Archive for the ‘Art Fund’ Category

Questions of value

July 10, 2014
Leather fire bucket at Florence Court, Co Fermanagh, inv. no. 630933. The painted tendrils shaped into an 'E' stand for 'Enniskillen', the earldom of the Cole family which owned Florence Court. ©National Trust

Leather fire bucket, at Florence Court, Co. Fermanagh, inv. no. 630933. The painted tendrils shaped into an ‘E’ stand for ‘Enniskillen’, the earldom of the Cole family which owned Florence Court. ©National Trust

Yesterday I attended a conference organised by the Art Fund about the value of museums. There were a number of stimulating discussions about what kind of value museums have and how that value operates.

There seemed to be a consensus that museums should focus on what they are really good at: collecting, looking after, researching and making accessible interesting and beautiful things. It was commented that museums can have social and economic benefits too, but that those are best delivered through that core purpose.

Painted 'grotesque' decoration with tendrils, leaves and ribbons in the boudoir at Attingham Park, 1780s, possibly by Louis-André Delabrière. ©National Trust Images/James Mortimer

Painted ‘grotesque’ decoration with tendrils, leaves and ribbons in the boudoir at Attingham Park, 1780s, possibly by Louis-André Delabrière. ©National Trust Images/James Mortimer

There were some fascinating and contrasting examples of ‘value’. At one end of the spectrum, Graham W.J. Beal, director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, described the struggle to preserve a collection which is threatened with sale in order to plug the pensions deficit of the city. At the other end, Jack Persekian, director of the Palestinian Museum – as yet without a building and without a collection – showed examples of the objects cherished by individual Palestinians, objectively modest things which nevertheless have enormous subjective power.

This investigation of ‘value’ reminded me of the collections of the National Trust, where the modest can sometimes be just as significant as the fine. The leather bucket shown above was once simply an item of fire prevention at Florence Court. But the way it was made, its aged appearance and its connection to a particular place now give it an distinct aura, speaking to us on a number of different levels.

The charming conceit of painting the house owner’s initial on the bucket in vaguely classical tendrils links it to a long tradition of classicised floral decoration. The boudoir at Attingham, in the second image above, is another, particularly fine example of that tradition. And that boudoir, in turn, demonstrates how objects never exist in a vacuum, but always ‘speak’ to other objects within certain spaces and relationships.

So that leads me to propose that the value of museums, and of heritage more widely, resides in relationships: between objects, between objects and places and between objects and people.

A Roman quartet returns to Wimpole

June 3, 2014
Detail of the bust of the emperor Caracallarecently returned to Wimpole Hall (inv. no. 2900080). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Detail of the bust of the emperor Caracalla recently returned to Wimpole Hall (inv. no. 2900080). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Four seventeenth-century Roman marble busts have recently returned to Wimpole Hall after a 60-year absence.

The four Roman busts back in the entrance hall at Wimpole. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The four Roman busts back in the entrance hall at Wimpole. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Two of the busts, of the emperor Caracalla and of a man described as ‘a philosopher’, were accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by the Government and allocated to Wimpole.

The bust of the 'philosopher', whose identity is yet to be further researched (inv. no. 2900081). ©National Trust/Phil MynottPhilosopher Phil Mynott

The bust of the ‘philosopher’, whose identity is yet to be further researched (inv. no. 2900081). ©National Trust/Phil MynottPhilosopher Phil Mynott

The other two, of the emperor Trajan and of another as yet unidentified emperor, were purchased by private treaty with the help of grants from the Art Fund, from a fund set up by the late the Hon. Simon Sainsbury, the Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Levy bequest and other gifts and bequests.

The busts of an as yet unidentified emperor (left) and Trajan (right) in the inner hall,  flanking curator Wendy Monkhouse, who originally made the case for their acquisition. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The busts of an as yet unidentified emperor (left) and Trajan (right) in the inner hall, flanking curator Wendy Monkhouse, who originally made the case for their acquisition. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The busts are back on display in the entrance hall, where they were previously, and they join a fifth bust of the emperor Marcus Aurelius which had remained at Wimpole.

Unidentified emperor (inv. no. 2900083). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Unidentified emperor (inv. no. 2900083). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The Wimpole provenance of this group of busts can be traced back to at least the 1770s, but they may have been part of of the collection of Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford (1689-1741) who, apart from being a voracious bibliophile, also collected coins and antiquities.

