Povey’s pictures

Landscape with elegant figures walking along a country path, a distant view of a town (Delft?) beyond, by Willem van den Bundel, oil on panel. ©NTPL/John Hammond

This picture, and its pair below, are by Willem van den Bundel (c 1575-1655), a painter who moved from Flanders to Amsterdam, eventually settling in Delft. He was one of a number of Flemish artists who migrated north after the Spanish siege and subsequent fall of Antwerp in 1585, helping to create what became known as Holland’s Golden Age.

Landscape with figures passing a pond and resting traveller, a distant view of towns (Overschie and Rotterdam?) beyond, by Willem van den Bundel, oil on panel. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Van den Bundel seems to have learnt his craft from Gillis III van Coninxloo (1544-1607), who developed the depiction of wooded landscapes as a subject in its own right, an approach also seen in the paintings shown here.

Engraving of Dyrham Park by Johannes Kip (d.1722). ©NTPL

The National Trust purchased this pair of pictures at Sotheby’s in London in 2008 for Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire, with generous support from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. They had been sold in the big sale of 1954 when the Blathwayt family left Dyrham after two and a half centuries of occupation.

It is interesting to compare the above birds-eye-view of Dyrham, including the formal gardens and outbuildings, with the view of Newton House, of roughly the same date, shown in the previous post. In both places the baroque garden had to be inserted into a hilly site. 

Thomas Povey, by Michael Wright, c 1658, at Dyrham Park. ©NTPL

The pictures originally came from Thomas Povey (1618?-1700?), who moved in court circles and was a founder member of the Royal Society. He kept a splendidly furnished house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London, where the diarist Samuel Pepys admired his wine cellar and collection of Dutch pictures.

Ornamental fowl, attributed to Melchior de Hondecoeter, at Dyrham. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

In 1693 Povey sold a number of pictures as well as about 500 books to his nephew William Blathwayt (1649?-1717), a succesful civil servant. Blathwayt used the paintings to furnish his new country house, Dyrham Park.

A trompe l'oeil picture by Samuel van Hoogstraeten terminates the view through several doors at Dyrham. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Dutch pictures would have been regarded as advanced at the time, and they may also have signalled Blathwayt’s allegiance to the King William III, who had been invited to come over from Holland and oust the unpopular James II in 1688. Blathwayt had previously worked for James II, but his ability to speak Dutch and his general usefulness ensured him a place in the new administration.

27 Responses to “Povey’s pictures”

  1. Hels Says:

    “Thomas Povey (1618?-1700?), who moved in court circles and was a founder member of the Royal Society. He kept a splendidly furnished house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London, where the diarist Samuel Pepys admired his wine cellar and collection of Dutch pictures.” In other words he was a handsome devil, well educated, well connected, with a fine taste in booze and the arts. What more could a person possibly want? I would have married him in a heartbeat.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Quite :) Except he was apparently rather hopeless at managing the government posts he had been given (the ultra-efficient Pepys was scathing about that), but then he married a wealthy widow, so all was well in the end!

  3. Barbara Says:

    You know, there is hardly much to say about your posts. They are just as I would have written them and answer all of the questions before I can ask them. They are pretty nearly perfect.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Too much praise! I need some really harsh criticism for a change :)

  5. Barbara Says:

    Perhaps next time. When I taught during grad school, the kids thought I was a terribly hard grader.

  6. Janet Says:

    You know, I have been thinking lately about Dyrham…and specifically about that Samuel van Hoogstraeten painting! The Dutch-English connection I suppose. I have been toying with the idea of a post on the topic (once it has all settled in my brain).

  7. The Dutch connection « Treasure Hunt Says:

    [...] Park, in Gloucestershire, has a variety of Dutch collections. I previously mentioned the Dutch paintings, but there is also a rare collection of seventeenth-century Delft [...]

  8. Steven Blathwayt Tribe Says:

    Yes, I am related!
    Well, the general opinion was that he was dull. But pretty efficient in his administration. Dyrham Park is lucky in that none of his direct descendents actually had real income outside of the Estate which came with his Wynter bride heiress. So the furnishings remained the same for centuries apart from the occasional panic auction sales in the 19th and 20th centuries.
    His income and building activiies (commission on services rended – an accepted part of the administrative system then) was so much (it included the Colonies of North America and the West Indies) that snide remarks were common from the established peerage and other less well-off members of the “Civil Service”.

  9. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Steven, thank you for your comments. As you say, we are fortunate that the original William Blathwayt’s descendants didn’t change Dyrham Park very much.

    And as I mentioned in another post, William Blathwayt may have been considered dull, but his taste was positively exuberant, which helped to make Dyrham the wonderful place it still is today.

