In early 1827 David Cox moved back to London from Hereford. His growing reputation as a watercolour painter both facilitated and perhaps made necessary his return to the Metropolis, where he found a range of new subject matters. Throughout the late 1820s and early 1830s Cox exhibited a series of London views at exhibiting societies. The present richly painted watercolour depicts the Banqueting House from Whitehall. The crowd, procession of mounted cavalry and distant view of the State Coach suggest that the view is of a scene of pageantry. The decade of the 1830s represented the high point of his engagement with popular book illustration and with the vogue for romantic images of life in the great country houses of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Cox’s meticulous recording of public events in London was the subject of contemporary anecdote. In 1831 Cox painted a large watercolour of the Opening of the New London Bridge, his early biographer, Nathaniel Neil Solly noted:
'On the 1st of August, 1831, the New London Bridge, which had taken seven years to build was opened with great ceremony by King William IV and Queen Adelaide. Cox who had formerly painted the embarkation of George IV at Greenwich for Scotland, went down to a coal wharf near St. Saviour’s Church, Bankside, to sketch preparations, &c., in watercolours. The gentleman who narrated this to me was a little boy at the time. He watched the artist all day at his work on the wharf, which was occupied by the boy’s father. He had an early taste for art, and when the drawing (a very beautiful one) was finished, he asked for it for his own. ‘Oh, my lad,’ replied Cox, ‘do you know it is worth five pounds?’ This drawing, I am informed, has since been sold for a hundred pounds.'
The present beautifully observed watercolour, is both a remarkable image of London in the 1830s, giving a rare view of Whitehall before the building works of the late nineteenth century and an impressive example of Cox’s work as a watercolourist. The scene is carefully constructed with subtle, richly layered washes ornamented with flecks of white body colour. The dense crowd is captured with an impressionistic ease, whilst Cox’s scrupulous accuracy as an observer betrays his practice of plein air work.