View of Covent Garden with its Italian open courtyard or piazza bounded on the west side by St Paul’s Church and on the other three sides by tall houses. A neat picket fence is lined with bay trees in pots. The wooden sheds housed shops and coffee houses. The fruit, vegetable and flower market, on the left side of the painting, grew from the middle of the seventeenth century and remained at Covent Garden until 1974, when it moved to Nine Elms. In the centre background, a man preaches a sermon to a small crowd. A pair of bare-knuckle fighters can be seen on the right, while the ragged man with a staff in the foreground may have been a notable local figure. The arcades of the market place, on the right side, were popular meeting areas for illicit sexual activity and the area offered indeed several ‘molly houses’.

The architect Inigo Jones built Covent Garden for the 4th Earl of Bedford in the 1630s. The Spanish painter Balthasar Nebot, was one of many artists living in Covent Garden in the eighteenth century. He painted several versions of this composition, depicting the north and west sides of the market as seen from the south east corner of the square.


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