[LONDON} Prospectus Palatii Regii Somerseti cum Ecclesia S. Mariae Londini: Vista del Palacio Real De Somerset con la Iglesia de Nuestra Señora a Londres
circa 1760. Engraving with original colour. Printed on laid paper. In good condition with the exception of some creases within the image. Sides have been remargined with laid paper, and bottom edge is trimmed within the platemark. Surface soiling within image. Image size: 11 x 16 1/4 inches. Sheet size: 12 3/8 x 17 3/4 inches.
A wonderful "vue d'optique" of Somerset House on the Strand in London.
During the eighteenth century "vues d'optique" or "perspective views" became extremely popular in England and Europe. Like other optical prints they capitalized on a connoisseur market eager for the latest novelty. English publishers such as John Bowles and Robert Sayer had great success with these optical views, which quickly developed into a collecting craze that swept through print shops on both sides of the Channel. "Vues d'optiques" were specifically designed to create the illusion of perspective when viewed with a zograscope or perspective glass. These viewing devices used a series of reflecting mirrors to enhance the illusion of depth in the print, creating a veritable "view" for the onlooker. Typically these prints depicted city or landscape views, and were horizontal in format. They had roughly the same dimensions and were sold with heavy opaque colouring, so as to show the tints when viewed through the lens. In their heyday, optical prints were a technical revolution; they could be seen in almost every fashionable drawing room, and were enjoyed by the poorer classes in print shops or at traveling fairs. For a small fee the citizens of Europe and England could travel the world without leaving their village. The "vue d'optique" was the first medium to bring the visible appearance of the wider world to a large European public. Ironically the artists and engravers who created these prints rarely had first hand knowledge of the scenes depicted, hence the views were often not as accurate as they were advertised to be. As a result of their constant handling optical prints such as these are rare, especially in good condition. They are not only beautiful images but a fascinating glimpse into the history of printmaking.
Clayton, The English Print 1688-1802, 140-141.