Two drawings of London’s skyline have gone on display side-by-side, one made in 1616 showing the old London, and a recreation showing London from the same location today.
Claes Jansz. Visscher’s 1616 engraving is one of the most iconic images of medieval London; a low-rise cityscape dominated by the spires and steeples of its churches. Published in the year of Shakespeare’s death, Visscher’s engraving is one of the few visual records of London before much of it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.
And now, 400 years later, artist Robin Reynolds has recreated the 6-foot wide panorama to depict the architecture of today’s metropolis.
It shows clearly how the visual shift has taken place from a skyline dominated by the religious life of London, to one dominated by commerce. Of course, commerce took place in Old London, but at street level, not up in the sky. The skyline belonged to God, but not any more.
The bridges across the Thames are also another of the major changes, to the point that they are almost the primary point of focus in the image, wide routes taken to get to the land of commerce that lies on a far distant shore.
The two engravings, ancient and modern are on display inside the Guildhall Art Gallery, down by the entrance to the Roman Ampitheatre, with its 1980s style Tron decoration.
Incidentally, the Guildhall Art Gallery is really worth visiting, especially on a Sunday when it seems peculiarly quiet. Such a difference from the other big art galleries dotted around London.
The current exhibition, Visscher Redrawn: 1616-2016 is on display until 20th November. Entry is free.
The art gallery will also be open late on 4th & 5th March, when a video and music projection will be played outside in the yard – the Shakespeare Son et Lumière.