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unknown artist seventeenth century
The Great Fire of London, with Ludgate and Old St. Paul's
Former Title(s):
The Great Fire of London, Showing Ludgate and Old St. Paul's [1985, Cormack, YCBA Concise Catalogue]
ca. 1670
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
53 × 43 5/8 inches (134.6 × 110.8 cm), Frame: 60 1/2 × 51 1/2 inches (153.7 × 130.8 cm)

Label on verso, upper center: “Pitt & Scott Ltd | 20/24 Eden Grove, London, N.7 | [handwritten] <Paul Mellon | 45>”

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
buildings | church | city | cityscape | correctional institution | fire | flames | historical subject | people | portcullis | prison | river | smoke
Associated Places:
England | Europe | London | Ludgate | St. Paul's Cathedral | Thames | United Kingdom
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

Three hundred fifty years ago, from September 2 to 5, 1666, a catastrophic fire swept westward from Pudding Lane in the City of London along the course of the river Thames, before stopping just short of Whitehall Palace. By September 4, the fire had reached Ludgate, the westernmost gate of the old city. That moment is represented in this painting, which was made shortly after the Great Fire to commemorate the disaster. Ludgate is consumed by fire while the medieval St. Paul’s Cathedral burns in the distance. The diarist John Evelyn described the destruction of Old St. Paul’s in apocalyptic terms: “the stones of St. Paul's flew like [grenades], the melting lead running down the streets in a stream, and the very pavements glowing with fiery redness, so as no horse nor man was able to tread on them.”

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

Artists and writers tended to view the Great Fire of 1666 in a classical or biblical perspective. Sometimes they compared the sight to the fall of ancient Troy. Here, the flaming tower of Ludgate Prison-its portcullis like teeth and the windows above like eyes-resembles the gaping mouth of hell in the Last Judgment tradition. The largest building in the distance on the right is the Old St. Paul's Cathedral, which was gutted; the present St. Paul's, built by Christopher Wren over a thirty-five year period, replaced it.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 30-31, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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