Archive for the ‘Textiles’ Category

Phoenix hunt

November 7, 2014
Phoenix (fenghuang)  in the Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom at Nostell Priory. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

Phoenix (fenghuang) in the Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom at Nostell Priory. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

The omens must be favourable for my colleague Andrew Bush, our paper conservation adviser, because he has recently reported a number of sightings of the elusive and auspicious Chinese phoenix, or fenghuang.

Andrew found one in the Chinese wallpaper at Nostell Priory, which was hung by Thomas Chippendale in 1771.

Phoenix (fenghuang) in the Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom at Erddig. The bird was cut out and moved (to allow for a chimneypiece), which accounts for its slightly awkward position on the peony branches.©National Trust/Andrew Bush

Phoenix (fenghuang) in the Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom at Erddig. The bird was cut out and moved (to allow for a chimneypiece), which accounts for its slightly awkward position on the peony branches.©National Trust/Andrew Bush

Then he recognised the same bird in the Chinese wallpaper at Erddig, which is thought to have been hung during the 1770s.

Phoenix (fenghuang) in the Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom at Cobham Hall. ©Mark Sandiford

Phoenix (fenghuang) in the Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom at Cobham Hall. ©Mark Sandiford

And lo and behold there it was again in the Chinese wallpaper at Cobham Hall, where Bromwich, Isherwood and Bradley supplied Chinese wallpaper in 1773.

These phoenixes are more than just vaguely similar: they share the same stance, shape and disposition of feathers, suggesting they are all based on the same master design.

British printed cotton with a chinoiserie design, c. 1775-80, possibly used as a curtain, at Winterthur. ©Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

British printed cotton with a chinoiserie design, c. 1775-80, possibly used as a curtain, at Winterthur. ©Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

But to top all that Andrew has now spotted the same phoenix in a different medium, produced on the other side of the world: it also appears on a British printed cotton, dated to the late 1770s. This textile is now in the Winterthur collection, and is illustrated in the splendid new book Printed Textiles by Linda Eaton. In spite of the more western appearance of the design, the bird is clearly related to the fenghuang in the Chinese wallpapers at Nostell, Erddig and Cobham Hall.

It is tempting to speculate about the exact relationship between these Chinese painted wallpapers and that British printed cotton design. As yet we only have this limited visual evidence, but it is clear that there was some kind of cross-cultural, cross-medium exchange going on.

Watts that pattern?

October 14, 2014
Wood block of the 'Oak Leaf' design against samples of the hand-blocked wallpaper. ©Watts of Westminster.

Wood block of the ‘Oak Leaf’ design against samples of the hand-blocked wallpaper. ©Watts of Westminster.

A small exhibition at the Fashion and textile Museum in London features the wallpapers of Watts & Co., a firm supplying ecclesiastical and domestic furnishings which is celebrating its 140th anniversary this year.

Selection of hand-blocked Watts wallpapers. ©Watts of Westminster.

Selection of hand-blocked Watts wallpapers. ©Watts of Westminster.

The firm was founded by the architects G. Gilbert Scott, G.F. Bodley and Thomas Garner. The ‘Watt’s’ name is purely fictional, having apparently been chosen because the founders wanted to keep the decorative work separate from their architectural practices.

The Duchess's Private Closet at Ham House, hung with 'Pear' flock wallpaper by Watts. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Duchess’s Private Closet at Ham House, hung with ‘Pear’ flock wallpaper by Watts. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Scott, Bodley and Garner were known for their Gothic Revival buildings, but they also designed schools and houses in the eclectic ‘Queen Anne’ style which was popular in the later nineteenth century.

Detail of the 'Ravenna' flock wallpaper by Watts in the White Closet at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Detail of the ‘Ravenna’ flock wallpaper by Watts in the White Closet at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Early Watts wallpaper survives at Ham House, where Bodley and Garner were involved in restoration and refurbishment work for the 9th Earl of Dysart in the late 1880s. Flock wallpaper in the ‘Pear’ pattern can be seen in the Duchess’s Private Closet, and ‘Ravenna’ hangs in the White Closet.

Michael Hall has written an enlightening article on Bodley and Garner’s work at Ham which was included in the book Ham House: 400 years of Collecting and Patronage.

Proposal by G.F. Bodley for the redecoration of the Oak Drawing Room at Powis Castle, painted by Henry Charles Brewer, c.1902, showing the intended use of Watts 'Pear' pattern silk, at Powis Castle, inv. no. 11807882.2. ©National Trust.

Proposal by G.F. Bodley for the redecoration of the Oak Drawing Room at Powis Castle, painted by Henry Charles Brewer, c.1902, showing the intended use of Watts ‘Pear’ pattern silk, at Powis Castle, inv. no. 11807882.2. ©National Trust.

