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Mrs Phipps - View of Buckingham House, London

Mrs Phipps

View of Buckingham House, London

Oil on board: 8.9(h) x 12(w) in / 22.5(h) x 30.5(w) cm
Inscribed on a label attached to the reverse: For my dear / friend Lucy / Mrs. Holbech / June 1826_x000d_ Inscribed on a label on the frame: By / Mrs Phipps / 25.

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BV 135



Active circa 1826


A view of Buckingham House, London


Inscribed on a label on the reverse: For my dear / friend Lucy / Mrs. Holbech / June 1826

Inscribed on a label on the frame: By / Mrs Phipps / 25.

Oil on board: 8 7/8 x 12 in / 22.5 x 30.5 cm

Frame size: 15 x 18 in / 38.1 x 45.7 cm

In its original carved and gilded hollow frame


Painted circa 1825



Given by the artist in June 1826 to Lucy (c.1781-1835), wife of William Holbech, Farnborough Hall, Warwickshire;

by descent



This charming painting, made in the reign of George IV, shows Buckingham House, the private residence of the Royal Family, before John Nash’s renovations of 1825-30 transformed it into Buckingham Palace. The main house remains the core of today’s Buckingham Palace.


Buckingham House stood at the western end of St James’s Park, south of St James’s Palace, on land which in the reign of Charles I had been known as the Mulberry Garden[1]. James I had ordered mulberry trees to be planted there to establish an English silk industry; this failed, as the wrong type of mulberry for silkworms was chosen, but the garden became a popular recreation ground. Buckingham House was the second house on the spot, designed in 1703 by William Talman and Captain William Wynde for John Sheffield (1648-1721), who was created 1st Duke of Buckingham the same year. Buckingham was a favourite of James II, whose illegitimate daughter Catherine he married, and of Queen Anne. An author himself, he was a patron of Pope and Dryden.


Buckingham House was described in the New View of London in 1708[2] as ‘a graceful palace, very commodiously situated at the westerly end of St James’s Park, having at one view a prospect of the Mall and other walks, and of the delightful and spacious canal’. Mrs Phipps depicts the warm, red brick building with Corinthian stone pilasters. Curved galleries lead to the southern pavilion, which housed the servants, and the northern pavilion, which contained the kitchen and laundry.


In 1762 George III acquired Buckingham House as a private residence for his wife Queen Charlotte and their children. St James’s Palace remained the official residence of the Court, while Buckingham House became known as The Queen’s House. Its mix of cosy family home – one observer described it as ‘nothing more than a large, substantial, and respectable-looking red brick house’[3] – and sophisticated chic was typical of the uxorious monarch. The interiors were remodelled by Sir William Chambers in a delicate, neoclassical style, with ceilings designed by Robert Adam and painted by Giovanni Battista Cipriani. The house’s fusion of playful opulence and happy domesticity is captured by Johan Zoffany in his Queen Charlotte with her two eldest sons, 1764-5, set in her piano nobile apartments on the garden front[4]. Fourteen of the Royal couple’s fifteen children were born at The Queen’s House, the exception being the Prince of Wales (the future George IV) who was born at St James’s Palace.


Mrs Phipps’s view conjures up a cheerful scene with fashionable strollers in St James’s Park and children playing with a dog. A troop of Life Guards, the sovereign’s personal bodyguard, rides past the house on the famous ‘Cavalry black’ horses which are still used by the regiment today. To the left a Guards regiment is drawn up on the parade ground.  


In keeping with George IV’s robust ideas of majesty, John Nash turned a classical house into a flamboyant, neoclassical palace by adding a temple-like porte-cochère onto the central block and making new, much larger wings[5]. Centred on the railings in front of the palace was the Marble Arch (today moved to the western end of Oxford Street). Further alterations were made to Buckingham Palace by Edward Blore, until the east front in 1913 was given its present Portland stone façade designed by Sir Aston Webb, suitably grand for the monarchs upon whose empire the sun never set.



Note on the provenance


This painting was a gift from the artist, Mrs Phipps, to her friend Mrs Holbech in June 1826. Lucy Holbech (c.1781-1835) was the daughter of Oldfield Bowles of North Aston Hall in Oxfordshire. He was a patron of the arts and a good amateur musician and painter, taught by the Welsh landscape artist Thomas Jones. Lucy married the owner of a neighbouring estate, William Holbech of Farnborough Hall near Banbury, Oxon. The painting has descended in the Holbech family.

[1] See Edward Walford, ‘Westminster: Buckingham Palace’, Old and New London: Volume 4, London 1878, pp.61-74. British History Online

[2] Walford, op. cit., p.3.

[3] Walford, ibid., p.5.

[4] Mary Webster, Johan Zoffany 1733-1810, New Haven and London 2011, pp.135-8; p.136, colour pl.126.

[5] See Michael Mansbridge, John Nash A Complete Catalogue, Oxford 1991, pp.274-6.