London, World City - for External Consumption?
Robert Thorne discusses 19th-century London on show in Germany
Many visitors to London this year will have been disappointed to find that the things they were looking forward to seeing are not available. David Wilkie's great painting 'Chelsea Pensioners reading the Waterloo Dispatch' is not to be found hanging at Apsley House. Many of the popular favourites at the National Portrait Gallery are not on display, such as Richard Westall's dashing portrait of Lord Byron and Samuel Drummond's depiction of Marc Isambard Brunel against the backdrop of his Thames Tunnel. And most mysteriously, Jeremy Bentham's body and its mahogany case have gone missing from their accustomed corner in the main corridor of University College.
To track down these, and hundreds of other paintings and objects, has meant a journey to Essen, where in the former residence of the Krupp steel-making dynasty a gigantic exhibition about London in the period 1800 -1840 has been on display.
Metropole London is at the Villa Hugel until November 8th, and there are no plans to transfer it to other places. But for those with neither the time nor money to dart to Germany before it closes there is a magnificent catalogue, edited by the exhibition's organiser, Celina Fox, which is available in an English edition (Yale University Press, £45). Complete with no less than fourteen introductory essays, this volume is one of the most thought-provoking studies of London to be published for a long time.