Greenwich, with London in the distance

Greenwich, with London in the distance

ca. 1680
Jan Vorsterman
Oil on canvas
29 1/2 x 57 1/2 inches (74.9 x 146.1 cm)

At the center of this canvas, a carriage arrives at or departs from the park entrance of the Queen’s House, designed by Inigo Jones. There, in about 1673, the Willem van de Veldes, father and son, were given studio rooms on the ground floor and proceeded to create drawings, paintings, and tapestry designs for British patrons. Jan Vorsterman represents Greenwich in a state of change: the site of the long-established Greenwich Royal Park and a fashionable resort, it has a new classical-style palace in progress for King Charles II (later repurposed as the Royal Hospital for Seamen). To the right, behind the ruined towers flanking Henry VIII’s tilt yard (jousting ground), stands the unfinished shell of Charles II’s King’s House on the site of the former Tudor Palace of Greenwich. On the hill to the left is Charles II’s Royal Observatory, England’s pioneering new center for “the finding out of the longitude of places for perfecting navigation and astronomy.” Greenwich is also shown as a key point on the highway of maritime commerce, naval power, and royal prestige, linking London to the North Sea and the wider world. Beyond, where the river curves around the Isle of Dogs, lies the Royal Dockyard at Deptford, with Royal Navy ships “in ordinary” (reserve) lying off it.

B1976.7.112
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection