Soane’s Bank of England as a Ruin (1830) by Joseph Gandy.
Joseph Gandy’s painting of the Bank of England does indeed show the building as a ruin but the painting was also intended to show the architectural layout of the place, hence the intact quarters in the lower left. The architect, John Soane, was a friend of Gandy’s, and owned the painting which usually hangs in the Soane Museum, one of my favourite places in London. Gandy’s painting is currently on display at Tate Britain as part of a new exhibition, Ruin Lust, which also features some other favourites of mine including John Martin’s The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum (1822), and Cornelia Parker’s Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991), a work which really needs to be seen in situ. Soane’s Bank of England, incidentally, had a less Romantic ending when it was demolished in the 20th century to make way for a newer building.
The New Zealander (1872) by Gustave Doré.
Also included in the exhibition is Gustave Doré’s surprising view of London in the distant future, the last plate in London: A Pilgrimage (1872). Visitors to Italy and Greece in the 18th and 19th century were fascinated by the idea that a city with the former splendour of Rome could have been reduced to a handful of marble ruins. This prompted the obvious thought that equally splendid cities such as London—in Doré’s time the most populous city in the world—would themselves be reduced to ruin one day. Doré’s picture illustrates a fleeting reference in Blanchard Jerrold’s text to a passage by Thomas Babington Macaulay concerning the longevity of the Roman Catholic Church. At the end of a lengthy paragraph Macaulay writes:
And she [the Church] may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.
I hadn’t traced this quote before but can see now that Doré was evidently familiar with it since he’s given his future New Zealander a sketch book. It’s typical of Doré to expand on a tiny detail in this way. There are plenty of recent views of London in ruins but this is a rare example from an earlier century. If anyone knows of any others then please leave a comment.