Isaac and Ede Antique Prints
Vue d'Optique Somerset House

Vue d'Optique

Vue du Palais Roya Somerset de cote de la Thamise

16 x 9.5 inches

An etching in original hand colour produced as one of a series of perspective views, or Vues d'Optique, in Paris circa 1760.

There are two aspects to this charming etching that might at first glance appear rather odd. The first is the mirror writing at the top and the second is the fact that St. Paul's Cathedral appears to be in the wrong place in relation to Somerset House. The answer to both of these mysteries is that the image is intended to be viewed in reverse through both a lens and mirror. Early view-finders and zograscopes enabled the viewer to look through a crafted aperture and see the image reversed in a mirror and given strong lines of perspective by the lens. A collection of these prints would be a highlight after dinner when the host would thrill the assembled guests with snapshots from his travels. It is interesting to note how far the original Somerset House is set back from the river at this point, affording a delightful esplanade upon which the bon ton could promenade.


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