Lyme Park’s rococo moment

Detail of one of the pair of carved giltwood side tables with Portoro marble tops, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

Detail of one of the pair of carved giltwood side tables with Portoro marble tops, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

Among the items recently accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Lyme Park are some pieces of wonderfully sculptural rococo furniture.

One of a pair of carved giltwood side tables with Portoro marble tops, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

One of a pair of carved giltwood side tables with Portoro marble tops, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

This allocation includes a pair of carved giltwood side tables with Portoro marble tops and two pairs of carved giltwood wall brackets. One of the pairs supports two Chinese Dehua porcelain female figures.

Pair of carved giltwood brackets, mid 18th century, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

Pair of carved giltwood brackets, mid 18th century, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

The rococo furniture at Lyme was originally acquired by Peter Legh XIII, who inherited the house in 1744. He finished the decoration of a number of rooms remodeled by his uncle Peter Legh XII in the 1730s and early 1740s.

Female figure in Chinese Dehua porcelain, Kangxi period (1662-1722), on English carved giltwood bracket, mid 18th century, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

Female figure in Chinese Dehua porcelain, Kangxi period (1662-1722), on English carved giltwood bracket, mid 18th century, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

Pseudo-Chinese birds, perhaps echoing the decoration of the Chinese porcelain in the house, appear on some of the rococo girandoles introduced by Peter XIII. At the same time he also seems to have added the 17th century oak paneling that came from another family house, Bradley in Lancashire, demonstrating the eclecticism of the middle of the 18th century.

View of the Drawing Room at Lyme, showing one of the rococo carved giltwood girandoles. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

View of the Drawing Room at Lyme, showing one of the rococo carved giltwood girandoles. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The giltwood chandeliers and the harpsichord by Hitchcock also date from this period.

View of the Saloon at Lyme, with one of the carved giltwood rococo chandeliers and the contemporary harpsichord. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

View of the Saloon at Lyme, with one of the carved giltwood rococo chandeliers and the contemporary harpsichord. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

But it wasn’t all sweetness and light: Peter XIII ended up separated from his wife, led astray by his mistress and his manipulative sister, being wheeled up and down the galleries at Lyme in a bath chair. Following Peter XIII’s death in 1792 the house entered a period of neglect which wouldn’t be reversed until his great-nephew Thomas Legh came of age in 1813.

4 Responses to “Lyme Park’s rococo moment”

  1. Susan Walter Says:

    I know you — feigning an interest in rococo giltwood carvings just so you can talk about Chinese figurines :-) What’s with that figurine, anyway? Are her head and hands made of something different to the costume or is it just a different finish eg the difference between a mat and a glossy finish?

    The drawing room is taking the eclectic nature of the collection rather seriously!

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes it looks a bit sly, doesn’t it (for those, like you, who know me) :) But honestly I do like these carved pieces of furniture very much, they are so exuberant. I suppose the mention of Chinese elements is simply because my mind is now completely warped by my passion for chinoiserie – I see it everywhere :)

    And yes well spotted: the hand and head are articulated. I don’t know where that feature originated, but it seems to have been used to make these items more amusing and attractive to western consumers.

  3. beeskep Says:

    Those nasty women who led poor, mindless Peter astray should be ashamed.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Such bad girls :) But equally Peter XIII was lampooned as ‘a good caricature of a body coachman’ – body coachmen being the drivers of state coaches, who were known for being proud, empty-headed, temperamental and prone to drink. His nephew and heir Thomas Peter Legh was if anything even more body-coachmanlike, having seven children with seven different women, none of whom was his wife. His son and heir, by contrast, was a traveler, collector, archaeologist, Egyptologist and all-round adventurer in the Byronic mould, who revived Lyme Park.

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