Archive for the ‘Devon’ Category

The many faces of a Rembrandt

June 10, 2014
Four images of the Rembrandt self portrait at Buckland Abbey (clockwise from top left): after cleaning, x-ray, before cleaning, infrared. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

Four images of the Rembrandt self portrait at Buckland Abbey (clockwise from top left): after cleaning, x-ray, before cleaning, infrared. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

The results of the technical investigation into the Rembrandt self portrait at Buckland Abbey, which I reported on earlier, have just been announced.

The self portrait after cleaning. Inv. no. 810136 ©National Trust/Chris Titmus

The self portrait after cleaning. Inv. no. 810136 ©National Trust/Chris Titmus

For more than forty-five years the authorship of this self portrait was in doubt. But the newly discovered physical evidence supports the opinion of Rembrandt scholar Dr Ernst van de Wetering that the picture is largely by the artist himself.

Painting conservation adviser Tina Sitwell inspecting the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

Painting conservation adviser Tina Sitwell inspecting the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

The self portrait has been cleaned and examined at the Hamilton Kerr Institute. This included visual inspection under magnification, infra-red reflectography, x-radiography, raking light photography and pigment and medium analysis.

X-ray image of the self portrait. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

X-ray image of the self portrait. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

The wood of the panel was identified as being of the poplar/willow family and the pigments include azurite, smalt and bone black. These are all materials that Rembrandt and his pupils used.

Infrared image of the self portrait. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

Infrared image of the self portrait. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

Signs pointing more specifically to the master himself were found when cleaning and removal of the yellowed varnish revealed the original depth of colour and skilful brushwork. The signature – thought possibly to be a later addition – was discovered to be contemporary with the creation of the painting.

Technicians Simon Jacobs and Martin Bartyle hang the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

Technicians Simon Jacobs and Martin Bartyle hang the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

The infra-red and x-ray images showed how the composition was changed as the painting progressed, something that is again consistent with an original work by a master and not with a copy being made by an assistant.

Young visitor Harry Dempster views the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

Young visitor Harry Dempster views the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

The investigation was funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery. The picture will be the centre-piece of an exhibition at Buckland Abbey entitled Rembrandt Revealed, opening on Friday 13 June.

Traces of Rembrandt

April 1, 2014
Detail of the partially cleaned Buckland self-portrait. ©National Trust Images/Hamilton Kerr Institute

Detail of the partially cleaned Buckland self-portrait. ©National Trust Images/Hamilton Kerr Institute

Research continues into the Rembrandt self-portrait recently allocated to Buckland Abbey in lieu of inheritance tax.

X-ray image of the self-portrait. ©National Trust Images/Hamilton Kerr Institute

X-ray image of the self-portrait. ©National Trust Images/Hamilton Kerr Institute

The tests and analysis undertaken by the Hamilton Kerr Institute, in order to establish how confident we can be whether the portrait was actually painted by Rembrandt himself, are almost completed. But some interesting facts and images have already emerged.

Verso of the Buckland self-portrait photographed in raking light, showing the way the panel was carved. ©National Trust Images/Hamilton Kerr Institute

Verso of the Buckland self-portrait photographed in raking light, showing the way the panel was carved. ©National Trust Images/Hamilton Kerr Institute

X-ray images show what looks like the outline of a lace cuff, suggesting that the artist sketched in an arm but then changed his mind. Pentimenti like this make it more likely that a painting is an autograph work rather than a copy, as copyists would naturally follow the original rather than chop and change.

Date (1635) on the back of the panel - but is it original? ©National Trust Images

Date (1635) on the back of the panel – but is it original? ©National Trust Images

The date 1635 has been written on the back of the panel, matching  the ‘f.1635′ painted on the front, but these dates could have been added later and are not conclusive by themselves.

Labels on the back of the panel. ©National Trust Images/Hamilton Kerr Institute

Labels on the back of the panel. ©National Trust Images/Hamilton Kerr Institute

The back also shows two labels documenting the former ownership of the painting by the Princes of Liechtenstein, and its inclusion in an exhibition in Luzern in 1948. The number 84 corresponds to its inventory number when it was in the Galerie Liechtenstein in Vienna. And traces have been found of a seal fixed to one of the front corners, apparently similar to the seals regularly affixed to the paintings in the Liechtenstein collection.

Detail of the thickly painted motifs on Rembrandt's cape. ©National Trust Images/Hamilton Kerr Institute

Detail of the thickly painted motifs on Rembrandt’s cape. ©National Trust Images/Hamilton Kerr Institute

The relatively crude brushwork seen in parts of the picture would be consistent with Rembrandt’s style in the 1630s – as also seen in, for instance, Belshazzar’s Feast in the National Gallery in London.

