What’s in the image

The music pavilion in Vauxhall Gardens is shown with singer (Frederika Weichsell) at the lower balcony with the orchestra behind her. Supper boxes are below with some people eating, many people in the concourse looking up at the singer and chatting, trees throughout, the colonnade behind and some lascivious behaviour in the far corner.

Who’s in the image

In this drawing it is possible to identify many well known people including Samuel Johnson (full-face) in the supper-box below the orchestra, the writers James Boswell and Oliver Goldsmith, and Mrs Thrale (who appears twice); society figures – the Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) and her sister Lady Duncannon being watched by a naval figure with an eye patch and a wooden leg (thought to be Admiral Paisley, but Paisley did not lose his leg and eye until 1st June 1794), the Prince of Wales with star, who became king as George IV in 1820, chatting to his mistress, the actress Mary “Perdita” Robinson. Peering at the two ladies from behind a tree is a figure traditionally, though improbably, identified as Sir Henry Bate-Dudley, the “Fighting Parson”, editor of the Morning Herald; he is more likely to be Thomas Tyers (son of Jonathan Tyers) who stands next to the Scotsman James Perry, editor of the London Gazette.

In the orchestra can be seen Jacob Nelson [Neilson], the tympanist, who had played at Vauxhall since 1735, and died there after fifty years’ performing, Carl Fischer on oboe, probably Hezekiah Cantelo and Mr Sargent on trumpet, and Francois-Hippolyte Barthélemon, the leader, who retired in 1783. James Hook, the composer, organist, musical director and prolific song-writer, may be seen between Barthelemon and the singer, the 38-year-old Mrs Weichsell, who was the artist Rowlandson’s next-door neighbour in Church Street, and the mother of  the singer Elizabeth Billington. Elizabeth had just (aged 18) married James Billington, a double-bass player, in 1783, much against her parents’ wishes.

There people could not all have been present at the same time due to their dates, so it is a creation by the artist bringing together many of those who would have visited the Gardens at different times.