  10. Steven Blathwayt Tribe Says:

    I feel you have rather assumed that the art and books he bought from his Uncle in 1683 were for Dyrham Park. This is not the case. This was long before his marriage settlement with Mary Wynter and his remodeling of Dyrham Park. They were installed in his Whitehall house and moved later.

    How many of the Dyrham paintings were originally in Povey’s ownership is unknown. I think there exists a list from the period. Blathwayt wrote everything down, but descriptions could apply to many of the paintings. The only one which was certainly in Povey’s ownership was the “door perspective” which caught Pepys’ and other’s eye and duly recorded in their diaries.

    Some of the original Povey paintings could have been lost. There was an earlier panic auction in the 19th century. It is doubtful that Col. George Blathwayt (a member of a cadet branch by that time) was able to buy back all the “lost” items when he started his “Save Dyrham’s heritage” campaign.

  11. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes indeed I should have said ‘Blathwayt later used the paintings to furnish his new country house…’

    And the complicated and diverse provenance of the paintings at Dyrham shows how one can never assume anything about the history of a historic house, as there were so many twists and turns, inheritances, purchases, sales, etc.

  12. Paul Wynter Says:

    I’ve traced my family back to Mary Wynter and inherited some documents from them and also recently acquired some more regarding the fortunes of the Blathwayts. It shows quite clearly large-scale borrowings in order, no doubt, to support the Estate right up until the 1900s…most interesting, at least the house remains intact in the care of the NT, and wasn’t dynamited like many other country houses that had fallen prey to so many hardships.

  13. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Paul, thank you for your comment – how interesting that you can trace your ancestry back to the Dyrham heiress Mary Wynter, the wife of the original William Blathwayt. Yes the Blathwayts seem to have been fairly impecunious for much of the 18th and 19th centuries. But the economic history of landed estates is indeed fascinating – David Cannadine has written about the subject, for instance in ‘Aspects of Aristocracy’.

    • Steven Tribe Says:

      Paul writes:

      “also recently acquired some more regarding the fortunes of the Blathwayts.”

      Rescuing important documents about Dyrham Park and the Blathwayt/Wynter estates is a good thing to do Paul. But the real place for these is a centralised deposit, like the NT or the relevant Regional archive in Gloucester. I, too have collected Marriage Setllements in the family and loan documents from the mid-19th century. These have all been deposited at the NT.,.

    • Paul Wynter Says:

      Thanks Emile, I put this in my facebook site along with old prints of the house I currently live in which had the facade and the major portions removed by its former owners, who could not keep up with the bills. I can’t remember the author:- – “Old country houses wax and wane like the fortunes of their owners and the prevailing winds of change. The country house is now probably considered by many to be archaic and anachronistic. Our age abhors privilege, real or imagined. Taxation and lack of servants have made the “privilege” of living in a country house, and the responsibility of its upkeep a problem which few people will willingly undertake. Perversely in such circumstances, the more obsolete and anachronistic the country house becomes, the more interest in it, its contents, its owner and his affairs, grows. It is well known that most interest is shown in the houses which remain the home of a family, especially an “ancient” one. An eccentric or scandalous one is a bonus. It is only necessary to scan the shelves of any substantial bookshop to see how great is the market for books devoted to country houses in all their many aspects. At the present time the greatest influence on interior decorating seems to be what is, or is believed to be “country” or “country house” style and even the stores which cater for the multitudes rather than the informed are full of furnishings and clothing which people see as typical of “country house” life.”

      As an institution the country house is some four hundred years old. It has taken only the space of one lifetime to destroy it. James Lees Milne has summed up the situation – “The first World War gravely shook the foundations. The second World War toppled it. Subsequent social trends have brought it crashing to the ground.

  14. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Steven, I very much appreciate your generous and public-minded attitude :)

    Paul, I will try to have a look on your Facebook page.

  15. Paul Wynter Says:

    “deposited at the NT”, does that mean they are publicly available on line in a reasonable high-resolution format?

    • Steven Tribe Says:

      Before replying, I realise that this is blog related to the Fine Art legacy at the National Trust.
      But, in the special case of Dyrham Park, there is a long occupancy by a family which maintained good records starting with William Blathwayt I. This gives a, perhaps unique, insight into the Social and Economic history of the big house, the problems it caused the occupants, and of the estate tenants. The NT realises this in the way it promotes Dyrham Park.

      I have given all the legal documents I have acquired about the Blathways and the Estates to the NT. I believe, as is their practice with documents, that they have been deposited at the Gloucester Archive.
      These are documents that were not there already!

      I doubt these documents are on-line at present.
      But, hopefully, some time in the future.