The emperor Trajan (inv. no. 2900082). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott Phil Mynott

The emperor Trajan (inv. no. 2900082). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott Phil Mynott

The busts were made in Rome in the seventeenth century in response to the strong demand across Europe for objects evoking Roman history. Bust such as these referenced the lives and achievements of the different Roman emperors.

The emperor Marcus Aurelius (inv. no. 208037) on the great staircase. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The emperor Marcus Aurelius (inv. no. 208037) on the great staircase. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Trajan and Marcus Aurelius were among the good guys overseeing Rome’s golden age. The fratricidal Caracalla was definitely a bad boy, but his brooding countenance – and the fact that he came to power while in York – made his bust popular in eighteenth-century England.

Julia Glynn of Cliveden Conservation preparing the bust of Caracalla for display. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Julia Glynn of Cliveden Conservation preparing the bust of Caracalla for display. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The busts have been prepared for display by Clivenden Conservation and placed on the carved wooden plinths made for them by the Cambridge firm of Rattee and Kett in about 1860.

Pictures and their uses

February 26, 2013
Attributed to Gaspard Dughet, Landscape with a Storm, at Osterley Park, London, donated by the estate of Sir Denis Mahon, 2013. ©National Trust Collections, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation.st, Osterley Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Gaspard Dughet, Landscape with a Storm. NT 771276. ©National Trust Collections, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation.

It has just been announced that the estate of Sir Denis Mahon is donating a painting attributed to Gaspard Dughet (1615-1675), Landscape with a Storm, to Osterley Park, where it had been on loan since 2001. Through the Art Fund the Mahon estate is also donating a further group of important Italian baroque paintings to a number of UK museums.

Sir Denis Mahon (1910-2011)

Sir Denis Mahon (1910-2011)

Sir Denis Mahon, CH, CBE (1910-2011) was an art historian of independent means who in the 1940s and 1950s pioneered the study of Italian 17th-century painting. He built up his own collection of Italian baroque pictures at a time when they were out of favour and relatively inexpensive.

Perhaps as a result of his fascination with ‘unfashionable’ pictures, Sir Denis was strongly opposed to the deaccessioning of art from public collections. He also campaigned for free entry to museums and to improve the effectiveness of the scheme whereby works of art can be accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax. He effectively used his own collection as a juicy carrot dangled in front of the various civil servants and ministers of the day – an interestingly ‘political’ use of fine art.

Gaspard Dughet, Wooded Rocky Landscape, at Osterley Park, London, donated by Sir Denis Mahon, 1996. NT 772275. ©National Trust Collections, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation.

Gaspard Dughet, Wooded Rocky Landscape, at Osterley Park, London, donated by Sir Denis Mahon, 1996. NT 772275 ©National Trust Collections, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation.

Sir Denis had already donated another Dughet, Wooded Rocky Landscape, to Osterley in 1996. Both paintings help to recreate the lost late 18th-century picture hang at Osterley. This painting had previously been owned by the important 19th-century collectors William Graham (1818-1885), a Glasgow cotton manufacturer, and Charles Henry Mills, 1st Baron Hillingdon (1830-1898), owner of the bank Glyn, Mills & Co (which, coincidentally, took over the bank Child & Co, owned by the Child-Villiers family of Osterley, in 1924).

Dughet, a French painter born in Italy, was the brother-in-law and pupil of Nicolas Poussin, and his pictures were popular among British Grand Tourists.

One portrait, two stories

April 5, 2012

Portrait of Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke, as Lord Chancellor, by Thomas Hudson, at Hammond-Harwood House. ©Hammond-Harwood House

The recent post about Lord Chancellor Hardwicke’s purse at Wimpole Hall prompted a comment from Allison Titman, curator of Hammond-Harwood House, a historic mansion in Annapolis, Maryland, saying that they, too, have a portrait of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke.

Hammond-Harwood House, Annapolis, Maryland. ©Hammond-Harwood House

It turns out that the Hammond-Harwood portrait, by Thomas Hudson (1701-1779), is more or less identical to a Hudson portrait of the same sitter at Wimpole.

Portrait of Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke, as Lord Chancellor, by Thomas Hudson, at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 207887. Acquired with the help of the Art Fund, 1989. ©National Trust Collections

The Wimpole version was introduced to the house relatively recently when it was bought by the National Trust at auction in 1998 with the help of the Art Fund.

There hadn’t been a portrait of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke at the house for some time, and the National Trust curators were keen to show visitors a picture of a man who had been so important to the history of the place.

Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. ©National Trust Images/Megan Taylor

The Wimpole portrait had originally been given by Hardwicke to his secretary, Hutton Perkins, who bequeathed it to his second daughter, Elizabeth. She married Richard Wood of Hollin Hall, North Yorkshire, and the portrait descended in the Wood family at Hollin Hall until offered for sale at auction by Christie’s in 1998 and purchased by the National Trust.

A grey Arabian in a landscape with the south front of Hollin Hall beyond, by John Ferneley, 1844 (?). ©Christie's

The Hammond-Harwood version, so Allison tells me, descended in the Yorke family to Susan Amelia Yorke (d. 1887), a niece of the 4th Earl of Hardwicke (the photographs of her shown here can be found at the Grand Ladies site).

In 1857 Susan married Charles Joseph Theophilus Hambro (1834-1891) , a scion of the Dano-British Hambro trading and banking family. Charles Joseph’s father, Charles Joachim Hambro, Baron Hambro (1807-1877), had recently moved to Britain, set up Hambro’s Bank, and purchased Milton Abbey in Dorset as his country seat.

Portrait photographs of Susan Amelia Hambro, née Yorke, by Camille Silvy, 1860. ©Grand Ladies

The Hudson portrait stayed at Milton Abbey until the Hambro family sold the house in 1932 and auctioned off part of its contents. The Hudson was bought by Mrs Clifford Hendrix and she donated it to Hammond-Harwood House in 1950.

Milton Abbey as illustrated in Morris's Country Seats (1880)

The histories – almost biographies – of these two identical portraits has been very different, but I think they illustrate rather well how the same work of art can mean different things to different people, at different times and in different places.

Portrait of a lady returns to Dunham

July 26, 2011

Portrait of a lady thought to be Vere Egerton, Mrs William Booth, attributed to Robert Peake (1541-1619). Acquired with the assistance of the Art Fund. ©Sotheby's

We have just purchased at auction a spectacular portrait of a young woman, dating from the early seventeenth century, which for several hundred years hung at Dunham Massey, in Cheshire. The acquisition was made possible by a major grant from the Art Fund.

©Sotheby's

The portrait is thought to depict Vere Egerton, who married into the Booth family of Dunham in 1619. Vere was the granddaughter and potential heiress of the immensely wealthy Lord Chancellor Egerton, and this portrait marks the Booth family’s social and political rise.

©Sotheby's

The male line of the Booths died out in the eighteenth century and the Dunham estate was inherited by the Greys, Earls of Stamford. In the nineteenth century the portrait of Vere was moved to the family’s Staffordshire seat, Enville Hall.

©Sotheby's

In 1905 the Dunham and Enville estates were divided again between different branches of the family. When a number of works of art were sold from Enville in 1928 Roger Grey, the 10th Earl of Stamford, tried to buy the portrait of Vere back for Dunham, but he was unsuccessful.

©Sotheby's

It came up again in the Sotheby’s London Old Master and British Paintings evening sale on 6 July. We managed to buy it for £157,250, with the help of a grant from the Art Fund and with funds from Dunham and from gifts and bequests to the National Trust.

©Sotheby's

The painting also provides a fascinating record of Jacobean ladies’ fashions, lovingly detailing Vere’s sumptuously embroidered clothes. The picture is also apparently unique for the period in including a sofa.

©Sotheby's

The portrait is currently undergoing some conservation work, but we hope it will be on show at Dunham once again in the near future.   

The Drydens’ furniture at Canons Ashby

June 1, 2011

Portrait of Edward Dryden and his family by Jonathan Richardson the elder, c. 1716. ©NTPL

It’s nice if you know the names of the people conncected with specific pieces of early-eighteenth-century furniture; it is even better when you have a portrait of them.

View of the west front of Canons Ashby from the Green Court. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

The above portrait of Edward Dryden, his wife Elizabeth Allen and their children was purchased by the National Trust with the help of the Art Fund in 1987. Edward, a wealthy London grocer, was the nephew of the poet John Dryden.

Walnut chair with embroidered cover, part of a set supplied by Thomas Phil. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The picture hangs at Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire, the house that Edward remodeled between 1708 and 1710. The painting also includes a glimpse of the just completed garden.

Sofa with needlework cover, from the set suplied by Thomas Phil. ©NTPL

The set of furniture was originally supplied by Thomas Phill of the Strand, who in 1716 submitted a bill for chairs with ‘frames of ye newest hashion stufft up in Lynnen’ and ‘for makeing ye needle worke covers & fixeing ym in the chaires.’ They were sold in 1938, but bought back and donated to Canons Ashby by an anonymous benefactor in 1983, soon after the National Trust had acquired and restored the house.

Sargent’s mug shots

March 14, 2011

Violet, Countess of Powis, by John Singer Sargent, 1912, at Powis Castle, Powys. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Last year we managed to acquire a charcoal sketch by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) of Violet, Countess of Powis (1856-1929), for Powis Castle. The portrait is redolent of the grandeur and style of Edwardian upper-class life.

Nancy Astor by John Singer Sargent, at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Sargent was hugely successful as a portrait painter, but in 1907 he effectively abandoned portraiture in oils. He was financially independent and preferred to focus on landscapes and other subjects.

Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, by John Singer Sargent, 1913, at Mount Stewart, Co. Down. ©NTPL/John Hammond

However, he could not entirely escape the demands of his high society clientele, and in response to persistent demands he would agree to do a charcoal portrait, which he could finish in an hour or two.

Charles, seventh Marquess of Londonderry, by John Singer Sargent, 1910, at Mount Stewart, Co. Down. ©NTPL/John Hammond

More than 500 of these ‘mug shots’ (as he called them) are known. He originally charged twenty-one guineas for them, which rose to fifty around 1910 and later to a hundred.

Jenny, Lady Randolph Churchill, by John Singer Sargent, at Chartwell, Kent. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Celebrities captured by Sargent in this way include Winston Churchill, King Edward VII, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother), Henry James, Vaslav Nijinsky and W.B. Yeats.

The purchase of the portrait of the Countess of Powis was supported by a grant from the Art Fund.

Brueghel to stay at Nostell

January 6, 2011

Image Robert Thrift

I have just heard the wonderful news that sufficient funds have been raised  for the National Trust to acquire the Nostell Brueghel. The National Heritage Memorial Fund provided the final £1,034,000 towards the £2.7m purchase price. 

Image Robert Thrift

Members of the public donated £680,000 to the campaign and £510,000 was contributed by trusts and foundations. Special plaudits should go to the Art Fund, which not only gave a grant of £500,000, but also contributed its fundraising expertise. This has been an excellent example of charities working together to achieve a common goal.

The National Gallery and York Art Gallery have been showing the painting for the last few months, but it will shortly return to Nostell Priory, where it will be on display from the end of February. See here for previous posts about the Brueghel.

Almost there

December 8, 2010

The procession to Calvary, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564/5-1637/8)

The campaign launched jointly by the National Trust and the Art Fund to purchase the Nostell Brueghel is now in its final stages.

The Persian Sibyl, by the studio of Guercino (1591-1666), at Nostell Priory. ©NTPL/John Hammond

So far the fundraising has gone well, with generous support from both private donors and institutions.

Sir Thomas More and his family, by Rowland Lockey (c 1565-1616) after Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543), at Nostell Priory. ©NTPL/John Hammond

But it is still not certain whether we will be able to get all the necessary funds together by the Christmas deadline. The Art Fund website is still open for donations.

Still life by Pieter Claesz. (1597/8-1660), at Nostell Priory. ©NTPL/Matthew Hollow

Keeping the Brueghel at Nostell Priory, where it can be seen together with all the other great paintings from the Winn collection still in the house, would be a marvelous Christmas present for us all. So here’s hoping the final push will succeed.

The fictional life of Lyme Park

November 8, 2010

View of the north front Lyme Park, c. 1700. Acquired with the help of the Art Fund in 1999. ©NTPL/John Hammond

This view of Lyme Park was purchased by the National Trust in 1999 with support from the Art Fund. It shows the north front of the house in about 1700.

These topographical paintings were usually at least partly fictional, an expression of the owners’ pride, their ideals and hopes.

©NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

This is the north front photographed fairly recently.

Although the image is obviously a truthful record of a moment in time, the photographer has also incorporated certain conventions from the tradition of landscape painting, such as the curve of the drive in the the foreground and the mass of the tree on the right. It is a composition just as artfully contrived as the earlier painting.

The south front of Lyme. ©NTPL/Arnhel de Serra

The other, grander front of the house will, for most of us, be associated with the 1995 television adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. In that series Lyme stands in for Darcy’s country house, Pemberley.

It is below the south front of Lyme/Pemberley that Darcy, having just taken a dip in the lake after a strenuous journey on horseback, encounters the mortified Lizzie Bennet, and they have their famously stilted conversation. In this case the reality of Lyme is augmented by both literature and film.

Can we ever see a place without all these associations? Perhaps that is only possible when we are three or four years old.


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