Archive for the ‘Dunham Massey’ Category

Scrubs up nicely

March 14, 2013
Portrait of ‘young’ Sir George Booth, 1st Baron Delamer (1622-1684), by circle of Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), at Dunham Massey, photographed following conservation. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Hollow

Portrait of ‘young’ Sir George Booth, 1st Baron Delamer (1622-1684), by circle of Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), at Dunham Massey, photographed following conservation. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Hollow

In June 2012 we managed to buy this portrait of ‘Young’ Sir George Booth, 1st Baron Delamer of Dunham Massey (as I reported at the time). It was sent to London-based conservator Sophie Reddington for treatment and Sophie has just sent me these images of the work.

The portrait before conservation. ©Christie's

The portrait before conservation. ©Christie’s

The picture was quite dusty and dirty and even had some white splash marks which appeared to be emulsion wall paint. At some point it had also been relined using too much heat, causing the paint to melt in places.

The portrait midway during varnish removal. ©Sophie Reddington

The portrait midway during varnish removal. ©Sophie Reddington

Sophie cleaned the painting with deionised water and then removed several layers of discoloured varnish with various solvents. Old retouching and overpainting was removed, again with solvents and also mechanically with a scalpel.

Lord Delamer's sleeve during varnish removal. ©Sophie Reddington

Lord Delamer’s sleeve during varnish removal. ©Sophie Reddington

Then Sophie refilled the small paint losses with acrylic putty, applied a first coat of new varnish and added new retouchings, followed by a final coat of varnish sprayed on in several thin layers.

The portrait after the filling in of the losses and the application of the first coat of varnish, but before retouching. ©Sophie Reddington

The portrait after the filling in of the losses and the application of the first coat of varnish, but before retouching. ©Sophie Reddington

Where the canvas had become brittle and torn around the sides and the back of the stretcher Sophie mended it with nylon gossamer impregnated with adhesive.

Fragile and brittle tacking edges before treatment. ©Sophie Reddington

Fragile and brittle tacking edges before treatment. ©Sophie Reddington

Sophie also treated the frame, consolidating loose parts, retouching damaged areas with watercolours and bronze paint, lining the rebate with paper tape and felt and reinserting the picture.

The same tacking edges after treatment. ©Sophie Reddington

The same tacking edges after treatment. ©Sophie Reddington

On the back of the frame there is a label of James Bourlet and Sons, London frame makers, as well as the more recent Christie’s label.

Labels old and new on the back of the frame. ©Sophie Reddington

Labels old and new on the back of the frame. ©Sophie Reddington

All this has vastly improved the readability of the image and given it a new lease of life.

Of books and their owners

February 5, 2013
18th-century pamphlets in the Library at Dunham Massey, Cheshire. ©National Trust Images

18th-century pamphlets in the Library at Dunham Massey, Cheshire. ©National Trust Images

The colleagues at Dunham Massey have just created an online classroom called the À Ma Puissance Channel. It will feature interviews and lectures given by various experts and produced by Unity House Films, originally for the benefit of Dunham’s volunteers but now universally accessible.

First up is Mark Purcell, our libraries curator, with a brisk gallop through the different types of libraries the National Trust looks after, and the insights they provide about social and intellectual history.

Lady Mary Booth, Countess Stamford (1704-1772), who bought and read some of the books now in the Library at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Fraser Marr

Lady Mary Booth, Countess Stamford (1704-1772), who bought and read some of the books now in the Library at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Fraser Marr

As Mark says, the libraries in the historic houses of the National Trust contain relatively large numbers of books which would have been ordinary or even ephemeral at the time of their publication, and which for that very reason have not survived in large numbers. The collection of pamphlets at Dunham Massey is one example of such a group of rare ‘ordinary’ publications.

The Library at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Library at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The library of the 1st Lord Fairhaven, a 20th-century millionaire bibliophile, at Anglesey Abbey is at the other end of the scale in being full of beatifully produced books. But even there the perceived value of certain books was subject to change: the first edition of Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice, originally bought purely for amusement, is now a valuable rarity.

Early 20th-century editions of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, with bindings by Sangorski and Sutcliffe, in the Library at Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Early 20th-century editions of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, with bindings by Sangorski and Sutcliffe, in the Library at Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Mark gives many more fascinating examples, illustrating that subtle but immensely valuable feature of historic houses: the eloquence of objects in their original settings. I am looking forward to many more such talks.

An unfashionable picture

June 20, 2012

Portrait thought to be of ‘young’ Sir George Booth, 1st Baron Delamer (1622-1684), by circle of Sir Godfrey Kneller. ©Christie’s

Yesterday we managed to purchase this portrait, said to be of ‘Young’ Sir George Booth, 2nd Baronet and 1st Baron Delamer (1622-1684), for Dunham Massey. We are not quite sure yet when this picture left Dunham – it was last offered at auction at Sotheby’s in London in 1980.

