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Edward Dayes, 1763–1804, British

Queen Square, London

Watercolor with pen and black ink over graphite on thick, smooth, cream wove paper
Sheet: 17 1/16 x 23 1/2 inches (43.4 x 59.7 cm), Contemporary drawn border: 17 1/8 x 23 7/16 inches (43.5 x 59.5 cm), and Image: 14 1/2 x 20 7/8 inches (36.8 x 53 cm)

Signed in black ink, lower left: "E Dayes | 1786"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
apron | architectural subject | barrels | beggar | boy | breeches (trousers) | buildings | carriage | carrying | cart | children | cityscape | clock tower | couple | dogs (animals) | fashion | fences | flower basket | flowers (plants) | genre subject | gown | hats | hills | horses (animals) | lampposts | men | merchant | nobility | peasants | queen (person) | square | statue | streets | tailcoats | tricornes | vendor | wagon | walking | weathervane | women
Associated Places:
Bloomsbury | Camden | England | Greater London | Queen Square | United Kingdom
Associated People:
Charlotte (1744–1818), queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and queen of Hanover, consort of George III
Accessible by request in the Study Room [Request]
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IIIF Manifest:

“Queen Square” is one of a series of four views of London squares that Dayes produced at the outset of his professional career. He exhibited views of Queen Square and Bloomsbury Square at the Royal Academy in 1787; these, along with his views of Hanover and Cavendish Squares, were engraved in 1787 and 1789. Queen Square, first laid out in the early eighteenth century, is located just east of Russell Square and was distinguished for its open prospect of the countryside, looking toward Hampstead and Highgate to the north. The other squares depicted by Dayes also date from an early period of London square building. The variety of the buildings and the established gardens in these older squares may have appealed more strongly to a picturesque sensibility than the architectural uniformity of newer squares such as Bedford Square (begun in 1776).
All four of Dayes’s views suggest social tensions underlying the ordered, placid appearance of the squares, which in reality had a reputation for violent crime, particularly robbery, and were seen as potential sites for the gathering of disruptive crowds; as recently as 1780, foot patrols had been stationed in Queen Square during the Gordon Riots (Longstaffe-Gowan, 2001, p. 205). A range of social types populates these images: high and low intermingle in the public spaces while genteel couples stroll within the safety of the fenced-off gardens. A seven-foot lead statue of Queen Charlotte, erected in 1775 by one of the square’s residents, presides over this scene (Blackwood, 1989, p. 44). In the foreground, a fashionably dressed couple is accosted simultaneously by a beggar boy and a flower seller with a child strapped to her back, while a butcher returning from a delivery looks on in amusement. Distracted by and dismissive of their supplicants, the couple heads straight for a pile of horse droppings.

Eleanor Hughes

Baskett, John, Jules David Prown, Duncan Robinson, Brian Allen, and William Reese. Paul Mellon's Legacy: A Passion for British Art. New Haven : Yale Center for British Art , 2007, cat. no. 80

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 278, no. 79, pl. 79, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

John Blackwood, London's immortals, the complete outdoor commemorative statues , Savoy Press, London, 1989, p. 44, DA689 M7 B53 1989 (YCBA)

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, The London Square, 1600 to the Present, , Record of Activities and Research Reports, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2011, pp. 104-07, N330 W3 C457 (HAAS)

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, The London town garden 1740-1840, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001, pp. 205-206, p. 11, fig. 219, SB451.36 G7 L68 2001 (YCBA)

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 2, no. 79, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA)

Diana Scarisbrick, Elihu Yale : merchant, collector & patron, Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 41, 43, 135, fig. 12, DA497.Y3 S37 2014 (YCBA)

David H. Solkin, Art on the Line : the Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House 1780-1836, , Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2001, pp. 199-200, fig. 172, N5054 A78 2001B (YCBA)

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