View of Greenwich and the Queen's House from the south-east

This view of Greenwich from the south-east was painted in about 1675. The old Woolwich Road is shown passing through the Queen's House, the large building furthest to the left in the middle foreground. In the middle distance to the right, next to the river, is the new 'King's House', the east range of what is now the King Charles Court of the old Royal Naval College, formerly Greenwich Hospital.

This had just reached the end of its incomplete first stage of construction as a palace for Charles II when Pepys visited Greenwich in 1669. Pepys wrote in his diary (20 March 1669) 'thence, to Greenwich by water, and there landed at the King's house, which goes on slow, but is very pretty. I to the park, there to see the prospect of the hill to judge of Dancre's picture which he hath made thereof for me; I do like it very well-and it is a very pretty place'. While it is traditionally believed that Pepys commissioned this work (the couple walking in the foreground being sometimes identified as him and his wife) an earlier entry in his diary (3 March 1669) casts this into doubt: 'Thence to Dancre’s, the painter’s, and there saw my picture of Greenwich, finished to my very good content, though this manner of distemper do make the figures not so pleasing as in oyle.' That is, the version for Pepys was a gouache of some sort - not an oil painting - though this may be a version of it with the artist sketching to the left possibly Danckerts himself. The woman climbing the hill in the centre is unidentified. Pepys recorded that he ordered four paintings from Danckerts of the four palaces of Whitehall, Hampton Court, Windsor and Greenwich but whether the other three were in oil, as usually supposed, is perhaps open to question since the Greenwich one was not (and one was changed for a view of Rome). In the distance the buildings of London are visible, including the burnt-out shell of St Paul's following the fire of 1666.

The artist was a Dutch-born painter who in 1657 came with his brother Johannes to work in England. He became court painter to Charles II who commissioned him to paint views of royal properties and harbours. This canvas is not be the only example of the composition in oil: there is, for example, a variant in the National Trust collection at Dyrrham Park. PAD2174 is also a 19th-century etching from a picture then in possession of Henry Richardson, a well-known Greenwich bookseller and local historian. It may be from the present picture, but variations of detail suggest it is perhaps more likely to be from another version. This painting, for example, shows the houses near the river extending further right.

Object Details

ID: BHC1818
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - QH
Creator: Danckerts, Hendrick; Abbott, after Lemuel Francis
Places: Greenwich; The Queen's House
Date made: circa 1670
People: Pepys, Samuel; Danckerts, Hendrick
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Overall: 40 kg; Painting: 865 mm x 1210 mm; Frame: 1140 mm x 1490 mm x 140 mm

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