For a discussion of Millbank as depicted by Varley with reference to a number of other artists in the late 18th and early 19th Century see A. Lyles, 'John Varley's Thames: Varieties of Picturesque Landscapes circa 1805-1835', The Old Watercolour Society's Club, vol. XLIII, London, 1994, pp. 1-36.
Millbank takes its name from the Westminster Abbey mill, which once stood at the end of what is now Great College Street. In about 1736 Sir Robert Grosvenor demolished the mill and on the site built a house 'with a large court before it and a fine garden behind'. Millbank was then a pleasant riverside walk leading from Westminster to Chelsea through marshy ground and market gardens.
Millbank was a popular subject with watercolourists such as John Varley and David Cox, and artists often depicted the picturesque wind-blown trees along the river path. Sandby himself exhibited a 'View in Millbank, a tinted drawing' with the Free Society of Arts in 1782.
The Spread Eagle Inn was situated on the north bank of the Thames, on Millbank just east of the New Ranelagh Road. The exact location is recorded in Laurie's New Plan of London, 1821 (see A. Lyles, op. cit., fig. 13).
The present drawing is one of a pair of bodycolour drawings executed circa 1790, which were until recently considered 'lost'; it shows the view looking eastwards along the Thames with Randall's Mill at Vauxhall on the opposite bank; while its pendant The Spread Eagle Inn, Millbank, looking West, shows the view looking towards Battersea (illustrated A. Lyles, op. cit., fig. 24). The view looking West was with Agnew's in 1995.