At Powis Castle a cut silk velvet woven in the ‘Pear’ pattern was used for the upholstery and the curtains in the Oak Drawing Room when the room was remodeled by G.F. Bodley for the 4th Earl of Powis between 1902 and 1904.

Detail of the 'Bodley' wallpaper, originally designed by G.F. Bodley in about 1870, in an updated colourway produced for Cecil Beaton in 1952. ©Watts of Westminster

Detail of the ‘Bodley’ wallpaper, originally designed by G.F. Bodley in about 1870, in an updated colourway produced for Cecil Beaton in 1952. ©Watts of Westminster

Because Watts supplied both domestic and ecclesiastical furnishings, it was better able to weather the changes in fashion than, for instance, Morris & Co., which closed in 1940. Watts’s offering was refreshed in the 1950s and 1960s by Elizabeth Hoare, one of Scott’s granddaughters, who brought in new designers and new colourways – including a ‘think pink’ version of the ‘Bodley’ pattern for Cecil Beaton.

Selection of wallpapers in the Watts showroom at the Chelsea Design Centre, London. ©Watts of Westminster

Selection of wallpapers in the Watts showroom at the Chelsea Design Centre, London. ©Watts of Westminster

There will be a study day on the history of Watt’s & Co. at the Victoria and Albert Museum on October 25.

A carpet’s journey

September 16, 2014
Room view from the north West corner of the Saloon at Stourhead, Wiltshire

The Saloon at Stourhead, originally created by Henry Flitcroft in the 1740s but reconfigured by Doran Webb after a fire in 1902. The Axminster carpet has been in the room since at least 1824. ©National Trust Images/Bill Batten

The Axminster carpet in the Saloon at Stourhead has been there since the early nineteenth century, making its first known appearance in a sketch of the room by J.C. Buckler dated 1824.

Light and wear damage to the carpet. ©National Trust

Light and wear damage to the carpet. ©National Trust

Recently it was showing its age, and it has now been taken to the premises of carpet conservators The Tetley Workshop. The conservation treatment includes cleaning, adding support to damaged areas and restoring some of the losses.

Grid lines laid over the carpet to enable it to be surveyed in detail. ©National Trust

Grid lines laid over the carpet to enable it to be surveyed in detail. ©National Trust

The £36,000 cost of this project is part of the support received from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery towards the National Trust’s conservation priorities.

Cleaning in progress. ©National Trust

Cleaning in progress. ©National Trust

The 9.7 x 8.6 m. carpet has been moved once before, when the house caught fire in 1902 and the servants were trying to save what they could. This time round it took a sizable team of Stourhead gardeners and garden volunteers to help roll and move the carpet.

Repairs in progress. ©National Trust

Repairs in progress. ©National Trust

The carpet will be returning to Stourhead in November 2014.

Wearing the garden

June 26, 2014
Damask waistcoat in 1770s style, using fabric from 1755. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349699. ©National Trust

Damask waistcoat in 1770s style, using fabric from 1755. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349699. ©National Trust

I just spotted these images of yet more gorgeous waistcoats from the Wade collection at Berrington Hall, on the well-illustrated Hidden Wardrobe blog. I have previously showed some of these exuberantly ‘pre-Brummell’ waistcoats here.

Cream satin waistcoat with copper-plate printed decoration, 1810-20. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349304. ©National Trust

Cream satin waistcoat with copper-plate printed decoration, 1810-20. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349304. ©National Trust

They are on show in an exhibition entitled ‘Wearing the Garden’, about the floral decoration on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century waistcoats. The exhibition is on view until 30 June – just an few days left.

1760s beryl blue satin waistcoat with snowdrops, daffodils and stylised leaves in silver gilt. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349008. ©National Trust

1760s beryl blue satin waistcoat with snowdrops, daffodils and stylised leaves in silver gilt. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349008. ©National Trust

I find it difficult to imagine how men could unselfconsiously wear such sumptuous and theatrical clothes – but they evidently did.

Early-nineteenth-century waistcoat decorated with embroidered flowers and spangles. Wade collections, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349300. ©National Trust

Early-nineteenth-century waistcoat decorated with embroidered flowers and spangles. Wade collections, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349300. ©National Trust

I suppose it would have helped that this style and level of luxury was considered perfectly appropriate for a certain class of person in the late eighteenth century.

Cream ground satin waistcoat with floral designs in cut and uncut velvet, inv. no. 1349007. ©National Trust

Cream ground satin waistcoat with floral designs in cut and uncut velvet, inv. no. 1349007. ©National Trust

But even then, as costume curator Althea Mackenzie writes, there were grumblings that it was becoming difficult to distinguish a master from a servant just on the basis of dress.

