Tag Archive | rotunda

Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

The Paintings in the Pillared Saloon

The Pillared Saloon was built onto the Rotunda in 1750-51 to provide more wall space for paintings and, of course, draw more visitors. The original idea was to have allegorical paintings of the royal family—Prince Frederick and his family—demonstrating how love of the arts manifested his virtue and patriotism. Frederick’s untimely death in 1751 put paid to this idea and delayed the project for almost ten years.

Two full-length portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte in their coronation robes did appear soon after their marriage in 1761. The royal pair is known to have sat for the painter—undoubtedly Frances Hayman—in person as a special favor to Jonathan Tyers.

The Seven Years’ War Paintings

In contrast to the lightheartedness of the supper-box paintings and the drama of the Shakespearean scenes, the four remaining paintings for the Pillared Saloon were to be patriotic history paintings. These were not the typical classical scenes or representations of events from the distance past, but “very recent military actions populated by real living people wearing contemporary costume.”

[Hayman] chose not the violence of heroic death or even topographical portrayals of military action, but rather its aftermath, in order to convey the virtues of the individual British military commanders, magnanimous and humane in victory.

pillaredsaloon001

The Surrender of Montreal to General Amherst

Amazingly, this painting appeared in the Pillared Saloon in 1761, only eight months after the event it depicts.

It was the most overtly propagandic of the four military scenes, emphasising the selfless humanity of General Jeffrey Amherst: Hayman showed him handing out food to the starving and defeated population and returning to them their possessions; this was intended to be in stark contrast to the merciless treatment they might have expected from the French, had they been victorious, and especially from their Indian allies.

In the Description (1762), much is made of the contrast between the defeated and miserable French and the victorious but humane British, and the author instructed readers to view the paintings as a true representation of one of ‘the most glorious transactions of the present war’.

pillaredsaloon002

The Triumph of Britannia

The second painting, which was installed for the opening of the 1762 season, was a representation of the defeat of the French fleet at Quiberon Bay in November 1759. “As its allegorical title would suggest, it was intended to glorify the British military leaders involved in the action and the natural alliance of Britannia with Neptune that had given Britain mastery of the seas.”

However, because it did not entirely succeed in capturing the essential majestic dignity that was necessary to this type of allegorical work, the Triumph of Britannia was not always taken seriously by its audience. It is specifically and humorously singled out in Fanny Burney’s novel Evelina of 1778; during a visit to Vauxhall, Mr. Smith ridiculously mistakes the figure of Neptune for that of a famous general, despite the fact that he is wearing ‘the oddest dress for a general ever I see’.

Lord Clive, Hayman, 1760

Lord Clive Receiving the Homage of the Nabob

A companion piece to the Surrender, this painting was installed in time for the 1763 season. The historical event depicted was the Battle of Plassey, at which Robert Clive ousted the ruling Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-daula and, “in an apparently magnanimous act, [Clive] then supported the claim to supremacy of the elderly general Mir Jafar (c. 1691-1765), Nawab of Murshidabad, who had actually fought against the British, but who was more easily persuaded to the British point of view.”

In that battle the British forces were famously outnumbered by twenty to one, but were nevertheless victorious with the loss of only eighteen men (according to Clive), lending it the heroic ideal; in fact this was undeserved, and the British were saved from probable defeat only by the quick thinking of their artillerymen who covered their weapons and powder during a downpour, while the enemy did not.

The description of the painting started with “The subject of this picture is of the most interesting nature, to every Briton who regards the honour and propsperity of this country’, no doubt insinuating that it would be unpatriotic to criticize it.
The second description

praises General Clive for his leadership, and for his generosity in giving the sultanate to Mir Jafar;

therefore performing for his Country a most important Service, as well as procuring for the India Company and Individuals the Sum of Three Millions Sterling, for their Losses sustained at Calcutta; with such Privileges, Immunities, and Advantages, as they never enjoyed before. And this Revolution hath been moreover the Means of the India Company’s acquiring the Territorial Possessions, to the Amount of Seven hundred thousand Pounds per Annum.

In retrospect, General Clive’s generosity seems less altruistic considering the huge commercial gains resulting from the acquisition of this territory.

Britannia Distributing Laurels

A companion piece to the Triumph of Britannia, Britannia Distributing Laurels was installed in 1764. Unfortunately, no version of this piece is known to be in existence. However, it is known to have depicted the full-length figures of Generals Granby, Monckton, Albemarle, Coote, Townshend and Wolfe, all in Roman costume, allegorical in nature.

The story goes that, when Granby came to Hayman’s studio in St. Martin’s Lane, he challenged Hayman to a boxing match before the sitting. After a hesitant start, which Granby overcame by saying that the exercise would give animation to his portrait, Hayman apparently floored the marquis with a tremendous punch to the stomach, and Mrs. Hayman, hurrying upstairs to see what the noise was, found them ‘rolling over each other on the carpet like two bears.’

Tyers as the Ultimate Patron of 18th century British Art

The inscription under the engraving of Hayman’s Triumph of Britannia describes him as a ‘”Lover and Encourager of the Arts.’” He was described by Henry Angelo as having “laid out more money in the encouragement of English art than any man of his time. Indeed, his house was so full of pictures, that after hanging them, even on his stair-case, there were still some to spare.”

Jonathan Tyers didn’t just use art to further his commercial ambitions; he was a true conoisseur. And it was his dream to open up the arts to all layers of society, not just the upper class.

The huge developments in British art through the middle of the eighteenth century were in large part due to the concurrence of Vauxhall Gardens, the Foundling Hospital, the Society of Artists and the Royal Academy and to the men involved in those institutions, notably Hogarth, Hayman and, of course, Tyers… After the collaboration of Tyers and Hayman, the visual arts at Vauxhall never again received the same degree of patronage from its proprietors.