      This makes research much easier

  16. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Most of the archive documents relating the to the historic houses we own and manage have been deposited with local and regional record offices, so it depends on how each record office makes their holdings available. But it is great that you are sharing the documents you hold through Facebook – would you be able to provide a link to you your page?

  17. Paul Wynter Says:

    I am sorry, my facebook page is nothing to do with Dyrham or indeed Mary Wynter and all the other Wynters, it is merely a private social communication tool we use between friends and family. I have some pages that relate to large country houses and their waxing and waning, and of course, something that relates to Dyrham.

  18. Paul Wynter Says:

    I meant to add, the Dyrham pages on the NT web site are in tatters, lots of broken links and in fact any documented history relating families that have lived there should in my opinion be placed on a public access system with high resolution scans available for printing and research. In any event, those wishing to keep their documents rather than donating them to some dusty ad-hoc council run library, should scan them and “donate them” – after all, most are in a dilapidated condition already. The image database should be maintained by the NT, in perpetuity. I wouldn’t give anything to anyone unless this condition was fully met. It’s the modern world…Looking at Dyrham Park house without knowing about the accounts and mortgages surrounding its history and final disposal is like looking at it through the fog…

    • Steven Blathwayt Tribe Says:

      Paul – you write:

      “Looking at Dyrham Park house without knowing about the accounts and mortgages surrounding its history and final disposal is like looking at it through the fog.”

      I totally agree with what you say here. This is why I have donated the complete mortgage document for the Blathwayt estates from 1856. I believe you may have recently acquired a similar, later, mortgage!
      In order to illuminate the economic history of the estate, the NT/Dyrham Park needs to have access to the source material.
      Their (the NT’s) deposition of written material within the National Archive system is obviously sensible.

      I do not share you sentiments about the NT/UK Archive organisations! Within their budgetary restraints, they do a good job. All my contacts with them through the years have been with helpful and interested people.

  19. Paul Wynter Says:

    Mr Tribe, my comments are directed at the local councils (“local and regional record offices”, as Emile points out) who may have documents in their archives, and certainly not the NT, (The NT web site regarding Dyrham currently has problems however). I do have a large box of legal papers, some refer to Porlock and others to Dyrham, some earlier and some later than yours, not just just a single mortgage that was acquired on ebay recently, (I think you refer to that?). Although, it isn’t the first time that important Blathwayt papers have turned up on ebay!. I have already offered them to the NT at Dyrham last month, (I am a member anyway!) but as I live abroad most of the year it may take some time to show them. I do have technical facilities to image them at high resolution, so I may just be able to provide data instead. I do not think that a server dedicated to storing imagery these days and piped on-line costs much to maintain and “scanning” can now be done at very high resolution using a professional camera. The old paintings and collections of the house are on line, why not the documents that reveal more of its history? The move towards digitisation and the liberal access of everything important continues apace, and quite rightly so. The NT’s health depends on the goodwill of hosts of volunteers, more so than ever in the light of the decline in central funding. Let’s hope there are more people like Emile in the NT and they can get involved with placing data on line which technically minded volunteers can contribute towards. Quod erat demonstrandum.

    • Steven Blathwayt Tribe Says:

      Dear Paul,

      I am delighted you have been in touch with NT.

      The Dyrham contact is Dr. Goulding at the Reading Office, which I am sure you know already.
      He was made aware of this Mortgage document during the auction you mentioned, but funding was/is a problem.

      These documents turn up regularly, as you say, as Solicitors, clean our their ancient boxes.

      He will be back in his office from the 4th of March.
      Perhaps, the NT could use the opportunity to start a project about Dyrham’s many economic crises – which could be on-line? This could include the Marriage Settlements (which indicate great lack of confidence in the Blathwayt’s finances), the many auctions and re-purchases, Family help through Lord Liverpool etc.

  20. Andrew Says:

    I was recently reading about the recently published biography of the archaeologist Tessa Wheeler, wife of Sir Mortimer Wheeler. Her papers are spread across a variety of universities, museums and records offices. For example, the archives of Dorchester County Museum are apparently in a dusty deconsecrated church, with few visitors save mice. http://blog.oup.com/2012/05/tessa-verney-wheeler-research/

  21. Paul Wynter Says:

    On a similar “ecclesiastical” bent, I used to live next door to the British Library and one lunch time or playing truant, I remember finding in the reading room a dusty glass case with a dead sea scroll fragment in it, bearing the title “The secret words of Jesus”…….

  22. Andrew Says:

    I should expend on my reasons for mentioning Tessa Wheeler in this context. Her papers are spread about: there is no comprehensive archive. Some papers are looked after carefully, some less so. And there is always the chance of the dreaded “deaccessioning”. Consider, for example, the the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s policy of selling “lesser” works.

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