Detail of the self-portrait showing a medallion. ©National Trust Images/Hamilton Kerr Institute

Detail of the self-portrait showing a medallion. ©National Trust Images/Hamilton Kerr Institute

The sitter’s highly theatrical costume includes a medallion on a chain – it would be nice to find out if this represents a particular symbol or ornament, or whether it is purely ‘impressionistic’.

We await further news from the conservation studio.

Roofscape and landscape

February 25, 2014
©National Trust/Lucy Reynolds

©National Trust/Lucy Reynolds

When you have a big roof that leaks, you have a big problem.

©National Trust/Steve Heywood

©National Trust/Steve Heywood

At Castle Drogo the roof has never really been watertight since the castle was built by Sir Edwin Lutyens for grocery magnate Julius Drewe between 1910 and 1927. But then they do say that all great architecture leaks…

©Lobster Vision

©Lobster Vision

Following intermittent repairs over the years, the National Trust has now initiated a five-year project, with major support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to finally sort out the problems with the Drogo roof.

©National Trust

©National Trust

A huge and almost Piranesian scaffolding structure has been erected to provide access and protection for the contractors.

©National Trust/Lucy Reynolds

©National Trust/Lucy Reynolds

A two-layer membrane designed by Bauder will be introduced to cope with the extreme temperature fluctuations and heavy rainfall of the Dartmoor area. This will involve the removal and reinstatement of 2,355 separate granite blocks weighing 680 tonnes.

Channel 4 television has just broadcast a special Time Team programme about the restoration of Castle Drogo, entitled The Edwardian Grand Design.

Portrait of a lady

November 12, 2013
Chinese mirror painting showing an elegant lady seated at a table, mid-eighteenth century, in the Chinese Bedroom at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Rob Matheson

Chinese mirror painting showing an elegant lady seated at a table, mid-eighteenth century, in the Chinese Bedroom at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Rob Matheson

I managed to see the exhibition Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700-1900 at the V&A yesterday. It is a heroic and I think successful attempt to represent the entire history of Chinese painting in one exhibition, drawing on loans from museums across the world.

Pictures of elegant Chinese ladies. mid-eighteenth century, mounted on a room dvider in the Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Pictures of elegant Chinese ladies. mid-eighteenth century, mounted on a room dvider in the Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Among other things, the exhibition explains the distinction in Chinese painting between the professional and scholarly styles. The former was colourful, realistic and decorative, whereas the latter tended to be monochrome, high-minded and individualistic.

Chinese picture showing ladies in a garden, mid-eighteenth century, in the Study at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Chinese picture showing ladies in a garden, mid-eighteenth century, in the Study at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Because of my current research into Chinese wallpaper (and Chinese pictures used as wallpaper) I am completely biased towards Chinese professional paintings, which influenced the wallpapers made for the west. I was fascinated by some pictures by Ren Renfa of c. 1500, for instance, showing people engaged in elegant pastimes and including a landscape painting mounted on a movable screen, evidence of the early ‘architectural’ use of Chinese painting.

Chinese picture of a lady with a mottled bamboo fishing rod, mid-eighteenth century, in the Study at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Bush

Chinese picture of a lady with a mottled bamboo fishing rod, mid-eighteenth century, in the Study at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Bush

In the same section of the exhibition, ‘The Pursuit of Happiness: 1400-1600′, there are a number of paintings with elegant ladies. V&A curator Luisa Mengoni explained to me how these figures don’t just represent physical beauty, but also reference cultured accomplishments such as music and dance, and refinement more generally. Beauty is never just beauty.

The art of hanging Chinese wallpaper

September 12, 2013
The Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg Hall, hung with Chinese wallpaper in 1752. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg Hall, hung with Chinese wallpaper in 1752. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Another insight we have gained while working on the forthcoming catalogue of Chinese wallpapers in the historic houses of the National Trust is that there was a lot of skill involved in installing them. The paper was physically different from western paper and the drops were often wider. Sometimes the scenery was panoramic, requiring the joins to be either very exact or fudged and disguised.

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg, showing various artfully cut additions along the bottom.  ©National Trust Images/David Kirkham

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg, showing various artfully cut additions along the bottom. ©National Trust Images/David Kirkham

If the paper didn’t quite fit the walls the paper hangers had various tricks up their sleeves to achieve a harmonious end result. They would cut motifs from extra rolls and stick them over the joins to disguise breaks in the scenery. If they needed more height they would add plant and rock motifs at the bottom, cropped in various artful ways to make these disjointed elements look more natural. And as we saw in a recent post about the wallpaper at Blickling, they sometimes added a bit of sky at the top.

The Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram, with pairs of Chinese prints hung in an alternating pattern with various cut-out additions to create a wallpaper effect, possibly in the 1750s. ©National Trust Images/John Hammondn the Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram, Devon

The Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram, with pairs of Chinese prints hung in an alternating pattern with various cut-out additions to create a wallpaper effect, possibly in the 1750s. ©National Trust Images/John Hammondn the Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram, Devon

As Chinese wallpaper was very expensive – and, as catalogue co-author Andrew Bush has noted, you couldn’t just nip around the corner for an extra roll – this ‘cutting and pasting’ must have required considerable skill and nerves of steel.

Partition in the Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram, decorated with fragments of prints in a slightly less sophisticated manner, suggesting a later, amateur hand.©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Partition in the Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram, decorated with fragments of prints in a slightly less sophisticated manner, suggesting a later, amateur hand. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

These techniques were first noticed by conservator Mark Sandiford a number of years ago when he was working on the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg. When I was at Saltram recently  I noticed exactly the same ‘tricks of the trade’ being used in the Chinese Dressing Room there.

When is a Rembrandt a Rembrandt?

March 19, 2013
Attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn, self-portrait wearing a white feathered bonnet, at Buckland Abbey. NT810136 ©National Trust/Steve Haywood

Attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn, self-portrait wearing a white feathered bonnet, at Buckland Abbey. NT810136 ©National Trust/Steve Haywood

Rembrandt’s oeuvre is a fascinating case study in how paintings are evaluated differently by succeeding generations.

When the above portrait of Rembrandt was donated to Buckland Abbey in 2010 it was catalogued as ‘studio of’ rather than as by the artist himself. It had been described like this since 1968 when Rembrandt scholar Horst Gerson suggested that it was painted by one of the artist’s pupils. This judgement was then confirmed by the Rembrandt Research Project, a committee dedicated to tracking down and authenticating the artist’s oeuvre.

David Taylor, the National Trust's curator of pictures, scrutinising the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steve Haywood

David Taylor, the National Trust’s curator of pictures, scrutinising the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steve Haywood

Prior to that it had been considered a work by the artist himself. It had previously been in the collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein and in the 1960s it was acquired by Harold Samuel, Lord Samuel of Wych Cross, from the London dealer Edward Speelman.

©National Trust/Steve Haywood

©National Trust/Steve Haywood

Lord Samuel was a property developer (who founded and built up Land Securities) and philanthropist who assembled an important collection of Netherlandish old master paintings, many of which were bequeathed to the City of London and are now on display at Mansion House.

In 2010 two paintings from the estate of Lord Samuel’s wife, Edna, Lady Samuel, were accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Buckland. At the same time the estate donated three more paintings directly to Buckland, including the Rembrandt self portrait – then still described as ‘studio of’.

The self portrait being rehung after inspection ©National Trust/Steve Haywood-

The self portrait being rehung after inspection ©National Trust/Steve Haywood-

But now Ernst van de Wetering, the chair of the Rembrandt Research Project, has reversed his assessment of the picture, in view of subsequent research into the artist’s work. He has noted that the same relatively crude brushwork can also be seen in other Rembrandt pictures of the 1630s, such as Belshazzar’s Feast in the National Gallery, London, and the Rabbi in the Royal Collection.

The frame being given a once-over by Patricia Burtnyk, house steward at Buckland. ©National Trust/Steve Haywood

The frame being given a once-over by Patricia Burtnyk, house steward at Buckland. ©National Trust/Steve Haywood

The picture will soon undergo further technical analysis funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery, to try to firm up this re-attribution. The research will include dendrochronology, study of the pigments and the paint layers, infrared reflectography and ex-ray photography.

Regardless of the ultimate verdict, however, one undoubted benefit of this ongoing process of attribution (and reattribution, and re-reattribution) has been to make us all look more closely at this beautiful and intriguing portrait.

Lutyens in the details

December 20, 2012
The Kitchen at Castle Drogo, Devon, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. The room was provided with a Soane-style top-lit pendentive dome, echoed by the circular beechwood preparation table below. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

The Kitchen at Castle Drogo, Devon, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. The room was provided with a Soane-style top-lit pendentive dome, echoed by the circular beechwood preparation table below. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

If you are looking for some winter-time reading matter you could do worse than get Elizabeth Wilhide’s book about the interiors of the great Edwardian architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Detail of the Lutyens-designed lift door at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Detail of the Lutyens-designed lift door at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

It zooms in on the architectural and decorative details Lutyens excelled in.