Bird’s eye view of Dunham Massey from the south, engraved by J. Kip after Leonard Knyff, 1697, showing the house as rebuilt by ‘young’ Sir George Booth, probably in the 1650s. ©National Trust Images

The fact that this picture was now being offered in a mixed ‘Interiors’ auction at Christie’s in New York and that we got it for a very modest price seems to indicate (according to our outgoing pictures curator, Alastair Laing) that this type of portrait is currently rather unfashionable in the American market. In some ways the National Trust very much tries to keep abreast of various trends, of course, but in this case we are rather pleased to be out of tune with current tastes.

Portrait of the Dutch mastiff called Old Virtue, probably by Jan Wyck, c. 1700, with Dunham Massey as rebuilt by ‘young’ Sir George in the background. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

‘Young’ Sir George Booth’s life illustrates the upheavals of the Civil War, Commonwealth and Restoration periods. He initially supported Parliament, but did not agree with the execution of the King. In 1659 he actually led an uprising against Cromwell in Lancashire and Cheshire. When that was put down he fled disguised as a woman, but was given away by his large feet and need of a shave. When Charles II returned to the throne ‘young’ Sir George was created Baron Delamer, but in other ways he was marginalised and he retired to spend his last years at Dunham.

Portrait probably of ‘young’ Sir George Booth’s mother, Vere Egerton, attributed to Robert Peake, c. 1619, acquired by the National Trust in 2011. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Hollow

We are not entirely sure yet whether it is indeed a portrait of ‘young’ Sir George, or perhaps of another member or associate of the Booth family of Dunham – further research will need to be done to establish that. The picture will also need some conservation work before it can go on view at Dunham. As is so often the case, the acquisition of an object is just the beginning.

Lady linchpin

May 9, 2012

Portrait of Lady Mary Booth, by an unknown hand. ©National Trust Images/Fraser Marr

I recently came upon this portrait of Lady Mary Booth (1704-1772) and was struck by her lively and open expression.

Bird’s eye view of Dunham from the south-west by John Harris, ca 1750. ©National Trust Images/Angelo Hornak

Lady Mary was the heiress to the Dunham Massey estate. Unusually for the time, her father, the 2nd Earl of Warrington, wanted his only daughter to have full control of her property. He left it in trust for her benefit, rather than leaving it to her outright, so that when she married it wouldn’t automatically be transferred to her husband.


Portrait of Harry Grey, 4th Earl of Stamford, by an unknown hand. ©National Trust Images/Fraser Marr

When she did marry in 1736, at the relatively late age of 32, it was to the much younger Harry, Lord Grey of Groby, later 4th Earl of Stamford. She was the linchpin that brought the Booth and Grey family estates (at Dunham Massey and Enville Hall, respectively), together.

The Library at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Although it was probably an arranged marriage it seems to have been a succesful one. The Countess of Stamford was highly educated and intellectual, and the books with her bookplate in the Dunham library include natural history, poetry, plays and religious topics.

View of the Brownian planting in the New Park at Dunham, by Anthony Devis, 1767. ©National Trust

She also developed the New Park at Dunham, where she may have employed Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to create one of the newly fashionable landscape gardens.

Tudor and Stuart fashion moments

January 10, 2012

Portrait of Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Leighton, attributed to George Gower, 1577, at Montacute House, Somerset (Sir Percy Malcolm Stewart bequest). ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

I vividly remember seeing this portrait years ago at an exhibition about Elizabeth I at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. It sang out with its self-confident fashion sense. 

It comes as no surprise that this woman, Elizabeth Knollys (pronounced to rhyme with bowls), Lady Leighton, is thought to have been in charge of the Queen’s wardrobe – in effect a kind of fashion adviser or dresser.

Portrait of Margaret Layton, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts, c. 1620. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Her own appearance is very sophisticated, the orange dress echoing her reddish hair, but toned down by the black slashed bodice (if that this correct technical term), with the pattern of the slashes seeming to mimick the bow fastenings, and set off by various jewels which also return in her sassy tall hat with its elegant pink feather.

The portrait of Margaret Layton together with the linen jacket worn by the sitter, embroidered with coloured silks, silver and silver-gilt thread, made c. 1610-1615, altered c. 1620. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A slightly later fashion moment, from the Jacobean period, has been preserved at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, where a c. 1620 portrait of Margaret Layton is shown next to the actual jacket she can be seen wearing in the picture.

Portrait of a lady, possibly Vere Egerton, Mrs William Booth (m. 1619), attributed to Robert Peake, at Dunham Massey, Cheshire. ©NTPL/Matthew Hollow

At Dunham Massey we hope to create something similar later this year: fashion student Jennifer Craig is working on a recreation of the costume of Vere Egerton, to be displayed near her recently acquired portrait. The current plan is to partly open up the costume, to show how it was constructed and what it would have been like to wear.

