View of the City and the Valley of Mexico, from Tacubaya
This panoramic vista of the Valley of Mexico depicts Mexico City in the background, lying low in the landscape and surrounded by short vegetation and plants. A small Spanish church stands in the bottom right, and a variety of Mexican flora—including trees, bushes, and cacti—fill the foreground. A woman at front center appears to be eating out of one of the cacti. In the background, the vista recedes into mountains rising into a lightly clouded sky.
Copyright 2009, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin, Madison
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“View of the City and Valley of Mexico, from Tacubaya” was printed for the first time in Six Months Residence and Travels in Mexico (1825), and never circulated in any other context.
William Bullock went to Mexico for six months in 1822, accompanied by his wife and oldest son (Baigent). Arriving in Veracruz from Jamaica, he journeyed to Xalapa, Pulque, Puebla, and Cholula before finally arriving in Mexico City, where he spent the remainder of his journey. Bullock’s expedition was primarily used to write observations for his 1825 book, Six Months Residence and Travel in Mexico, and to collect artifacts, documents, and illustrations for his 1824 exhibition, "Modern Mexico," shown at the Egyptian Hall in London (Bullock, Six Months' Residence; Bullock, Catalogue).
William Bullock (c.1780 – 1849)
William Bullock was a British naturalist and antiquarian, most famous for a series of books and exhibitions that played an influential role in presenting the natural history and culture of Mexico to a British audience. Though most likely from Birmingham originally, by 1801 Bullock was in Liverpool publishing a catalogue of the museum he opened there (Baigent). This was Bullock’s first foray into museum display. The museum exhibited a series of natural history and curiosity objects brought by Captain Cook from the South Pacific. In 1809 Bullock moved operations to London and opened his “Liverpool Museum” at the newly-erected Egyptian Hall of Piccadilly in 1812. In 1822 Bullock went to Mexico with his son, a trip that would form the basis of his most popular museum exhibit. Bullock was one of the first British travelers to Mexico, arriving only a year after Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821. Bullock’s acquisitions from Mexico—as well as a number of plaster models of monuments, manuscripts, and other documents—formed the basis for Bullock’s exhibition “Modern Mexico,” which opened at Egyptian Hall in April 1824. Catalogues for the exhibition were published in 1824 and 1825, and a panorama of Bullock’s drawings of Mexico City was exhibited by Robert Burford at his Leicester Square panorama in 1825 (Bullock, Catalogue; Burford). By the end of the year, Bullock sold the bulk of his Mexican collection to the British Museum, sold his lease on Egyptian Hall, and returned to Mexico with his new wife and children in order to begin operations in a silver mine. The venture proved fruitless, and by 1827 Bullock was back in Britain. In 1828, however, Bullock moved to the United States; there he produced Sketch of a Journey through the Western States of North America (1827), as well as a sketch of a town plan called Hygeia on what would later be the site of Ludlow, Kentucky; the plan was still being cited by town planners in the late twentieth century. Bullock returned to Britain in 1840, and died in Chelsea on March 7, 1849 (Baigent).
Tacubaya—known today as Tacuba—is now a section of northwest Mexico City, though it originally functioned as an autonomous municipality of Mexico until its incorporation into Mexico City in 1928. It is from Tacubaya that William Bullock drew his View of the City and Valley of Mexico, from Tacubaya in 1822. The drawing is featured as the frontispiece to Six Months Residence and Travels in Mexico, which was converted into a panoramic painting exhibited by Robert Burford at Leciester Square, London, in 1825 (Bullock, Six Months' Residence).
Robert Burford adapted Bullock’s image and rendered it as a panoramic painting for exhibition in his panorama at Leciester Square, London, in 1825; the original image is now lost.
One of the first panoramas produced in Mexico, this image gives a view of the valley of Mexico—with Mexico City in the distance—from what is now Tacuba.
During the Romantic period, panoramas—particularly those of exotic places—emerged as a popular form of public entertainment (Comment 7-8). Bullock’s View of the City and Valley of Mexico, from Tacubaya is the first panoramic landscape image produced in Mexico, and became the basis for the first public panorama of a Mexican locale to be exhibited anywhere in the world.
Bullock’s original image is the fold-out frontispiece of his Six Months Residence and Travels in Mexico (1825), which necessarily draws an analogy between the panoramic view of Mexico and the wide-ranging journey one takes as they read Bullock’s book. The image was later adapted to a large-scale public panorama by Robert Burford in London, making it one of the first panoramas in the world of a Mexican locale.
Baigent, Elizabeth. “Bullock, William (b. early 1780s, d. 1849).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Web. 2 April 2009.
Bullock, W. Six Months Residence and Travels in Mexico; Containing Remarks on the Present State of New Spain, Its Natural Productions, State of Society, Manufactures, Trade, Agriculture, Antiquities, &c. 2d ed. London, 1825. Print.
Bullock, William. Catalogue of the exhibition, called Modern Mexico : containing a panoramic view of the city, with specimens of the natural history of New Spain ... at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly. London London, 1824. Print.
Burford, Robert, J. Burford, and W. Bullock. Description of a View of the City of Mexico, and Surrounding Country, Now Exhibiting in the Panorama, Leicester-Square. London, 1825.
Comment, Bernard. The Panorama. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2004. Print.
Six Months Residence and Travels in Mexico