Archive for the ‘Kent’ Category

Spangled and patched

June 24, 2014
The proper left foot curtain of the spangled bed (inv. no. 129462), shown from the top end. ©National Trust

The proper left foot curtain of the spangled bed (inv. no. 129462), shown from the top end. ©National Trust

One of the objects at Knole currently undergoing conservation treatment is the so-called ‘spangled bed’. This bed may have been created in the early eighteenth century using an Elizabethan or Jacobean royal canopy of state which was sewn with silver sequins.

The spangle bedroom at Knole. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The spangle bedroom at Knole. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The silk curtains of this bed are being analysed and treated at the National Trust’s Textile Conservation Studio. The Knole Conservation Team Blog has recently shown these images of the initial findings.

Yellow damask section at the top end of the proper left head curtain, which seems to have been part of the original lining. ©National Trust

Yellow damask section at the top end of the proper left head curtain, which seems to have been part of the original lining. ©National Trust

It turns out that the curtains are a patchwork of different elements, including six different types of silk damask, a plain silk section and a linen section.

Pink damask patches at the bottom of one of the curtains. ©National Trust

Pink damask patches at the bottom of one of the curtains. ©National Trust

All these patches seem to have had previous uses before they were inserted into the bed curtains, as they show additional seams and darning.

Green damask patch at the top of one of the curtains. ©National Trust

Green damask patch at the top of one of the curtains. ©National Trust

There are a number of different types and styles of seams, suggesting that there were several successive repairs.

Yellow damask patch. ©National Trust

Yellow damask patch. ©National Trust

At some point the curtains seem to have been turned upside down, so that the damaged and patched hems would be at the top and therefore less obvious.

Patch of a different crimson damask. ©National Trust

Patch of a different crimson damask. ©National Trust

All this gives some glimpses of the life of this venerable bed, as well as of the thrifty housekeeping methods of previous generations.

Mellow albarello

March 13, 2014
Sicilian albarello decorated with a female saint. Inv. no. 824608. ©National Trust Collections

Sicilian albarello decorated with a female saint. Inv. no. 824608. ©National Trust Collections

In the March issue of Apollo I read a piece by Emma Crighton-Miller about Delft blue-and-white which mentioned that albarelli – maiolica apothecary jars – are sometimes adapted and used as water jars by Japanese tea ceremony devotees.

Back of the albarello shown above, decorated with acanthus leaves. ©National Trust Collections

Back of the albarello shown above, decorated with acanthus leaves. ©National Trust Collections

An example of a Japanese-made water jar inspired by the albarello look, in the Freer collection, can be seen here.

Sicilian albarello decorated with a heraldic lion. Inv. no. 824610. ©National Trust Collections

Sicilian albarello decorated with a heraldic lion. Inv. no. 824610. ©National Trust Collections

This shows rather nicely how the taste for exoticism is not exclusively western. Indeed, Japanese tea taste is a rich mixture of international influences, including wares and materials from both Asia and Europe.

Back of the albarello shown above, decorated with a winged cherub's face. ©National Trust Collections

Back of the albarello shown above, decorated with a winged cherub’s face. ©National Trust Collections

With that in mind the original albarelli do indeed have an air of wabi – the imperfect, modest beauty associated with the Japanese tea ceremony. Perhaps we could even call it ‘Hispano-Moresque wabi‘ or ‘Italian wabi‘?

Sicilian albarello decorated with a woman's head and shoulders. Inv. no. 824609. ©National Trust Collections

Sicilian albarello decorated with a woman’s head and shoulders. Inv. no. 824609. ©National Trust Collections

These particular albarelli were bequeathed to the National Trust by antiques dealer Reginald Sneyers in 1989. They are on display at Ightham Mote, an ancient half-timbered house that was carefully restored by the Colyer-Fergusson family in the late nineteenth before being given to the National Trust by American philanthropist Charles Henry Robinson in 1985.

Back of the albarello shown above, decorated with floral motifs. ©National Trust Collections

Back of the albarello shown above, decorated with floral motifs. ©National Trust Collections

So like that Japanese pseudo-albarello in an American collection, these jars, too, convey a multi-layered message about how we value and channel the past. In heritage, nothing is ever straightforward.

Meeting Sophonisba

November 26, 2013
Sir Anthony van Dyck, portrait of Sophonisbna Anguissola in old age, c. 1624. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Knole. ©National Trust Knole, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sir Anthony van Dyck, portrait of Sophonisbna Anguissola in old age, c. 1624. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Knole. ©National Trust Knole, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arts Council England has just published its 2012-13 report on the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. This report includes the recent allocation of a group of portraits to the National Trust which have a historic connection to Knole. Among these pictures is this portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck of the artist Sophonisba Anguissola in old age.

Copy by Hugh Howard of a sketch by Sir Anthony van Dyck of Sophonisba Anguissola. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Copy by Hugh Howard of a sketch by Sir Anthony van Dyck of Sophonisba Anguissola. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Sophonisba Anguissola was born into the minor nobility in Cremona, Lombardy. Her father ensured that all of his children received a cultivated upbringing, and four of her sisters also became painters. Sophonisba studied with local painters, setting a precedent for women to become art students.

Sophonisba Anguissola, portrait of the artist's sister in the garb of a nun, 1551. ©Southampton City Art Gallery, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sophonisba Anguissola, portrait of the artist’s sister in the garb of a nun, 1551. ©Southampton City Art Gallery, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

At the age of twenty-two, Sophonisba travelled to Rome, where she received informal instruction from Michelangelo. Although, as a woman, she was not allowed to study anatomy or life-drawing, she became an accomplished portraitist.

In 1559 she was invited to join the Spanish court as painter and lady in waiting to Elizabeth of Valois, King Philip II’s third wife. She married Don Francisco de Moncada, son of the Viceroy of Sicily, and they eventually went to live in Palermo. After her first husband’s death she married the considerably younger Orazio Lomellino, a ship’s captain whom she had met while travelling to Cremona. Both of her husbands supported her career as a painter.

Sophonisba Anguissola, portrait of the granddaughter of the Duke and Duchess of Parma, c. 1580. ©Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sophonisba Anguissola, portrait of the granddaughter of the Duke and Duchess of Parma, c. 1580. ©Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

In 1624, a year before her death, the by now famous artist was visited by Sir Anthony van Dyck, who sketched her and recorded her advice about painting. This sketch formed the basis for the portrait now at Knole.

Good news for Knole

August 1, 2013
Conservator removing dust from the headcloth of the state bed in the Venetian Amabassador's Room at Knole. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

Conservator removing dust from the headcloth of the state bed in the Venetian Amabassador’s Room at Knole. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has just announced a £7.75 million grant to help secure the multi-year conservation project currently underway at Knole.

The state bed with its related suite of furniture in the Venetian Ambassador's Room. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The state bed with its related suite of furniture in the Venetian Ambassador’s Room. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The first phase or repairs to the fabric of the building is complete and, with the HLF’s support, the focus can now move to the interiors and contents of this Tudor palace.

Detail of headboard and headcloth of the state bed in the Venetian Ambassador's Room, with a Netherlandish tapestry behind it. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

Detail of headboard and headcloth of the state bed in the Venetian Ambassador’s Room, with a Netherlandish tapestry behind it. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

As part of the project a bespoke and state of the art conservation studio will be created at Knole. Visitors will be able to watch the conservators at work and the studio will offer conservation and heritage-related training courses.

Conservator taking apart the bed in the Venetian Ambassador's Room. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

Conservator taking apart the bed in the Venetian Ambassador’s Room. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

Alongside the conservation work, the funding will also allow us to create stable environmental conditions in the rooms on show to the public. In addition we will open up previously unseen rooms and create improved visitor facilities.

Detail of the headboard, with James II's monogram, on the state bed in the Venetian Ambassador's Room.  ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

Detail of the headboard, with James II’s monogram, on the state bed in the Venetian Ambassador’s Room. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

Among the objects at Knole to be safeguarded and shown to better advantage are the extraordinary sixteenth- and seventeenth-century state beds. The bed shown here, in the Venetian Ambassador’s Room, was originally made for King James II in 1688.