Brass taps mounted on a teak sink, next to a granite window surround, in the Butler's Pantry at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Brass taps mounted on a teak sink, next to a granite window surround, in the Butler’s Pantry at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

As with the buildings of Sir John Soane, you get a palpable sense of Lutyens’s enjoyment in solving the puzzles of volume, light and flow. The visual puns, references and juxtapositions draw you into the architectural game and invite you into Lutyens’s mind.

The Butler's Pantry at Castle Drogo, with its Lutyens-designed fittings. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

The Butler’s Pantry at Castle Drogo, with its Lutyens-designed fittings. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Some elements of his buildings are just plain beautiful, as when he foregrounds interesting materials and contrasts.

Detail of a granite door frame on the Main Stairs at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust

Detail of a granite door frame on the Main Stairs at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust

In the introduction to the book Candia Lutyens, the architect’s granddaughter, mentions how unpopular Lutyens was in the middle of the twentieth century, as his eclectic and referential style was out of synch with the purity of high modernism.

The main stairs at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

The main stairs at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

I can still remember having a slightly dubious reaction to Lutyens’s work when first encountering it, being then an earnest young devotee of modern art. His work seemed almost too beautiful, too harmonious.

One of the shallow domes in the ceiling of the Main Staircase at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

One of the shallow domes in the ceiling of the Main Staircase at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

But now that modernism is increasingly recognised as being just another historical style rather than the end of history we are in a better position to appreciate Lutyens’s intelligent historicism.

And I have just learned that, by complete coincidence, Adrian Colston has also just featured the interiors and exteriors of Lutyens-designed Castle Drogo on his Dartmoor blog, with his own fascinating photographs.

The life of ships

November 29, 2012

Willem van de Velde the Younger, Dutch vessels close inshore at low tide, and men bathing, 1662. ©The National Gallery, London, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

One of the recently announced allocations of works of art accepted in lieu of tax included two marine paintings by Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633-1707).

Willem van de Velde the Younger, A Dutch yacht surrounded by many small vessels, saluting as two barges pull alongside, 1661. ©The National Gallery, London, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The artist came from a family of Dutch marine painters. Willem the Younger came to England in 1672-3, together with his father, Willem the Elder, in the wake of the turbulence in Holland following the French invasion of 1672.

Willem van de Velde the Younger, A Dutch flagship coming to anchor with a States yacht before a light air, 1658. ©National Maritime Museum, London, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

In his earlier work van de Velde specialised in pictures of ships in calm weather, reminiscent of still lifes in being at once beautifully composed and full of detail.

Willem van de Velde the Younger, A States yacht in a fresh breeze running towards a group of Dutch ships, 1673. ©National Maritime Museum, London, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

At the same time the ships appear to be almost alive, like horses or cattle ruminating in a meadow. One can sense the painter’s deep affinity with life on the coast and at sea.

Willem van de Velde the Younger, A Dutch three-master and a boeier in the foreground, her mainsail being lowered in stormy weather, c. 1670. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax on the estate of the late Edna, Lady Samuel of Wych Cross, and allocated to the National Trust for display at Buckland Abbey. Image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

In his later paintings gales, storms and shipwrecks become more common, but again the paintings seem to be simultaneously realistic and poetic.

Willem van de Velde the Younger, Dutch shipping in a heavy swell with a small hoeker under a half-lowered mainsail, and with a school of porpoises in the foreground, c. 1670. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax on the estate of the late Edna, Lady Samuel of Wych cross and allocated to the National Trust for display at Buckland Abbey. Image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

King Charles II and James, Duke of York commissioned Willem the Younger to produce a series of sea battle paintings following the end of the Anglo-Dutch wars in 1674. Van de Velde father and son were both given studio space in the Queen’s House at Greenwich.

Willem van de Velde the Younger, A Dutch ship and other small vessels in a strong breeze, 1658. ©The National Gallery, London, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Although the two paintings allocated to the National Trust were probably not conceived as a pair they have hung together since the early 19th century. The pictures were probably acquired in Amsterdam by Thomas Hope, the collector and taste-maker, and hung at is mansion The Deepdene in Surrey. Later they were owned by the Edwardian collector Alfred Beit.

Willem van de Velde the Younger, A Mediterranean brigantine drifting onto a rocky coast in a storm, c. 1700. ©National Maritime Museum, London, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The pictures have been allocated to Buckland Abbey, Devon. These and other paintings by Willem van de Velde the Younger can be perused via the Your Paintings/Public Catalogue Foundation site.

