George Sidney Shepherd (1784-1862)
Old Covent Garden Market, London as it appeared on the Morning previous to Christmas Day, 1828
Signed and dated 1829 on box lower centre
Watercolour over pencil heightened with bodycolour and scratching out
55 by 87cm., 21 ¾ by 34 ½ in.
Bought by the great-grandfather of the present owner, circa 1860
Royal Academy, 1830, no. 534, as `Old Covent Garden Market, as it appeared on the morning previous to Christmas Day, 1828'
Huon Mallalieu, Dictionary of British Watercolour Artists up to 1920, vol. II, 2002, illustrated p.169
This shows the market at Covent Garden looking west towards the church of St. Paul's before the rebuilding of the central area of the piazza in 1830. The main layout of Covent Garden dates from Inigo Jones's designs for the 4th Duke of Bedford from the 1630s when it became the first public square in the country. To the west of the square are the Tuscan columns of the portico of St. Paul's Church with raised `portico' houses on the north and east sides and Bedford House on the south.
The fruit and vegetable market started in the centre of the square in the mid seventeenth century and by the 1760s it had taken over most of the area. By the end of the century it had become `the greatest market in England for herbs, fruit and flowers' but by the 1820s complaints about the noise and congestion led to an Act of Parliament being passed in 1828 giving the 6th Earl of Bedford the power to demolish the existing buildings and erect a purpose-built market. This was designed by Charles Fowler and completed in 1830 and is the present building on the site. It continued as the principal fruit and vegetable market in the country until it moved to Nine Elms in 1973.
Shepherd came from a family of artists who specialised in topographical views especially of London, many of whom were engraved for books or similar publications. For more on the artist, see Bill Hoade, George Shepherd - Art & Life, 1784-1862), The Sarsen Press, 2021.
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