The carved and gilded feet of the bed in the Venetian Ambassador's Room. The 'JR monogram stands for 'James Rex'. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

The carved and gilded feet of the bed in the Venetian Ambassador’s Room. The ‘JR monogram stands for ‘James Rex’. ©National Trust Images/David Levenson

The bed was given to Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset (1638-1706), who was Chamberlain to the household of King William III and Queen Mary II. As a perquisite of his office the 6th Earl was allowed to dispose of furniture from the royal palaces when they were deemed to be out of date, and this is how the collection of magnificent Stuart furniture came to Knole.

The shock of the old

July 9, 2013
Dress worn by Rosamund Anstruther, Mrs Edward Windsor Hussey (1877-1958). ©National Trust

Dress worn by Rosamund Anstruther, Mrs Edward Windsor Hussey (1877-1958). ©National Trust

Dame Helen Ghosh, the director-general of the National Trust, writes an internal blog about her experiences and thoughts while traveling around National Trust places and meeting colleagues. Recently she mentioned coming upon this Edwardian dress at Scotney Castle and suddenly being transported back in time.

Portrait of Rosamund Hussey by James Jebusa Shannon, painted shortly after 1900. ©National Trust Images/John HammondMRS EDWARD WINDSOR HUSSEY ON THE TERRACE by James Jebusa Shannon, (1862-1923), an American artist, on the Staircase in the new house at Scotney Castle, Kent

Portrait of Rosamund Hussey by James Jebusa Shannon, painted shortly after 1900. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The dress belonged to Rosamund Hussey who lived at Scotney during the first half of the twentieth century. She was painted wearing it by the society portraitist J.J. Shannon shortly after her marriage to Edward Windsor Hussey in 1900.

Mrs Hussey being painted by Shannon. National Trust Images

Mrs Hussey being painted by Shannon. National Trust Images

I have previously touched on the poignant juxtaposition between historic items of clothing and portraits showing them being worn, as also seen at Antony and in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The Scotney pairing is even more layered in that there exists a contemporary photograph showing the portrait being painted – an interestingly self-conscious celebration of the event of having one’s portrait painted, and an equally fascinating contrast between the new medium of photography and the old medium of oil on canvas.

View from the new house at Scotney down to the castle. ©National Trust Images/John Miller

View from the new house at Scotney down to the castle. ©National Trust Images/John Miller

And I suppose the garden at Scotney, shown in the background of the picture (and of the photograph), adds yet another visual layer which – like the dress – is still there.

Chinese wallpaper families

March 5, 2013
Detail of the Chinese wallpaper in the Drawing Room at Ightham Mote, Kent. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper in the Drawing Room at Ightham Mote, Kent. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

As the work on the catalogue of Chinese wallpapers in National Trust houses progresses, an informal ‘advisory committee’ has sprung up around it consisting of a dozen or so academics, curators and conservators. We bombard each other with information and queries and general enthusiasm – a genuine little liquid network.

The Drawing Room at Ightham. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Drawing Room at Ightham. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

This morning one member of the group, Dr Clare Taylor, mentioned the similarities between the Chinese wallpaper at Ightham Mote in Kent and the one at at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk. They are in fact almost identical, which makes them a good example of how Chinese wallpapers were sometimes produced as multiples, with the combined use of printing and hand-painting resulting in near-identical copies.

Detail ofthe  Chinese wallpaper at Ightham. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper at Ightham. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Another member of the group, conservator Allyson McDermott, then chipped in by saying she had examined the Ightham paper in the past, and found that it had had quite a hard life, with quite a lot of overpainting and restoration over time. This probably explains the difference in colouring between the Ightham and the Felbrigg papers.

The Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk. A pheasant identical to one in the Ightham paper can be seen behind the bell cord. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk. A pheasant identical to the one in the Ightham paper can be seen behind the bell cord. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Allyson also mentioned that a Chinese wallpaper that was discovered under later wallpaper at Uppark, West Sussex, was also rather similar, and indeed it has the same ‘frosted’ palette of a white background, subfusc greens and bright reds, purples and blues.

Fragment of Chinese wallpaper found under later wallpaper in the Little Parlour at Uppark, West Sussex.