The paintings and sculpture at Vauxhall Gardens would have been the best-known works of art in England at the time, seen by tens of thousands of people, including significant numbers of artists, every year. Although Tyers owed much to Hogarth, initially the driving force behind the artistic concept of the gardens, it was Hayman, Tyers’s artistic director, who could be seen as the more influential figure. This was partly because of the huge exposure of his original work at Vauxhall, and also because he was the linchpin that held together the London art profession, with a finger in all the principal artistic pies of the time—the St Martin’s Lane Academy, Vauxhall Gardens, the Foundling Hospital, the Society of Artists and, eventually, their august offspring, the Royal Academy.

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever

Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

The success of Vauxhall naturally spawned imitators, but Vauxhall “outstripped all of them, not only in visitor numbers and longevity, but in the national and international renown achieved by the gardens, its use by writers as a setting in plays and novels, and the fact that its name became synonymous with the pleasure garden throughout Britain and all over the world.”

Ranelagh and Marylebone, however, did give Vauxhall’s founder a run for his money. S. Toupée, a correspondent from Scots Magazine (see last week’s post), writes:

It may not be amiss to tell you, the spirit of imitation increases amongst us every day. Vaux-hall has produced tickets and accommodations of the same nature, at Marybone, on this side of the Thames, and at Caper’s gardens, on t’other.”

Marylebone Gardens

John Donowell, A View of the Orchestra with the Band of Music, the Grand Walk &c. in Marybone Gardens, watercolor, 1755.

John Donowell, A View of the Orchestra with the Band of Music, the Grand Walk &c. in Marybone Gardens, watercolor, 1755.

Prior to its purchase by Daniel Gough, landlord of the neighboring Rose Tavern in 1737, Marylebone Gardens was “little more than a bowling green and gaming house.” In his attempt to imitate Vauxhall, “Gough built an outdoor Orchestra there… and installed an organ by Richard Bridge. In the winter of 1739-40 he added a Great Room for balls and suppers, facing the Orchestra.”

High quality music was the main attraction at Marylebone, and fireworks were added here decades before Vauxhall.

However, Marylebone did not even try to compete with Vauxhall in the visual arts, or in the order maintained in the gardens, and this proved to be its downfall; it was less selective of its visitors, and less proscriptive in the activities enjoyed by them, allowing the garden to become a haven for card-sharps and gamblers… Marylebone Gardens eventually closed, unmourned and leaving little trace, in 1778.

Ranelagh Gardens

T. Bowles after J. Maurer. Raleigh House and Gardens with the Rotunda, engraving, 1745.

T. Bowles after J. Maurer. Ranelagh House and Gardens with the Rotunda, engraving, 1745.

Opened in April 1742 by a syndicate of businessmen who saw the problems Vauxhall was having with inclement weather, Ranelagh featured a huge rotunda, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.

Giovanni Antonio Canal, il Canaletto. The Interior of the Rotunda at Ranelagh, oil on canvas, c.1751.

Giovanni Antonio Canal, il Canaletto. The Interior of the Rotunda at Ranelagh, oil on canvas, c.1751.

Large numbers of people could saunter, take refreshments and listen to music without any of the natural inconveniences of an English summer. The building itself, especially the great domed space inside, became an architectural wonder in its own right, attracting crowds just to see, even during construction. With its grand central orchestra stand rising to the roof, its two levels of supper-boxes around the walls, its elaborate plaster decorations and chandeliers, this mostly timber Rotunda, 185 feet in diameter, was a remarkable space… During its first year at least, the Rotunda was the subject of much talk among fashionable society; Catherine Talbot wrote to Elizabeth Carter just two months after it had opened, saying that London’s neighborhood

is enriched since you was here, with a building which I am told exceeds in taste and magnificence every one in Europe: to untravelled eyes like mine ’tis to be sure an amazing fine thing, and quite worth your coming to see it next year, by which time they may possibly have found all that it wants to make it complete; some use for it answerable to the fineness and stateliness of the structure, for to be sure it is quite vexatious at present to see all the pomp and splendour of a Roman amphitheatre, devoted to no better use than a twelvepenny entertainment of cold ham and chicken.

Ranelagh did give Vauxhall a run for its money, however, even “beating Vauxhall at its own game” for a time. However,

once it lost its novelty it also lost much of its appeal. It was always the least disreputable of the pleasure gardens, being free of strong liquor and of gambling. This attracted the older generation and the more conservative sector of the public, as did the half-crown admission cost (to include tea and coffee), which excluded a large section of the London population. It was this very respectability, and the limited opportunities for change, that eventually drove away the fashionable set of the next generation and led to Ranelagh’s final downfall.

Like Marylebone, and indeed like Vauxhall itself, Ranelagh started to run into real difficulties around 1780, when, because of riots in London and perceived threats of invasion from across the Channel, the public enjoyment of frivolous pleasures had become socially less acceptable. Its proprietors battled on for another twenty years, but finally gave up 1803, unable to adapt to the demands of a new and more demanding public.

Vauxhall Reigns Supreme

…the al fresco character of Vauxhall, and its intimations of physical and moral danger, were essential features of its popular appeal. The Rotunda undeniably kept Ranelagh’s visitors’ feet dry, and eliminated any element of risk, but once everybody had seen and been seen by everybody else, the circular promenade became profoundly dull and repetitive. The walks at Vauxhall, although all straight and at right angles to one another, were at least all different, and allowed visitors to choose which way they walked, and to escape the bright lights, while still hearing the music.

None of Vauxhall’s rivals encompassed such a strong moral ideology as Vauxhall, and few invested anything like the same amounts as Tyers in the design or in the artworks that decorated and themed their gardens. It is certainly due in part to these factors that Vauxhall succeeded above its competitors.

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever