Archive for the ‘Dyrham Park’ Category

A closer look at Dyrham Park

May 20, 2014
Dyrham Park ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

Dyrham Park ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

From a distance historic houses can appear almost eternal. But a closer look usually reveals some evidence of the ravages of time.

Experts looking at the repairs needed to the roof at Dyrham Park, South Gloucestershire. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Experts inspecting Dyrham’s roof. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Dyrham Park has been receiving quite a lot of scrutiny recently. Its roof is now over 200 years old and beyond its natural life.

Patch repairs on the roof at Dyrham. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Patch repairs on the roof at Dyrham. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Patch repairs are no longer sufficient and the roof needs a complete overhaul.

Spalling stonework on the roof at Dyrham ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Spalling stonework on the roof at Dyrham ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Some of the stonework is also beginning to fail, exacerbated by the freezing and thawing of excess rainwater. So as well as urgent stone repairs the house needs improved gutters to prevent future damage.

Damaged stonework on the west front of Dyrham. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Damaged stonework on the west front of Dyrham. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

In addition access to the orangery roof needs to be made safer, so that high-level maintenance can be carried out more frequently and efficiently.

Water damage in the orangery at Dyrham. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Water damage in the orangery at Dyrham. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

That is why we are trying to raise £500,000 towards the total cost of £3.54 million. Any donation is welcome, and can be made here.

A Dutch house in Gloucestershire

August 6, 2013
View of Dyrham Park from the entrance drive, with Claude David's statue of Neptune, acquired by William Blathwayt for his baroque garden. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

View of Dyrham Park from the entrance drive, with Claude David’s statue of Neptune, acquired by William Blathwayt for his baroque garden. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

In an article in the recently published 2013 National Trust Historic Houses and Collections Annual, Rupert Goulding reconstructs the personality and taste of William Blathwayt (?1649-1717), the builder of Dyrham Park.

The Great Hall at Dyrham, showing William Blathwayt's bookcases. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Great Hall at Dyrham, showing William Blathwayt’s bookcases. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

By analysing an inventory of Blathwayt’s lost print collection, Rupert has found telling details of Blathwayt’s intellectual interests and love of art and gardening.

Portrait of William Blathwayt by Michael Dahl. ©National Trust Images/Ian Blantern

Portrait of William Blathwayt by Michael Dahl. ©National Trust Images/Ian Blantern

Blathwayt was a government minister under King William III, ‘a master at managing information’ as Rupert characterises him.

Vanitas still life by Edwaert Colliers at Dyrham, 1675, reflecting Blathwayt's love of books, the visual arts and music. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Vanitas still life by Edwaert Colliers at Dyrham, 1675, reflecting Blathwayt’s love of books, the visual arts and music. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

This not only made Blathwayt an able Secretary of State and Secretary at War, but it was also reflected in the architecture and gardens of Dyrham Park and the collections he assembled there.

A view through a house by Samuel van Hoogstraten, 1662, at Dyrham Park. William Blathwayt liked to keep exotic and song birds, like the one shown in this painting. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

A view through a house by Samuel van Hoogstraten, 1662, at Dyrham Park. William Blathwayt liked to keep exotic and song birds, like the one shown in this painting. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Blathwayt might be dubbed a ‘Hollandophile': he not only spoke Dutch (which was useful when serving under a Dutch king), but he also owned many Dutch paintings and prints.

Engraving of Dyrham Park by Johannes Kip, 1712. ©National Trust Images

Engraving of Dyrham Park by Johannes Kip, 1712. ©National Trust Images

Blathwayt shared an appreciation of gardens with William III, and his print collection included a number of views of contemporary gardens. The garden at Dyrham was laid out in Dutch baroque style, like those at William’s palaces at Hampton Court and Het Loo. Rupert defines Dyrham as ‘essentially a Dutch house in Gloucestershire.’

Portrait of King William III after Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1690s, at Dyrham. ©National Trust, image supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of King William III after Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1690s, at Dyrham. ©National Trust, image supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Rupert’s article clearly demonstrates how an inventory can be the key to revealing the rich personal meanings contained within a house, a garden and a collection.

Keeping up with the Jansens

May 7, 2013
Dutch family taking tea, c. 1680, attributed to Roelof Koets II (c. 1650-1725). ©Sotheby's

Dutch family taking tea, c. 1680, attributed to Roelof Koets II (c. 1650-1725). ©Sotheby’s

The 17th-century Dutch family shown in the painting above are clearly very proud of their tea things. The wife and the child are dressed to the nines and the splendid Javanese lacquer table is filled expensive-looking tea utensils.

Javanese lacquer table in the Duchess's Private Closet at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Javanese lacquer table in the Duchess’s Private Closet at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

At this time the drinking of tea was still a relatively exotic and glamorous activity in Europe – perhaps reflected in the fact that it is the husband in the painting, the head of the household, who demonstratively holds the teapot. And it was obviously deemed appropriate to have a trendy oriental lacquer table to go with this trendy oriental drink.

Javanese lacquer table in the Balcony Room at Dyrham Park. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Javanese lacquer table in the Balcony Room at Dyrham Park. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Javanese lacquer tables from that period haven’t survived in large numbers, but they can still be found in a few English and German public collections.  I have just published a little article about them in the May 2013 issue of the National Trust’s Arts, Buildings and Collections Bulletin.

Globalised lacquer

January 3, 2013
The Balcony Room at Dyrham Park, with the so-called Javanese lacquer table in the foreground. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Balcony Room at Dyrham Park, with the so-called Javanese lacquer table in the foreground. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

In mid-December I attended the Global Commodities conference at the University of Warwick, which examined the role of material culture in shaping world-wide connections in the early modern period. It was an extremely stimulating event that brought together social historians, economic historians and art historians.

Close-up of the table at Dyrham (inv. no. NT452980). ©National Trust Collections

Close-up of the table at Dyrham (inv. no. NT452980). ©National Trust Collections

Ulrike Körber, who is connected to the José de Figueiredo Laboratory at the University of Évora, gave a fascinating lecture about the complex manufacturing and trade patterns of east Asian lacquer in the 16th and 17th century. She described how objects could be designed in one place, made in another, lacquered or relacquered in a third and used in a fourth. Globalisation is clearly not just a recent phenomenon.

The Duchess's Private Closet at Ham House, with the so-called Javanese table raised on a European base. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Duchess’s Private Closet at Ham House, with the so-called Javanese table raised on a European base. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

This reminded me of the unusual lacquer tables at Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire, and  Ham House, Surrey, which have traditionally been called ‘Javanese’. They both date from the late 17th century and somehow reached England through the East India trade. The one at Ham was adapted to the needs of chair-sitting Europeans by being mounted on a barley-twist base, a telling example of the appropriation – at once practical and symbolic – of an Asian object into a European setting.

Close-up of the table at Ham (inv. no. NT1140034). ©National Trust Collections

Close-up of the table at Ham (inv. no. NT1140034). ©National Trust Collections

But we are not even sure whether these tables did indeed come from Java. There are some related tables in a few German collections, dating from around the same time and with similar distinctive pie-crust rims, but drum-shaped instead of rectangular.

Drum-shaped, reputedly Javanese lacquer tea table (Teetrommel), formerly in the state apartments of the Residenz, Rastatt, Baden. ©Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe

Drum-shaped, reputedly Javanese lacquer tea table (Teetrommel), formerly in the state apartments of the Residenz, Rastatt, Baden. ©Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe

I am hoping to correspond further with Ulrike and with some of the other conference participants to try to find out more about this rare category of lacquer objects – and of course I would very much welcome any suggestions here too.

Dyrham Park: global crossroads

March 27, 2012

Garden² (no. 7), by Marc Quinn, 2000. © the artist and Arts Council Collection

Dyrham Park is about to host an exhibition of contemporary art from the Arts Council Collection. Entitled A World Away, it will include work by Marc Quinn, Helen Sear, Mark Wallinger, Yinka Shonibare and Leo Fitzmaurice.

Dutch Delftware flower vase with decoration inspired by Chinese porcelain, at Dyrham Park. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The exhibition is part of the Trust New Art programme, a three-year partnership between Arts Council England and the National Trust to promote contemporary art in historic places.

The Diogenes Room at Dyrham, showing one of the English 'Diogenes' tapestries and part of the collection of Delftware. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The exhibition at Dyrham will interact with the career of William Blathwayt, a politician and administrator handling colonial affairs and global trade under kings Charles II, James II and William III.

Line Painting, by Yinka Shonibare, 2003. © the artist, Stephen Friedman Gallery and Arts Council Collection. This work includes various Dutch wax fabric prints, which originated in Indonesia, were exported by the Dutch to West Africa and were later also produced in Manchester.

Dyrham is still filled with reminders of late-seventeenth-century globalisation, such as the Virginian cedar wood used for the main staircase, the collection of Dutch Delftware, the slave torcheres – shocking to twenty-first-century sensibilities but clearly not so to seventeenth-century ones –  and the rare Javanese tea table.

The Balcony Room, with the Javanese tea table and the torcheres supported by chained black slaves. Both William Blathwayt and his uncle Thomas Povey were involved in adminstering the slave plantations in Jamaica. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

As exhibition curator Rupert Goulding says: “We would like the contemporary art to help our visitors look again at the historic collection and perhaps gain a deeper understanding of the house and its creator.”

The Virginian cedar staircase. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The exhibition will run from 30 March to 28 October 2012.

A bureaucrat’s inner Versace

October 6, 2011

Bureau-cabinet in the Closet at Dyrham. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Dyrham Park in Gloucestershire presents an interesting curatorial problem: the house is a miniature Baroque palace with a wonderfully rich collection, but its original builder and collector, diplomat and minister William Blathwayt, appears, at least on the surface, to have been rather dull (see his portrait in this previous post).

An illusionistic interior painting by Samuel van Hoogstraeten seen at the end of an enfilade at Dyrham. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

William Blathwayt was nicknamed ‘the elephant’ by his friends, because of the ponderousness of his jokes. He was methodical and very efficient, which allowed him to flourish in government service, first at the British embassy in The Hague, then as clerk to the Privy Council, and finally as Secretary at War, Secretary of State and member of the Board of Trade. But his personality doesn’t seem to have been the stuff that gripping biographies (let alone historical romances) are made of.

The Balcony Room, with its gilded panelling, garden-themed paintings, slave torcheres, Javanese lacquer table and Delft ceramics. ©NTPL/Angelo Hornak

Blathwayt’s collections at Dyrham show the full range of grand Baroque taste, including panoramic tapestries, Dutch paintings, embossed leather wallhangings bursting with fruit and cherubs, a rare Javanese lacquer table and a  collection of exuberant Delft earthenware.

Dutch walnut and tortoiseshell chest on stand with Chinese ceramics displayed on top, in the Tapestry Room. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

How did such an apparently grey bureaucrat end up with such a flamboyant house? Was there a hidden side to him? This is what curator Rupert Goulding and visitor experience consultant Jess Monaghan are trying to work out, as they re-assess the way Dyrham is shown to the public. I hope to be able to reveal more about this project (and perhaps even about Blathwayt’s inner Versace) in due course.

Later generations

July 19, 2010

William IV Blathwayt and his wife Frances with Dyrham Park in the background, by Thomas Phillips, 1806. ©NTPL

In the new edition of ABC Bulletin, assistant curator Alison Harpur writes about the family portraits at Dyrham Park ascribed to Thomas Phillips (1770-1845).

Alison was able to check the artist’s sitters book, which is now kept in the National Portrait Gallery in London. She duly found a mention of the double portrait shown above listed under October 1807. It was probably begun in 1806, before William IV Blathwayt’s death.

William Crane Blathwayt, by Thomas Phillips, 1832. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The portraits of the next generation to own Dyrham, William Crane Blathwayt (1795-1839) and his wife  Frances Margaret, were also painted by Phillips, and were listed in the sitters book under July 1832. It is interesting that even after more than twenty-five years the family still went back to Phillips for their portraits.

Frances Margaret Blathway, née Taylor, wife of William Crane Blathwayt, by Thomas Phillips, 1832. ©National Trust

William Crane Blathwayt was the son of William IV’s sister Penelope. She had eloped with a Jeremiah Pierce Crane and married him in Gretna Green. The childless William IV and Frances raised William Crane as their son and heir, and he took the name Blathwayt in 1817.

Dyrham Park. ©NTPL/Rupert Truman

These paintings record how, after the explosion of Baroque exuberance at Dyrham under the first William Blathwayt (as shown in previous posts) the later generations of Blathwayts settled down to mostly quiet – and occasionally scandalous – lives as members of the country gentry.

The Dutch connection

July 2, 2010

The Diogenes Room at Dyrham, taking its name from the subject of the tapestries, and also featuring Delft flower pyramids and other vessels. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Dyrham Park, in Gloucestershire, has a variety of Dutch collections. I previously mentioned the Dutch paintings, but there is also a rare collection of seventeenth-century Delft glazed earthenware.

William Blathwayt (?1649-1717) by Michael Dahl. ©NTPL/Ian Blantern

These Delft vessels and flower stands were acquired by William Blathwayt during his travels on the Continent. As a high-ranking official under William III (if a slightly plodding one – he was known as ‘the elephant’) he frequently accompanied the Dutch king on his visits back to Holland.

One of the Delft flower holders at Dyrham. The painted decoration is derived from Chinese models, but the shapes are a Dutch Baroque invention. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The vogue for Delft blue and white was led by the king’s wife and co-regent, Queen Mary II, who assembled a large collection of it in the Water Gallery at Hampton Court Palace, where even the furniture was painted blue and white.

©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The displays of flowers in the Delft vases at Dyrham are echoed by the Netherlandish flower paintings in the house.

The State Bed seen in a mirror in the Damask Bedchamber, surrounded by yet more Delft. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The state bed is in the style of Daniel Marot, the architect and designer favoured by William III.

Embossed leather panels in the East Hall. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

William Blathwayt also imported stamped leather wallhangings from Holland. All these elements together create a remarkably Dutch ambiance in the middle of hilly Gloucestershire.

The house and the garden were acquired by the Ministry of Works in 1956 and, following extensive repairs, transferred to the National Trust in 1961. Funds for the acquisition came from the National Land Fund (now the National Heritage Memorial Fund), which had been set up to save places of national importance in memory of the sacrifices of the Second World War.

Povey’s pictures

June 21, 2010

Landscape with elegant figures walking along a country path, a distant view of a town (Delft?) beyond, by Willem van den Bundel, oil on panel. ©NTPL/John Hammond

This picture, and its pair below, are by Willem van den Bundel (c 1575-1655), a painter who moved from Flanders to Amsterdam, eventually settling in Delft. He was one of a number of Flemish artists who migrated north after the Spanish siege and subsequent fall of Antwerp in 1585, helping to create what became known as Holland’s Golden Age.

Landscape with figures passing a pond and resting traveller, a distant view of towns (Overschie and Rotterdam?) beyond, by Willem van den Bundel, oil on panel. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Van den Bundel seems to have learnt his craft from Gillis III van Coninxloo (1544-1607), who developed the depiction of wooded landscapes as a subject in its own right, an approach also seen in the paintings shown here.

Engraving of Dyrham Park by Johannes Kip (d.1722). ©NTPL

The National Trust purchased this pair of pictures at Sotheby’s in London in 2008 for Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire, with generous support from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. They had been sold in the big sale of 1954 when the Blathwayt family left Dyrham after two and a half centuries of occupation.

It is interesting to compare the above birds-eye-view of Dyrham, including the formal gardens and outbuildings, with the view of Newton House, of roughly the same date, shown in the previous post. In both places the baroque garden had to be inserted into a hilly site. 

Thomas Povey, by Michael Wright, c 1658, at Dyrham Park. ©NTPL

The pictures originally came from Thomas Povey (1618?-1700?), who moved in court circles and was a founder member of the Royal Society. He kept a splendidly furnished house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London, where the diarist Samuel Pepys admired his wine cellar and collection of Dutch pictures.

Ornamental fowl, attributed to Melchior de Hondecoeter, at Dyrham. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

In 1693 Povey sold a number of pictures as well as about 500 books to his nephew William Blathwayt (1649?-1717), a succesful civil servant. Blathwayt used the paintings to furnish his new country house, Dyrham Park.

A trompe l'oeil picture by Samuel van Hoogstraeten terminates the view through several doors at Dyrham. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Dutch pictures would have been regarded as advanced at the time, and they may also have signalled Blathwayt’s allegiance to the King William III, who had been invited to come over from Holland and oust the unpopular James II in 1688. Blathwayt had previously worked for James II, but his ability to speak Dutch and his general usefulness ensured him a place in the new administration.


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