London to Hong Kong in Two Hours: 50 metre painting goes up for auction for first time

Victoria Ward
The rare panorama was created by a father and son circa 1860

It takes the traveller on a dramatic journey from London to Hong Kong, through Jerusalem and Jaffa, past bustling train stations, a Bedouin camp and a band of lawless robbers.

Yet this extraordinary, colourful adventure was created long before cinema and television screens began beaming pictures from around the world.

Described as a precursor to cinema, the 50-metre painting was created in around 1860 to be viewed as a moving image, the travel programme of its day.

It was created by John Lamb and his son, also called John, who were London-based shipping agents and artists who are not thought to have ever travelled to Hong Kong but depict various incidents they will have heard about such as the poisoning at the ESing bakery in Hong Kong.

The rare panorama forms part of Sotheby’s inaugural Art of Travel and Exploration sale which takes place next Thursday. It is the first time it has come up for auction, having remained in the artists’ family and has an estimated sale price of up to £80,000.

Experts said it would originally have been mounted onto wooden spools, operated by hand. The panorama would have been accompanied by a humorous narrative, written by the younger Mr Lamb, which survives in its original form and is included in the sale.

London to Hong Kong in Two Hours

Richard Lowkes, 19th century European paintings specialist a Sotheby’s, said: “London to Hong Kong in Two Hours is an amazing survival from the golden age of the moving panorama. It was very exciting for us to unroll the panorama in its entirety for the first time, and see the bright vivid colours which are as fresh today as when the work was painted over 150 years ago.

“Taking in highlights such as Jerusalem, the pyramids, and the Red Sea, and in Sri Lanka banyan trees and a tiger hunt, the panorama is full of details which bring to life both west and east as seen through the eyes of a Victorian traveller.”