Sic transit gloria mundi (The Burning of the Spa Saloon)

John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836–1893)
Sic transit gloria mundi (The Burning of the Spa Saloon), 1876

Grimshaw’s depiction of the night the Spa Saloon burnt down is regarded as one of the collection’s most iconic paintings. The Latin phrase ‘Sic transit gloria mundi’ means ‘Thus passes worldy glory’.

In the early seventeenth century natural mineral waters were discovered in Scarborough. A Mrs Farrow or Farrer is said to have been the person who discovered that the waters could have medicinal properties and, within decades, Scarborough became a place to ‘take the waters’. By the early 1700s a spa house was built to sell the waters to visitors to improve their health. By the 18th century, Scarborough’s reputation as a spa town grew, leading to the town’s claim to be England’s first true seaside resort. A Victorian artist known for his atmospheric moonlit paintings, Grimshaw often visited Scarborough in the summer months regularly renting a house there, which he called Castle-by-the-Sea, in the late 1870s.