Archive for the ‘Montacute’ Category

Pictorial furniture for Montacute

November 28, 2013
Figured walnut and gilt sofa with embroidered upholstery depicting a scene from the History of Troy, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Figured walnut and gilt sofa with embroidered upholstery depicting a scene from the History of Troy, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Acceptance in Lieu panel has recently published its review for 2012-13. This also included a number of pieces of early Georgian furniture which has been allocated to Montacute.

Beechwood chair veneered with walnut and decorated with gesso and gilding and upholstered with embroidery depicting Boreas and Oreithyia, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ,©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Beechwood chair veneered with walnut and decorated with gesso and gilding and upholstered with embroidery depicting Boreas and Oreithyia, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ,©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

The furniture was originally commissioned for Chicheley Hall, mostly by Sir John Chester, 4th Baronet (1666-1724). It remained in the house until it was given on loan to Montacute by Major Greville Chester in the late 1940s. Chicheley Hall was sold to the 2nd Earl Beatty in 1954 and to the Royal Society in 2009 (and there is an excellent history of the house by Peter Collins and Stefanie Fischer on the Royal Society website).

Detail of one of the embroidered chairbacks, this one depicting Diana and her nymphs, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by HM Government and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Detail of one of the embroidered chairbacks, this one depicting Diana and her nymphs, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by HM Government and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

The National Trust acquired Montacute in 1931 through the generosity of Ernest Cook, but without any contents. During the Second World War the house was used as one of the stores for the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which was under threat from bombing. Towards the end of the war a project was initiated to gather suitable furniture and furnishings to bring Montacute to life. The loan from Major Chester was one of the groups of items that came to the house then.

Folding screen decorated with embroidered mythological scenes and floral motifs, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Folding screen decorated with embroidered mythological scenes and floral motifs, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

The single most important item in the group is a swaggering giltwood and gilt-gesso side table probably made for Sir John Chester, 6th Baronet (1693-1748) incorporating his coat of arms and those of his wife, Frances Bagot.

Giltwood and gilt gesso side table with the arms of Sir John Chester, 6th Baronet, and his wife Frances Bagot, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Giltwood and gilt gesso side table with the arms of Sir John Chester, 6th Baronet, and his wife Frances Bagot, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

The group also includes a sofa, ten chairs and a screen upholstered with embroidery. Although the furniture is English, the embroidery may be French, depicting various scenes from Ovid based on engravings. Dudley Dodd identified the embroidered scenes in an article in the 2011 National Trust Historic Houses and Collections Annual, but the identity of the makers remains unclear.

Looking after King James

April 12, 2012

Conservator examining the portrait of King James I. ©National Trust

I keep finding new blogs being written by National Trust colleagues about the places where they work and the projects they are engaged in. My latest discovery is the Montacute House blog, which has actually been going for some time.

The portrait on display at Montacute following conservation. The painter took great care in rendering the different textures of the leather wallhanging, the fur cape and the silk costume. ©National Trust

One of the subjects that Montacute intern Emma Harnett and volunteer Andrew May have been posting about is the return of the portrait of King James I of England and VI of Scotland by John de Critz the Elder, which we recently purchased at auction. The picture had originally been given to Sir Edward Phelips, the builder of Montacute, as a mark of esteem by the king.

Samples are being taken and stored in phials for later analysis. ©National Trust

The portrait underwent conservation treatment before it was put on display. Here you can see a conservator taking tiny paint samples for analysis.

The back of the picture, showing the relative thinness of the panels. ©National Trust

The wooden panel that the portrait is painted on was found to be quite thin and slightly warped, with small cracks in places.

King James now has his own QR code. ©National Trust

A so-called panel tray has now been fitted to the back of the painting. This is a kind of box that supports the back of the picture but also allows it to move when there are changes in humidity levels, helping to prevent further damage.

I am looking forward to more interesting posts from the Montacute House blog.

A prodigy portrait for Montacute

July 28, 2011

Portrait of James I by John de Critz the Elder. ©Sotheby’s

In the Sotheby’s auction mentioned in the previous post the National Trust also bought this portrait of King James I.

©Sotheby’s

This splendidly detailed picture is by the court painter John de Critz the Elder (1551/2-1642) and was reputedly presented by the King to Sir Edward Phelips (1560?-1614), the builder of Montacute House, Somerset.

Sir Edward Phelips with his Speaker's mace and bag of office, by an unknown artist, at Montacute. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Sir Edward was a successful lawyer who entered Parliament and eventually became Speaker of the House of Commons. He was one of the prosecutors at the trial of Guy Fawkes after the Gunpowder Plot in 1605.

©Sotheby’s

The presence of this portrait at Montacute expressed the King’s favour to a useful and reliable public servant.

The west front of Montacute. ©NTPL/Robert Morris

Montacute was presented to the National Trust by Ernest Cook (grandson of Thomas Cook, founder of the travel agency) in 1931, but at the time very few of its original Phelips family contents remained.

Detail of the Dining Room at Montacute, with an inlaid Nonsuch chest and a portrait of Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Layton, attributed to George Gower (Sir Percy Malcolm Stewart bequest). ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

The house has been furnished over the years with collections of furniture, tapestries and works of art that were lent, given and bequeathed to the National Trust. Since 1975 Montacute has also shown changing displays of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century portraits from the National Portrait gallery.

The east front of Montacute. ©NTPL/Stuart Cox

The portrait of James I is a splendid addition to the few remaining Phelips-related objects in the house. It is reminiscent of the heyday of Montacute, when it was a newly-built Jacobean ‘prodigy house’ and an exuberant statement of Sir Edward Phelips’s position and wealth.

©Sotheby’s

The portrait was purchased for £199,250 including buyer’s premium, with funds from a bequest from the late Miss Moira Carmichael (who for many years was a volunteer room guide at Montacute) and from other gifts and bequests to the National Trust.

©Sotheby’s

The picture is currently undergoing conservation work and will return to Montacute in the near future.

So crewel

May 5, 2010

Detail of the late seventeenth-century crewelwork bed cover in the Crimson Bedroom at Montacute House. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

A recent post about crewelwork by Courtney over at Style Court has inspired me to feature a bed with the same material at Montacute House, in Somerset.

The oak bed in the Crimson Bedroom at Montacute. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

The oak bed dates from 1612 and incorporates the arms of James I, Henry Prince of Wales and Frederick V. This bed was donated by Mr J.C.K. Gamlen via the Art Fund (then called the National Art Collections Fund) in 1945. It was the first gift that the National Trust received from the Art Fund, and there have been many since, both in the form of works of art and of grants.

In 1931 Montacute was presented to the National Trust through the generosity of Ernest Cook, the grandson of the founder of the Thomas Cook travel agency. The house was largely empty of contents, however, so pieces of furniture like this bed were acquired to furnish it appropriately.

Montacute House. ©NTPL/Rupert Truman

Montacute was built around 1600 by the succesful lawyer and courtier Sir Edward Phelips (?1516-1614). His descendants inhabited the house until 1911.

Rotunda and banqueting house in the garden at Montacute. ©NTPL/Robert Morris

In the late seventeenth century the garden at Montacute will have been formal and geometric, so any crewelwork that may have been in the house then will have looked refreshingly ‘wild’ in comparison. The garden contains several types of shrub rose that were in cultivation when the house was built, including the red rose of Lancaster, Rosa gallica officinalis, and the double white form of the Yorkist rose, Rosa alba ‘Maxima’.

Banqueting houses, set either in the garden or on the roof of the house, were used in Elizabethan and Jacobean times as a place where people could retire after dinner for a final course of cristallised quince paste, ginger bread and other sweet delicacies.


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