In 1790 Julius Caesar Ibbetson, a big gregarious Yorkshireman, was visiting Cardiff painting on commission for Lord Bute. Among the resulting pictures is 'The Bridge of Beauty', a view of the pre-industrial Taff valley with William Edwards’ bridge at Pontypridd in the distance. This bridge had been hailed as the first in Europe to exceed the span of the Rialto in Venice. Ibbetson was told that Pontypridd means ‘bridge of beauty’. It doesn’t; that would be ‘Pontprydd’. Close, but not close enough. Pontypridd is a contraction of ‘Pont-y-ty-pridd’, or ‘bridge by the earthen house’, not such an attractive title for a painting. So, poor Ibbetson was one of the first to be deceived by the mischievous mistranslation of a Welsh place name to impress an English visitor. Edwards’ famous bridge was painted by two generations of landscape artists, from Richard Wilson to Turner. It is the reason why there are more paintings of Pontypridd than of any other town in the South Wales valleys except Merthyr Tydfil. Fortunately, the early popularity of this one subject seems to have inspired generations of local artists to paint the town, its people and its landscape through the changes of the last 200 years. Equally fortunately, a good selection of these works was collected by successive local librarians, and their transfer from Pontypridd Library to the Museum, followed by some new acquisitions, has given us a small but worthwhile collection.
Bridge Street, Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf CF37 4PE Wales
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