Novelty characterized the Victorian period, an era known for inventions, remarkable technological advances, and engineering marvels. In 1851 Victoria’s prince consort, Albert, organized the Great Exhibition at Hyde Park, London, an international trade show that became a symbol of the Victorian Age. Housed in the architectural marvel of the Crystal Palace, a splendid glass and iron building designed by Sir Joseph Paxton (English, 1803–1865) and open for just five months, the exhibition drew over six million visitors thanks to the railways. They came to see not just the fabulous displays but also the building itself, which was completely prefabricated, a departure from most construction of the day. Paxton, best known for his conservatory designs, had created a greenhouse on an unprecedented scale. After the exhibition, the Crystal Palace was re-erected at Sydenham and displayed a mixture of ancient and exotic art, along with botanical specimens from around the world. It survived at that site until destroyed by fire in 1936.
James Duffield Harding, whose Crystal Palace painting is reproduced here, was a highly respected landscape painter and lithographer who also wrote a series of popular teaching books on drawing and painting.
(WARNING: Choking hazard—small parts. Not suitable for children under 3 years.)