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The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16, 1834

Joseph Mallord William Turner, English, 1775 - 1851

Geography:
Made in Great Britain, Europe

Date:
1834-1835

Medium:
Oil on canvas

Dimensions:
36 1/4 × 48 1/2 inches (92.1 × 123.2 cm) Framed: 46 × 58 7/16 × 5 1/2 inches (116.8 × 148.4 × 14 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 392, European Art 1500-1850, third floor (Haas Gallery)

Accession Number:
M1928-1-41

Credit Line:
The John Howard McFadden Collection, 1928

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Label:

"Shortly before 7 o'clock last night the inhabitants of Westminster, and of the districts on the opposite bank of the river, were thrown into the utmost confusion and alarm by the sudden breaking out of one of the most terrific conflagrations that has been witnessed for many years past....The Houses of the Lords and Commons and the adjacent buildings were on fire."

So wrote the London Times on October 17, 1834. Turner witnessed the event, along with tens of thousands of spectators, and recorded what he saw in quick sketches that became the basis for this painting. Flames consume Saint Stephen's Hall, the House of Commons, and eerily illuminate the towers of Westminster Abbey, which would be spared. On the right the exaggerated scale and plunging perspective of Westminster Bridge intensify the drama of the scene, which Turner observed from the south bank of the Thames River.


* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.