Fragment of Chinese wallpaper found under later wallpaper in the Little Parlour at Uppark, West Sussex.

We know that the Felbrigg paper was hung in 1752, and the Uppark paper is thought to have been put up in about 1750, so this appears to be a relatively early type of Chinese wallpaper. The Ightham one is said to have been hung in about 1800, which suggests that it was hung or stored somewhere else before coming to Ightham.

The antiquarian setting of the Drawing Room at Ightham, with its Jacobean fireplace, is in some ways quite incongruous for a Chinese wallpaper, but that is part of the fascination of this subject: to learn more about the different ways people used Chinese wallpaper in different places and at different times.

Mixing your drinks

January 29, 2013
Silver wine cooler, from a set of four, by Aaron Lestourgeon, London, 1776. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Knole, 2012. ©National Trust Collections

Silver wine cooler, from a set of four, by Aaron Lestourgeon, London, 1776. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Knole, 2012. ©National Trust Collections

Wine and milk don’t really mix. Nevertheless, the design of these silver wine coolers, from a set of four at Knole, was inspired by the appearance of milk pails. They were made by Aaron Lestourgeon in 1776, at a time when there was an increasing taste for idealised country life.

The Dairy at Uppark, West Sussex, c. 1800 or 1810. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Dairy at Uppark, West Sussex, c. 1800 or 1810. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

As Meredith Martin has described in here recent book Dairy Queens, this period saw the building of model farms and pleasure dairies, such as the Hameau de la Reine at Versailles and the Bergerie Royale at Rambouillet, where aristocratic ladies could channel their inner milkmaid.

with gilt liners by Paul Storr, 1813.

One of a set of four silver wine coolers by Aaron Lestourgeon, London, 1776, with a gilt liner by Paul Storr, 1813. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Knole, 2012. ©National Trust Collections

There was a serious philosophical and moral undertone to this, as both milk and country life in general were praised as healthy, wholesome and socially regenerative.

The Dairy at Berrington Hall, Shropshire, by Henry Holland, 1780s. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Dairy at Berrington Hall, Shropshire, by Henry Holland, 1780s. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Perhaps it is an indication of the pervasiveness of that trend that even a relatively hedonistic object like a wine cooler was given ‘dairy’ styling.

The Dairy at Ham House, Surrey, c. 1800. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel.

The Dairy at Ham House, Surrey, c. 1800. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel.

This set of wine coolers, together with another set of four, was recently accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Knole.

Politics, roses and butterflies

December 4, 2012
The south front of Chartwell, Kent, the country house of Winston and Clementine Churchill between 1922 and 1964. ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

The south front of Chartwell, Kent, the country house of Winston and Clementine Churchill between 1922 and 1964. ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

I am just now reading Stefan Buczakcki’s Churchill and Chartwell: The Untold Story of Churchill’s Houses and Gardens. This is a biography that approaches the man through the houses he inhabited.

Portrait of Churchill wearing his official robes as Chancellor of the Exchequer, by John Singer Sargent, 1929. © National Trust Collections

Portrait of Churchill wearing his official robes as Chancellor of the Exchequer, by John Singer Sargent, 1925. © National Trust Collections

Churchill lived in an extraordinary succession of houses during his lifetime, perhaps reflecting his restless personality and tumultuous career.

The Study at Chartwell, the hub of Churchill's political activities for over 40 years. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Study at Chartwell, the hub of Churchill’s political activities for over 40 years. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The book brings home the fact that Churchill was very much a man of his time and class: he was forever finding new houses through his extensive circle of friends and relations and borrowing accommodation from wealthier and grander relatives. And as soon as he could he acquired a house in the country in addition to his metropolitan base.

The front door at Chartwell, with an 18th-century carved wooden doorcase purchased from the London dealer Thomas Crowther. The cat is a recent reincarnation of Churchill's ginger tom Jock. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

The front door at Chartwell, with an 18th-century carved wooden doorcase purchased from the London dealer Thomas Crowther. The cat is a recent reincarnation of Churchill’s ginger tom Jock. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

The vicissitudes of Churchill’s political career also influenced his frequent changes of address. At various times he lived in official residences, such as Admiralty House, the Admiralty yacht HMS Enchantress, and of course 10 Downing Street and Chequers.

