Although a finished watercolour in its own right, this work was probably executed in preparation for the large oil painting, (34 x 60 in.) of the same view, with different shipping, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1862 (no. 628) where bought by Charles Lucas; his grandsons presented it to the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths (see H. Guiterman and B. Llewellyn, David Roberts, exhibition catalogue, London, Barbican Art Gallery, 1986-7, p. 102, no. 40, pl. 26). A similar watercolour, inscribed 'Blackfriars August 28th 1861', is of an alternative view to that shown in Robert's other 1862 Academy exhibit (no. 489) which shows St. Paul's from Blackfriars and measures 52 x 42 in., was also bought by Charles Lucas and is also in Goldsmiths Hall (see H. Guiterman and B. Llewelyn, op. cit, nos. 41 and 42, the latter illustrated, pl. 27). According to Roberts' biographer James Ballantine, the Thames pictures were suggested by J.M.W. Turner. Roberts was anxious to complete them before the 'great sewrage [sic], which is now going on, to purify it and change it from its present state, and which will tottaly [sic] alter its present appearance' with the construction of the Victoria Embankment.
There is also a smaller version in oils, 11 x 24 in., sold Phillips, 29 June 1995, and a further Thames view, 24 x 42 in. of Somerset House and the Adelphi from Hungerford Bridge, signed and dated 1861 (illustrated H. Guiterman and B. Llewelyn, op. cit, no. 45).
We are grateful to Krystyna Matyjaskiewicz for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.