One of Jennifer Craig's sketches. ©Jennifer Craig

Jennifer is keeping a blog called Recreating the Costume of Vere Egerton to show the results of her research and the progress with the costume.

Vere is back at Dunham Massey

December 22, 2011

Portrait of a lady, presumed to be Vere Egerton, attributed to Robert Peake (c. 1551-1619). ©Sotheby's

The portrait of a lady, probably Vere Egerton, which we purchased recently at auction with help from the Art Fund, is now back at Dunham Massey.

English School, portrait of Lady Elizabeth Cecil, Countess of Berkshire (1596-1672), eighteenth-century copy after an original by the Comet Master, at Dunham Massey. ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

Vere Egerton married William Booth of Dunham in 1619, and her connections and wealth marked a rise in the family fortunes. The newly acquired portrait of her is the most spectacular of the early portraits at Dunham.

English School, portrait of Mary Bunce, Lady Langham (1599/1600-1652), 1650, at Dunham Massey. Lady Langham's granddaughter Mary married Henry Booth, 1st Earl of Warrington. ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

Its acquisition is important for that reason, but also because it allows the picture to be seen in the context of other late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century portraits of the Booth and Grey families at Dunham.

English School, after Cornelius Jonson, portrait of Lady Diana Cecil, Countess of Oxford and Elgin (c. 1603-1654), at Dunham Masey. ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

Vere’s great great granddaughter, Lady Mary Booth (1704-1772) married Harry Grey, 4th Earl of Stamford (1715-1768), and it was through that marriage that Dunham was inherited by the Earls of Stamford.

The Stone Parlour at Dunham, originally an informal dining room in the Tudor period, with early eighteenth-century (but deliberately old-fashioned) panelling, which was remodelled in antiquarian fashion in 1906. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

So the copies of the Jacobean portraits of the Countesses of Berkshire and Oxford, sisters-in-law of the 1st Earl of Stamford, who would have been Vere’s contemporaries, only came to Dunham much later. But it is those historical loops and connections, (as also seen in the development of the Stone Parlour shown above, for instance) that make country house collections so interesting.

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.   

What does it mean?

November 12, 2010

The conservatory at Wentworth Castle in about 1910. The sundial can just be made out in front of the doors.

The gardern historian Dr Patrick Eyres (who featured here previously) has been involved in the restoration of the gardens of Wentworth Castle, in South Yorkshire. He is trying to find out more about the lead sculpture of a black man supporting a sundial that used to stand in front of the conservatory there. What was the meaning of such figures in a garden context?

Candlestand in the form of a chained African slave, late seventeenth century, at Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Sculptures of black men, which were called blackamoors, sometimes represented slaves or servants. In Baroque interiors such figures, made of carved and painted wood, served as candlestands and tables. People at the time seemed to be happy to live with images of slaves in chains, which today we would obviously find disturbing.

Lead figure of a kneeling Indian slave at Melbourne Hall. ©Gardenvisit.com

There may have been a religious aspect to this imagery, as a representation of the enslavement of the soul by the body. Richard Wheeler, National Trust gardens curator, speculates that this might have been the meaning of the figures of the African and Indian kneeling slaves in the garden at Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire (image kindly provided by Gardenvisit.com). The figures are situated near the metal garden pavilion called the Birdcage, which had a similar symbolic meaning.

Lead figure of an African supporting a sundial in the garden at Dunham Massey, with the stables beyond. ©NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

Another, more positive explanation is that such figures (including those of other races) represented the four continents as they were defined in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Africa, America, Asia and Europe. By extension they would then stand for ‘the known world’.

Back view of the Dunham figure. ©NTPL/Nick Meers

The lead figure of an African holding up a sundial at Dunham Massey, Cheshire, seems to be one of these ‘continents’. It was probably made by Andries Carpentière (1670-1737), who supplied numerous sculptures for the house (and for the Booth family monuments in nearby Bowdon church) in the 1730s.

Bird’s-eye view of Dunham massey from the south-east, by John Harris, c. 1750. ©NTPL/Angelo Hornak

The African can be seen in the bird’s-eye-view paintings by Richard Harris painted in about 1750, in the centre of the lawn below the south front of the house. Most of the other figures were removed by the fifth Earl of Stamford in the late eighteenth century.

Detail of another Harris view, showing the sundial in front of the house.

Do leave a comment if you can offer other examples or possible explanations.

As it happens, there will be a symposium at Harvard University next week on ‘The Image of the Black in Western Art’  – details of that and of the associated multi-volume book and exhibition can be found via the Enfilade blog.


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