Archive for the ‘Religious paintings’ Category

A Madonna returns to Tyntesfield

August 15, 2013
©National Trust/SWNS

©National Trust/SWNS

At the end of last week a rather special painting returned to Tyntesfield. The picture of the Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist was painted by the Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini and his workshop in the late 15th century.

The Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist, by Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516). ©National Trust/SWNS

The Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist, by Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516). ©National Trust/SWNS

In 1880 it was purchased by Anthony Gibbs (1841-1907) from a London dealer, to add to the growing collection of old master paintings at Tyntesfield begun by his father, William Gibbs (1790-1875).

Andrew Kent (kneeling) and Aaron Shaw of Fine Art Transport Services preparing and checking the fixings of the frame. ©National Trust/SWNS

Andrew Kent (kneeling) and Aaron Shaw of Fine Art Transport Services preparing and checking the fixings of the frame. ©National Trust/SWNS

William Gibbs had presided over the expansion of the family trading firm, particularly through the mining and shipping of guano, which was in demand as an agricultural fertiliser. The profits from this enabled him not just to rebuild and redecorate the house and to expand his art collection, but also to fund numerous philanthropic projects.

Curator Stephen Ponder communing with the picture. ©National Trust/SWNS

Curator Stephen Ponder communing with the picture. ©National Trust/SWNS

The decoration of Tyntesfield is an embodiment of the ideal, formulated by John Ruskin (1819–1900) in his book The Stones of Venice (1851–3), of a synthesis between the spiritual and the aesthetic.

Alex Smith, assistant house manager at Tyntesfield, cleaning the glass of the box frame before the paintings goes up on the wall. ©National Trust/SWNS

Alex Smith, assistant house manager at Tyntesfield, cleaning the glass of the box frame before the paintings goes up on the wall. ©National Trust/SWNS

The novelist Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901), a cousin of William Gibbs, seems to have been responding to this when she remarked that ‘that beautiful home was like a church in spirit.’

The picture ready to go up. ©National Trust/SWNS

The picture ready to go up. ©National Trust/SWNS

The fact that Tyntesfield is a largely complete survival of a high-Victorian country house in the Ruskinian mould was one of the reasons why the National Trust decided to try to acquire it following the death of Richard Gibbs, 2nd Lord Wraxall (1928-2001). The appeal was a success, attracting huge support from the public as well as an unprecedentedly large grant from the National Heritage memorial Fund.

The painting is first rested on the marble chimneypiece. ©National Trust/SWNS

The painting is first rested on the marble chimneypiece. ©National Trust/SWNS

The painting was accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by the Government and initially displayed at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. It was recently reallocated to the National Trust for display at Tyntesfield.

The final adjustments to the picture chains. ©National Trust/SWNS

The final adjustments to the picture chains. ©National Trust/SWNS

The return of the painting is an indication that, following the restoration of the house, Tyntesfield now meets the standards required for looking after and displaying works of this calibre.

A job well done. ©National Trust/SWNS

A job well done. ©National Trust/SWNS

The picture, which was painted on a wooden panel, had been given a box frame in 1969 to protect it against environmental changes. Some of the strain required in lifting such a heavy object is visible in the photographs shown here, but everyone involved was very pleased with the result.

Almost Easter

April 22, 2011

‘El Espolio’ or the disrobing of Christ by El Greco (1541-1614), at Upton House, Warwickshire. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Spanish art in North Somerset

March 30, 2011

Tyntesfield in its park. ©NTPL/Steve Stephens

The scaffolding that swathed Tyntesfield, in North Somerset, has now disappeared, as another phase in the conservation programme is completed. You can see a time-lapse image here – if you look closely you can also see the spire being put back on by a huge crane.

Studio of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, The Mater Dolorosa. ©Christie's

Another recent development is the installation of a painting from the studio of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1618-1682), entitled The Mater Dolorosa, or ‘mother of sorrows’. It depicts the Virgin Mary mourning the death of her son, painted with such realism that it could almost be an ordinary Spanish woman at prayer.

