David Mocatta (1806–1882)
This extraordinary collection of studies was made by a young man who would become one of the most prominent architects of the nineteenth century. David Mocatta (1806–1882) was born into a Sephardic Jewish family in London, and studied under the distinguished Neoclassical architect Sir John Soane. Most of the works in our collection date from the period when Mocatta travelled in Europe, especially in Italy, from 1829 to 1830.
In his architectural career, Mocatta would become famous for designing the Ramsgate synagogue, which was possibly the first in England to be designed by a Jewish architect. Mocatta also left his mark on the railways: appointed architect of the London and Brighton Railway in 1839, he designed the company’s headquarters and boardroom in what is now Brighton Station, as well as many other station buildings along the route from London to Brighton. Often these were in Mocatta’s trademark Italianate style, which he had perfected on his travels.
Many of the studies in our collection demonstrate a real talent for rendering architectural detail in pen, ink and watercolour. Others are of the people he saw, especially during his time in Italy. The hooded friars of various different orders were clearly a source of fascination to him. All of these works show the same close observation and interest on the part of the artist, and the same ability to capture very quickly the things that he was seeing.