Archive for the ‘Religious paintings’ Category
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.
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 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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.