Portrait of Lady Randolph Spencer-Churchill by John Singer Sargent. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

Portrait of Lady Randolph Spencer-Churchill by John Singer Sargent. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

Buczacki suggests that Churchill’s taste in interior decoration was influenced by the sumptuously Edwardian sense of style of his mother, Lady Randolph Spencer-Churchill, born Jennie Jerome.

The Dining Room at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Nick Guttridge

The Dining Room at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Nick Guttridge

The ultimate home of Churchill and his wife Clementine was to be Chartwell in Kent, which they had substantially rebuilt by the architect Philip Tilden.

The Golden Rose Walk at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson

The Golden Rose Walk at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson

There is lots of evidence at Chartwell of how Churchill shared some of the – to us – surprisingly genteel hobbies of Victorian and Edwardian politicians and men of action, such as cultivating roses, collecting butterflies, painting in oils and an admiration for ‘old English’ architecture and Arts & Crafts-style furnishings.

Churchill's desk in the Library at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Churchill’s desk in the Library at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

To me Churchill is interesting not just as an unconventional politician (there is a fascinating article on ‘Churchill as aristocratic adventurer’ in David Cannadine’s book Aspects of Aristocracy: Grandeur and Decline in Modern Britain), but also as a kind of bridge between different ages, a Victorian in the 20th century.

Knole uncovered

October 3, 2012

©John Miller

The team at Knole has now started a two-year programme of emergency repairs. This is the first stage of a much larger project aiming to secure the whole of the house for the future.

©John Miller

The roof of the east front is currently being opened up and the cement render used during previous repairs is being removed.

©John Miller

Modern cement was once widely used to patch up old buildings, but its hardness actually caused more damage to the softer traditional building materials.

©John Miller

Investigations are underway to assess how the damage to the roof timbers can be best repaired and to find out what the structure can reveal about the building’s history.

©John Miller

As curator Emma Slocombe says: ‘There have been many more interventions and build stages in the external envelope of the building than we had thought. We are fascinated by each new revelation. It is an incredibly moving experience to see Knole in this state.’

©John Miller

Some lucky visitors were recently able to take scaffolding tours of the building, to see Knole’s skeleton for themselves.

Boulle’s eye

September 4, 2012

Portrait of the 3rd Duke of Dorset by Sir Joshua Reynolds. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The taste of John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset, was nothing if not flamboyant. He had an Italian ballerina mistress and a Chinese page; he collected old master paintings and patronised Sir Joshua Reynolds, both on a lavish scale; he was a patron of the Paris opera while he was there as ambassador in the 1770s; and he built hothouses for pineapples and other exotic plants at Knole.

Plaster sculpture of La Baccelli, a dancer and the 3rd Duke of Dorset’s mistress. ©National Trust/Jane Mucklow

The Boulle furniture at Knole is yet more evidence of the 3rd Duke’s taste. He seems to have acquired it during his ambassadorial tenure in Paris, during which he reputedly spent around £11,000 a year.

Boulle clock by Etienne Baillon. ©National Trust/Jane Mucklow

‘Boulle’ is a kind of marquetry using tortoiseshell, gilt brass, copper and tin perfected by André Charles Boulle (1642-1732).

Boulle table in the style of Etienne Levaseur. ©National Trust/Jane Mucklow

The extraordinary Boulle clock in the Ballroom at Knole is by the late 17th century clockmaker Etienne Baillon. There is also a table in the style of cabinetmaker Etienne Levasseur (1721-1798), and an early 18th century desk.

Early 18th century Boulle desk. ©National Trust/Jane Mucklow

It is interesting that the 3rd Duke acquired both new and ‘antique’ pieces of Boulle furniture. By placing them in the Jacobean Ballroom (originally a dining room) at Knole he created an almost surreally anachronistic but supremely rich ensemble.

The Ballroom at Knole. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Knole Conservation Blog has recently highlighted these items. They have suffered over the years due to the fluctuating humidity in the house, which is one of the problems that the current major conservation project is designed to tackle.


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