Archive for the ‘Berkshire’ Category

An artist of the ancien régime

November 15, 2012

Anne Vallayer-Coster, The Attributes of Hunting and Gardening, 1774. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Basildon Park, Berkshire. ©National Trust Images

It has just been officially announced that Basildon Park was recently allocated a group of objects accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax. The Acceptance in Lieu scheme enables the Government to receive pre-eminent heritage objects in lieu of tax and to hand them on to museum bodies.

Anne Vallayer-Coster, A Vase of Flowers, 1775. © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation. Bequeathed by Henry Rogers Broughton, 2nd Lord Fairhaven, 1973

Large numbers of works of art and other objects which had been on loan have been transferred to the National Trust’s ownership in this way over the years. The market value of ‘in lieu’ allocations to the National Trust during the last dozen years alone approaches £30 million. Apart from their very real financial value, these objects also play a crucial role in maintaining the spirit of place of the historic houses with which they are associated, and as such they can now be enjoyed by the public in perpetuity.

The allocation to Basildon includes a painting by French artist Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744-1818) which has been described as an outstanding example of her work. Vallayer-Coster was a prodigy who was elected as a member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture at the age of twenty-six, one of only three women to receive that honour in pre-Revolutionary France.

Anne Vallayer-Coster, Portrait of an Elderly Woman with Her Daughter, 1775. © The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

In some ways Vallayer-Coster was constrained by the conventions of her time, avoiding the ‘male’ genre of history painting and focusing mainly on still-lives, depictions of flowers and portraiture. Nevertheless she was professionally very successful, being widely collected in French aristocratic and royal circles.

It is interesting that the few works by her in British public collections seem to have been originally acquired in the late 19th and early-to-mid-20th century, perhaps indicating the renewal of interest in ancien régime art at that time. This interest was recently deepened through the major exhibition devoted to Vallayer-Coster which toured several American museums in 2002.

The power of the imagination

February 2, 2011

Detail of the Zuber wallpaper at Basildon Park. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The small camel seen through the fretwork at 575 Wandsworth Road, shown in the previous post, inspired Courtney Barnes to do a post about camel motifs.

I want to return the compliment by showing the panoramic Zuber wallpaper at Basildon Park. But apart from featuring a camel it is also emblematic of Regency exoticism.

The Qudsiya Bagh on the river Jumna, Delhi. Aquatint after Thomas Daniell (1749-1840), 1795, at Basildon Park. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Zuber wallpapers began to be produced in 1797. This particular design, called L’Hindoustan, was created by Pierre Mongin in 1807.

©NTPL/John Hammond

Mongin had never been to India, and his idealised, dreamy scenes were based on the Indian views of Thomas and William Daniell.

Eastern gate of the Jama Masjid, Delhi. Aquatint after Thomas Daniell (1749-1840), 1795, at Basildon Park. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The Daniells had seen these views at first hand, but their images are still heavily influenced by the English picturesque and Romantic traditions, with lots of dramatic clouds, crumbling masonry, and artfully placed trees and figures.

©NTPL/John Hammond

The Zuber wallpaper and the Daniell views were installed at Basildon by Lord and Lady Iliffe after the Second World War. In their restoration and decoration of the empty and derelict house the Iliffes were trying to evoke the spirit of Sir Francis Sykes, a ‘nabob’ who had made his fortune in India and who began building Basildon in 1776.

Gate of the mausoleum of Akbar near Agra. Aquatint after Thomas Daniell (1749-1840), 1795, at Basildon Park. ©NTPL/John Hammond

So here we have three different imaginations at work – Mongin, the Daniells and the Iliffes – recreating the exotic on the banks of the Thames.

Daughters of the Winter Queen

October 29, 2010

Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia by Gerard van Honthorst, 1650. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

The recent sale at Sotheby’s of the chattels owned by the previous tenants of Ashdown House has somewhat overshadowed the fact that the National Trust also owns a collection of portraits with a historical connection to the house.

Louise Hollandine, Princess Palatine, second daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia, by Gerard van Honthorst, 1650. Louise Hollandine was herself a talented painter. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

These pictures were transferred to the Governement by the Craven estate in lieu of inheritance tax in 1968 and allocated to National Trust. They hang on the central staircase at Ashdown House, which is open to the public.

Elizabeth, Priness Palatine, eldest daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia, by studio of Gerard van Honthorst. Elizabeth was nicknamed 'La Grecque' by her siblings for her intellectual interests, and she was a friend of the philosopher Descartes. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Many of the Ashdown pictures originally came from Elizabeth, sister of Charles I and Queen of Bohemia. Because her husband Frederick, Elector Palatine, was ejected from the Bohemian throne after only a year and four days, she was henceforth known as the Winter Queen.

Henrietta Maria, Princess Palatine, third daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia, by studio of Gerard van Honthorst. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Elizabeth subsequently received much financial support from William, Earl of Craven. In gratitude she left her papers and family portraits to him upon her death in 1662.

William, Earl of Craven, by Gerard van Honthorst. ©NTPL/John Gibbons

The portraits are a fascinating record of mid-seventeenth-century faces and fashions.

Sophia, Princess Palatine, the youngest daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia and later Electress of Hanover, by Gerard van Honthorst. Apart from giving the house of Hanover a claim to the British throne, she also created the palace and gardens at Herrenhausen and sponsored the philosopher Leibniz. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Elizabeth’s youngest daughter, Sophia, married the future Elector of Hanover in 1658, and her son ultimately became King George I of Great Britain and Ireland. So through her the present queen, Elizabeth II, counts Elizabeth of Bohemia among her ancestors.


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