[LONDON] A View of the grand Palace of Westminster. [At top, in mirrored letters] La Grande Place de Vestminster.
 London and Paris: a Londres ches Wichnyther (?) A Paris chez J. Chereau rue St. Jacques au dessus de la Fontaine St. Severin aux 2 Colonnes No. 257, 1766. Engraving with original colour. Printed on laid paper. In good condition with mild soiling and creasing. Sheet size: 12 1/4 x 18 1/2 inches. Plate mark: 10 1/8 x 16 1/4 inches.
A beautiful Vue d'Optique with strong early colour depicting the old Palace of Westminster where the Lords and Commons met.
An interesting late 18th century view of Westminster prior to the great fire of 1834, which brought into being the present Houses of Parliament. Westminster had been a royal residence until Henry VIII left it (after a fire) to reside at Whitehall. After that, the Houses of Parliament met there. 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.