Enchanting commodities

July 3, 2012

Still from Wallpaper 1 by Ed Pien ©Ed Pien

Courtney Barnes has just done a post on Ed Pien’s beautiful and subtly disturbing video works Wallpaper 1 and Wallpaper 2, part of the Sinopticon programme of exhibitions and events in Plymouth exploring responses to China by contemporary artists.

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper in the State Dressing Room at Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire. ©National Trust Images/J. Whitaker

Looking at Wallpaper 1 and 2 (which I hadn’t seen yet), it occurred to me that Pien seems to be revisiting the sense of enchantment that eighteenth-century viewers must have experienced when confronted by Chinese wallpapers in their original fresh state, with vivid colours and beautifully detailed foliage and figures.

WESSIELING, National-Dress (installation view at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London). ©WESSIELING

At a talk at Saltram last week, one of the other artists participating in Sinopticon, WESSIELING, described the surprisingly recent origin and continuing transformation of the cheongsam dress. Based on a male style of dress from the Qing period (1644-1911), the cheongsam was adopted by Chinese women in the 1920s and 1930s as a modern, no-nonsense, almost feminist type of apparel.

Stock figures showing different types of Chinese costume, in Sir William Chamber’s book Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines and Utensils (1757). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

During the subsequent decades of the twentieth century, however, the cheongsam acquired connotations of exoticism and eroticism, especially in the west – think The World of Suzy Wong. It is still a powerful fashion motif today, occasionally revisited by international couturiers. After being banned by the Comunist Party it has now been adopted as a kind of national dress by the new, post-Maoist China.

Detail from High Priestess Cape, by Grayson Perry, rayon embroidered on satin, 2007. ©Grayson Perry

In her talk WESSIELING discussed the process of commodification whereby cultural motifs such as the cheongsam are marketed to western audiences, are changed and rebranded, and are then sometimes re-adopted by the Chinese with a whole new set of signifiers attached.

Detail from Chinese embroidered silk hangings, early eighteenth century, on the state bed at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

It seems to me that many of the works being shown as part of Sinopticon embody the apparently conflicting processes of enchantment and commodification. Grayson Perry, for instance, highlights the connections between elegance and desire, materialism and sexuality. His works are shown in direct juxtaposition with objects from the core collections of both Saltram and the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery.

Still from Sensing Obscurity I by Erika Tan. ©Erika Tan

Erika Tan’s evocative film Sensing Obscurity I, set at Saltram (but shown at the Plymouth College of Art), includes scenes where a group of male Chinese performers carries out various conservation cleaning tasks, as if the house is a Chinese museum explaining that exotic western phenomenon, the British country house. In other scenes the Chinese wallpaper seems to come alive as female performers in traditional Chinese dress are glimpsed in the darkened rooms of the house.

Conservator handling one of the drawers of the Chippendale-attributed secretaire veneered with Chinese lacquer at Osterley Park, west London. ©National Trust Images/Ian Shaw

Hugh Grant makes a cameo appearance in Sensing Obscurity I, in the form of a ghostly image of him playing Edward Ferrars in Ang Lee’s 1995 production of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.  Fiction and reality, past and present, east and west, drama and stillness all seem to interact and coalesce.

The last opportunity to see these exhibitions in Plymouth is 7 July.

A retro-gendered room at Saltram

June 29, 2012

The Study at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

When I was at Saltram to give the tour I mentioned in the previous post, I was struck by the delicious contradictions inherent in the Chinese wallpaper in the room called the Study. This room had been decorated in the mid eighteenth century as a bedroom or sitting room for one of the ladies of the house. Chinese wallaper and other ‘chinoiserie’ decorations were at this time increasingly associated with the private, ‘feminine’ spaces.

Portrait of Albert Parker, 3rd Earl of Morley, by Ellis Roberts. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

During the later nineteenth century, however, the 3rd Earl of Morley used the room as his study. Presumably the deccration was by then old fashioned and antiquarian enough to be congenial to a high-minded Victorian patriarch.

Old reference image of the fireplace wall in the Study. ©National Trust Collections

This is a great example of how the associations of certain styles and motifs are never fixed for long, and can turn into their opposites after a generation or two.

Even the original installation of the wallpaper represented a shift in meaning, of course, as entirely unrelated Chinese pictures and sections of wallpaper were slotted together into a kaleidoscopic collage, a realistic and yet surreal mosaic of elegant figures and evocative vistas, an eighteenth-century Pinterest board.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 835 other followers