Lot #464
Christopher Wren

Exceedingly rare 1700 autograph of the St. Paul’s Cathedral architect
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Estimate: $2000+


Exceedingly rare 1700 autograph of the St. Paul’s Cathedral architect

Distinguished and influential British architect (1632-1723) who played a leading role in the rebuilding of London following the devastating Great Fire of 1666, and whose St. Paul’s Cathedral takes a place among the greatest designs in the history of architecture. Rare ink signature, "Chr. Wren,” on an off-white 4.75 x 4.75 segment of a manuscript ledger page from an account book kept by the Royal Hospital at Chelsea, which was designed by Wren and completed in 1692. Also signed by two other Hospital Commissioners—Lord Ranelagh, the Paymaster General, and Sir Stephen Fox—the partial document is dated April 1700, and the opposite side bears entries that record payments made in April and June 1699; among the recipients were tradesmen including a plumber, plasterer, carpenter, painter, and bricklayer. In fine condition.

The Royal Hospital was founded by King Charles II, who authorized its construction in 1681 to offer care for old or injured soldiers of the monarchy. The acclaimed architect’s structure still stands. Wren's design for the original building was intended to house 412 veteran soldiers and their officers, with additional parts accommodating a Great Hall, chapel, kitchen, infirmary, and officers’ quarters. Work was completed in 1692, five years before Wren’s landmark St. Paul’s Cathedral re-opened. It’s worth noting that the financial theme of this document dates to a period in which the very existence of the project was threatened, as mismanagement and embezzlement by the paymaster-general appointed by King James II delayed construction and hampered the admission of patients. For his part, however, Wren saw to it that financial matters within his creation ran as smoothly as possible.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts
  • Dates: #600 - Ended January 13, 2021

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