This drawing of the river at Richmond looking towards Richmond Hill was made by the German engraver, Augustin Heckel and probably belonged in the eighteenth century to Horace Walpole, who lived at Strawberry Hill close to Richmond. The present drawing was one of a series of views of Richmond and its environs made by Heckel and owned by Walpole, it was published by John Bowles and is first listed in his catalogue in 1749.
Heckel’s lively view shows fashionable figures walking on the banks of the River Thames in front of Cholmondeley House. Cholmondeley House was built for George, 3rd Earl of Cholmondeley and completed in around 1748. The house was constructed from part of the outer wall of the destroyed Richmond Palace, and the land for Cholmondeley Walk was acquired from a neighbour in exchange for the ‘Great Orchard’ of the Old Palace in 1711. Heckel was born into a family of goldsmiths in Augsburg and spent his career in London where he worked as a painter, engraver and designer. He moved to Richmond in 1746 and lived on the edge of Richmond Park. His career as a gold chaser and jeweller also led him to produce drawings and prints of Rococo ornaments, Chinese landscapes, and paintings and gouaches of flowers. The latter were used in books of patterns for needlework, such as Robert Sayer’s The Florist (1759) and Thomas Bowles’s The Lady’s Drawing Book (1753). Heckel also produced a series of topographical views around Richmond. A further version of this composition exists which Heckel prepared to be engraved by James Mason and published by Thomas Bowles in 1749. In the finished print, Mason alters the figures on the riverbank, simplifying Heckel’s original composition. Heckel himself sketched in a second boat, mid-channel, which he decided not to work up in ink. Heckel’s second version of this drawing belonged to Horace Walpole and was included in a famous extra illustrated edition of A description of the villa of Mr. Horace Walpole. Strawberry Hill (1784), now in the Lewis Walpole Library, Farmington. Walpole seems to have owned a large number of Heckel’s drawings; two further drawings Heckel made in 1748, Dr Battys house at Twickenham and Governor Pitt’s house a[t] Twickenham, which were also engraved by Mason and published by Bowles were listed in Walpole’s collection at Strawberry Hill. It seems likely that this drawing was also part of the group owned by Walpole.