London from Hampstead, with a double rainbow

John Constable1831

British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

Constable and his wife Maria first moved to Hampstead in 1819, hoping the fresher air would ease her tuberculosis. In the summer of 1827, they moved to a house on Well Walk, Hampstead, that offered a splendid view over London. 'It is to my wife's heart's content', he wrote, '...our little drawing room commands a view unequalled in Europe... the dome of St Paul's in the air, realizes Michael Angelo's idea on seeing that on the Pantheon — "I will build such a thing in the sky"'.

This watercolour shows that view, with the dome of St Paul's Cathedral at the lower left, beyond the greenery of Hampstead Heath. The brooding purple sky, split by a shaft of light and a double rainbow, shows Constable's careful and specific observation of the weather. The drawing is precisely dated on the reverse 'between 6. & 7. oclock / Evening June 1831'.

Maria died in 1828. Constable, whose ideas about symbolism in nature were constantly changing, occasionally considered a rainbow to be a symbol of resurrection, a thought that may have been comforting as he contemplated his late wife's favourite view.

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  • Title: London from Hampstead, with a double rainbow
  • Creator: John Constable
  • Date Created: 1831
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 197.00mm; Width: 320.00mm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Medium: Drawn
  • Technique: drawn
  • Registration number: 1888,0215.55
  • Producer: Drawn by Constable, John
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Constable, Isabel