some three years later, “New Horse Guards from St James’s Park” which is a stone’s throw from Downing Street is of the current building where monarchs take the salute at the Trooping the Colour ceremony on their official birthday. It shows women in the large bell-shaped skirts of the era alongside off-duty soldiers enjoying a stroll in the heart of the capital – a far cry from the bikinis of the volleyball teams that recently occupied the space.
And although the image was crowded for the day, it seems almost empty compared to the crowds that flooded in for the sporting spectacle.
Resident in England from 1746 to 1755, Giovanni Antonio Canal, called il Canaletto, painted some 40 works during his English period, many of which remain in the aristocratic collections for which they were originally commissioned.
Canaletto was especially popular among wealthy British patrons who had travelled as tourists to Venice and moved to England to be closer to many of his clients where he hoped to boost his standing with more local scenes. His success is evident by the fact that many of his paintings still hang in the National Gallery in London, the National Maritime Museum and the collection of the Queen.
The Dorotheum auction house in Vienna that is selling the picture on 17 October said it was not just an important historical record documenting 18th century London, but was also arguably the most English of the paintings Canaletto executed during his time in England from 1746 to 1755.