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View, Russia, St. Petersburg, Vue d’optique, Winter Palace, Antique Print, Laurie & Whittle, London, 1794


A View of the Antient [sic] Winter Palace belonging to her Imperial Majesty, and of the Canal which joins the Moika to the Neva, at St. Petersburg
Laurie & Whittle, London: May 12, 1794
Hand-colored engraving, mounted on card, as issued
11 x 16.5 inches, image
11.75 x 17.25 inches, overall

View of the Winter Palace at St. Petersburg, showing the canal joining the Moika and Neva Rivers and boats in the harbor. There were a series of buildings called “the Winter Palace” in St. Petersburg; this print shows the third Winter Palace, which was demolished in 1732. Therefore, when the print was published some 62 years later, the artist of this view was evidently working from an earlier engraving or painting of a building that no longer existed; hence the title refers to it as the ancient Winter Palace. Titled below the image in English and French.

Product description continues below.


This view is in the general format and size of a vue d’optique — a perspective view produced as a hand-colored print generally intended to be viewed through a convex lens. Vues d’optique often were rendered in high-key color and dramatic linear perspective which enhanced the illusion of three-dimensionality when viewed through the lens, making it seem like the viewer was really there. Thus, they served as a form of visual entertainment. The viewing devices were known variously as zograscopes, optiques, optical machines and peepshows. According to the Getty Research Institute, street performers would set up viewing boxes with a series of prints giving a pictorial tour of famous landmarks, dramatic events and foreign lands. Vues d’optique were also purchased by Grand Tour travelers as souvenirs to be viewed at home as a parlor activity. To cater to this broad audience, the prints often had titles and descriptions in two or more languages. Because the images are reversed in viewing devices, the main titles on some vues d’optique are backwards. Vues d’optique were also hung on walls as decoration. This particular rare example is backed on card, as issued, and with a central cloth loop, for hanging without a frame.

Robert Laurie (1755-1836) and James Whittle (1757-1818) were London map, chart and printsellers active from 1794 to 1812 trading variously as Laurie and Whittle or Whittle and Laurie. Laurie began his career as an accomplished mezzotint engraver and exhibited at the Society of Artists from 1770 to 1776. With Whittle, he took over the large map and print business of Robert Sayer. Laurie & Whittle published many atlases and maps and products used for jigsaw puzzles. Robert’s son, Richard Holmes Laurie, succeeded him upon his retirement in 1812, and after Whittle’s death in 1818 carried on the business alone until at least 1840. The firm still exists as Imray, Laurie, Norie and Wilson Ltd., which has long specialized in marine charts.

Full publication information: “Publish’d according to Act of Parliament. Published 12th May, 1794 by Laurie & Whittle, 53, Fleet Street, London.”

Title in French, lower right: “Vüe de l’ancien Palais d’hiver de sa Majesté Imperiale, et du Canal qui Joint la Moika avec la Neva, a St. Petersburg.”

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, soiling. Mounted on stiff card with cloth loop, as issued, for hanging without a frame (rare as such).


“Emperor’s Palace in Beijing.” Devices of Wonder. J. Paul Getty Trust. 2001. (30 September 2002).

Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. 2001. and (20 May 2009).

“Winter Palace.” Wikipedia. 27 April 2009. (29 May 2009).

Additional information


19th Century