London: the Old Horse Guards
from St James's Park
Oil on canvas, 117 x 236 cm
Tate Gallery, London
by Canaletto (b. 1697, Venezia, d. 1768, Venezia)
The Old Horse Guards building at the centre of this work was demolished shortly after Canaletto painted it, and replaced by the New Horse Guards, which was completed in 1753. It has convincingly been suggested that part of Canaletto's motivation in producing the picture was to record the view of a historic site prior to its alteration. He was to display similar instincts on other occasions.
This is, however, far from simply being a work of antiquarian interest. The painter has filled the scene with a variety of figures ranging from the regiment of the King's Life Guard's who drill in the background to the footmen at the right who beat a carpet, near to the entrance to Downing Street.