Isaac and Ede Antique Prints
Vue d'Optique Ranalagh Gardens Rotunda

Mademoiselle Fonbonne

Vue du Canal, du Batiment Chinois, de la Rotonde, et des Jardins de Ranelagh un jour de rejouissance

15.5 x 10 inches

Etching in original hand colour engraved by Miss Fonbonne in Paris and published there circa 1770.

For quite a while in the second half of the C18th the pleasure gardens at Ranalagh in Chelsea were the most fashionable place to be seen in London. They were officially opened in 1742 by a group of entrepreneurs who also ran the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane so it was inevitable that the gardens would adopt a theatrical theme. Soon, throughout the summer months, fabulous masquerades were held at Ranalagh Gardens with the centrepiece being a monumental Rotunda where musicians played, the bon ton promenaded and danced and elaborate supper parties took place. It charged two shillings and sixpence for entry, twice the cost of its rival at Vauxhall and consequently attracted a very fashionable crowd. Mozart played here aged 8 and Canaletto painted the scene. At its height Horace Walpole gleefully commented that "It has totally beat cannot set your foot without treading on a Prince or the Duke of Cumberland". Darkened arbours, leafy colonnades and booths within the rotunda itself all provided excellent opportunities for romantic tristes and illicit rendezvous. Like all such things its moment passed and the rotunda was demolished in 1803.


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