The People of Gibraltar
1854 - Alfred Guesdon - Terra Firma

Alfred Guesdon was a French architect best known for his magnificent lithographs. Many of these were aerial views of many European cities - including Gibraltar. Critics have suggested that these were based on photographs taken from an air balloon by the Welshman Charles Clifford. 

Nevertheless, I would say all the examples shown below were done from terra firma -  feet firmly planted on the top of the Rock. Whether from photos or not I don’t know – but it seems unlikely. In the 1850s, not too many people would have been able to take a photo as good as Guesdon’s pictures and I don't think any of them were in Gibraltar at the time.

As dates, Guesdon arrived in Gibraltar in October 1854. It took him ten hours by boat from Cadiz. Apart from the examples of his work shown below he also sketched some of Gibraltar’s caves – as well as that of a Scottish soldier.

All told he spent at least nine days on the Rock as he mentions being upset at not having managed to see the local macaques over this period of time. His notes also include descriptions of the town’s impressive fortifications and well-known galleries. 

He does not mention going to Algeciras but he must have as one of his three main themes shown below includes a view of the Spanish town with the Rock across the Bay as a backdrop.

The chronology of his out put as regards Gibraltar is possibly as follows.

This was his preliminary and only main sketch as later converted later into an engraving 

A while later another contemporary French artist Isidore Laurent Deroy must have been so taken aback by this scene that he made what is essentially a copy of it for himself.

(1850s - Isidore Laurent Deroy) 

Although the panoramic effect is no doubt imposing, its proportions are difficult to view properly on modern, digital screens. The same appears to have been valid for converting the work into a lithograph. Guesdon’s solution appears to have been as I have done below – He just chopped the thing in two.

For the left side of the panoramic picture he adding the Signal Station with its odd black leather ball signalling system of which he must have taken a few sketches while on the Rock.

Illuminated lithograph produced using the left hand sided of the panoramic view

For the bottom or right-hand side of the panoramic he changed both the dimensions and the perspective of the original and added a Scottish soldier in front of a more prominent “garrita” and ended up with this illuminated version.

He made one small mistake which he repeated on the lithograph.He included the convict ship Owen Glendower twice.

Finally, he must have visited Algeciras while he was in Gib to produced this one for which so far no original sketch seems to be available.

The Rock from across the Bay