The Mater Dolorosa newly installed in the Hall at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust/Sally Williams

The picture was bought at auction at Christie’s in New York in 2009. It may be the picture that William Gibbs, the rebuilder of Tyntesfield, bought in Seville in 1853. His nephew Henry Hucks Gibbs said of it at the time that ‘the expression of the countenance I think I have never seen surpassed.’

The Hall at Tyntesfield. Since this photograph was taken it has been rearranged to reflect its Edwardian use as a sitting room. Visitors can now sit down here to savour the ambiance. ©NTPL/Steve Stephens

We are not sure whether this newly acquired picture is the exact same one that Gibbs bought (and which was later sold from the house), but even if it isn’t, it is likely to be almost identical. It was common practice for artists and their studios to make several versions of their paintings.

Portrait of William Gibbs by Sir William Boxall, RA, 1859. ©NTPL/John Hammond

William Gibbs (1790-1875) was born in Spain, where his father was engaged in trade. This, and his profoundly religious nature, explains his predilection for seventeenth-century Spanish painting.

William himself also became a merchant, and eventually made a huge fortune exporting guano, which was increasingly being used as agricultural fertiliser, from South America. This enabled him to rebuild Tyntesfield as a large, high-Victorian Gothic country house in the 1860s.

A sacred conversation

September 10, 2010

Attributed to Palma il Vecchio (c 1480-1528), Sacra Conversazione: The Madonna and child with St Mary Magdalene, St Peter and St Peter Martyr, oil on panel, 75.5 x 105.1 cm. Image Christie's

This painting came up at auction at Christie’s in London on 7 July. It was in the collection of John Barnard in the eighteenth century and was then acquired by the first Baron Scarsdale. It was at Kedleston Hall by 1778.

The north front of Kedleston Hall. ©NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

I was bidding for this picture at the auction on the National Trust’s behalf, but it went just beyond the limit we had set ourselves. However, one of our curators, Amanda Bradley, quickly contacted Christie’s to find out if the buyer might want to sell the picture on to us at a modest profit.

Italo-Byzantine triptych showing the Madonna and child with saints, early fourteenth century, at Polesden Lacey, Surrey. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Christie’s Old Master Paintings department very helpfully forwarded this offer to the buyer, who agreed, and after finding a little bit more money we were able to acquire the picture after all. We are very grateful to everyone who helped to make this happen.

Sacra Conversazione: The Virgin and child with St Jerome, St Justina, St Ursula and St Bernardino of Siena by Palma il Vecchio, at Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The title of the picture, meaning ‘sacred conversation’, refers to a type of religious picture that developed in the Renaissance, showing the Virgin and the Christ child surrounded by saints. Previously saints had been depicted in a rigidly emblematic way, but gradually they were shown more informally, as if conversing with the Virgin and child.

The first Lord and Lady Scarsdale walking in the grounds of Kedleston Hall by Nathaniel Hone, 1761. ©NTPL/John Hammond

This particular painting has been restored in the past, but it is nevertheless important to Kedleston as evidence of the taste for Old Master paintings of the first Lord Scarsdale and his wife Caroline.

Although Lord Scarsdale never seems to have gone on a Grand Tour of  Italy, he was nevertheless deeply interested in Italian art and architecture, as is evident in the building works he commissioned at Kedleston from James ‘Athenean’ Stuart and Robert Adam.

A design for the decoration of a state room at Kedleston, c. 1757-58, by James 'Athenian' Stuart. ©NTPL/John Hammond

As the new house was going up, Lord Scarsdale was buying more and more Old Masters, many of them through the painter and landscape designer William Kent.

The Drawing Room at Kedleston. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

Many of the pictures were incorporated into plasterwork frames that were part of the architecture. The Old Masters were shown in the east side of the main block, whereas portraits were displayed in the State Appartment on the west side.


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