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.

Silk and paper crossovers

January 29, 2014
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Chinese painted silk coverlet, 1760-1800, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. © V&A Images

On her ever-inspiring Style Court blog Courtney Barnes has just posted images of a delicately painted Chinese painted silk coverlet in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is thought to date from the second half of the eighteenth century.

Nostell

Chinese wallpaper hung at Nostell Priory in 1771 by Thomas Chippendale. ©National Trust Images/J. Whitaker

As Courtney writes in her post, this coverlet has some striking similarities with Chinese wallpaper, particularly in the way the trees and flowers, birds and rocks have been combined in artful vignettes against a neutral background. The picturesque rocks – and the basket and the lantern hung in the tree in the V&A coverlet – indicate that we are looking at carefully arranged garden scenes rather than untamed nature.

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Detail of the Chinese painted silk coverlet in the Victoria and Albert Museum. © V&A Images

The floral borders in the coverlet also have parallels in Chinese wallpaper. They appear in the borders which were supplied as separate strips to be fitted around the edges of the larger paper drops.

Chinese wallpaper border, hung in the Lower India Room at Penrhyn Castle in the early 1830s. ©National Trust/Andrew Nush

Chinese wallpaper border, hung in the Lower India Room at Penrhyn Castle in the early 1830s. ©National Trust/Andrew Nush

These borders are clearly idealised representations of ‘floweriness': various different flowers appear to grow from the same stem or tendril.

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Pole screen decorated with Chinese painted paper at Osterley Park, probably second half eighteenth century. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

The same serpentine floral patterns sometimes also broke free from their restricted border role, filling entire panels of paper or silk.

Attingham

Chinese painted silk upholstery at Attingham Park, first half nineteenth century. ©National Trust

You could almost call this an example of ‘the periphery taking over the centre’.

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Detail of the Chinese painted silk coverlet in the Victoria and Albert Museum. © V&A Images

Stylistically, the garden scenery on the V&A coverlet seems to have elements of both eighteenth- and nineteenth-century wallpapers.

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Detail from the Chinese wallpaper in the Lower India Room at Penrhyn Castle, hung early 1830s. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

The scenery looks fairly realistic and ‘painterly’, which tends to be a characteristic of earlier, eighteenth-century wallpapers. But the tufts of grass in the foreground have something of the stylised look, and the colouring, of grass in nineteenth century wallpapers.

chinese_wallpapers_cover

Some of this will be included in the forthcoming catalogue of Chinese wallpapers in the historic houses of the National Trust, due to be published in early March. But this coverlet in the V&A was new to me and the fascinating relationship between painted papers and painted silks clearly needs further research.

Virtue and vice at Hardwick Hall

October 29, 2013
Detail of a painted wall hanging, depicting the conversion of Saul, c. 1600, in the Chapel at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Detail of a painted wall hanging, depicting the conversion of Saul, c. 1600, in the Chapel at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

An exhibition at Hardwick Hall explores the political, religious, and social upheaval of the Reformation. It shows how these new ideas and beliefs were reflected in the historic interiors and collections of the house.

The virtuous Penelope, in an appliqué wall hanging in the Hall at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammondbyshire

The virtuous Penelope, in an appliqué wall hanging in the Hall at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammondbyshire

The exhibition, called Virtue and Vice, has been curated by the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies at the University of York. It has also benefited from the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project European Conversion Narratives, c.1550-1700.

The Eglantine table, inlaid with musical instruments, sheet music, games and arms, crests and mottoes, possibly c. 1567, in the High Great Chamber at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/Nick Guttridge

The Eglantine table, inlaid with musical instruments, sheet music, games and arms, crests and mottoes, possibly c. 1567, in the High Great Chamber at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/Nick Guttridge

In this video Dr Helen Smith, reader in Renaissance literature at the University of York, talks about the concept of the exhibition. And in this one a choral group performs the motet ‘Oh Lord in Thee is all my trust’ inlaid in the so-called Eglantine table in the High Great Chamber. At Hardwick, at least, Virtue seems to have found an ally in Beauty.

Interwoven globe

October 8, 2013
The state bed at Calke Abbey. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

The state bed at Calke Abbey. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

The ever-stimulating Style Court blog has recently been featuring the exhibition currently on at the Metropolitan Museum in New York entitled Interwoven Globe, about how the international trade in textiles the early modern period influenced design across the world.

The Chinese embroidered silk inside the state bed at Calke. ©National Trust Images/John Millarthe Chinese silk embroidered hangings on the State Bed at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire.

The Chinese embroidered silk inside the state bed at Calke. ©National Trust Images/John Millarthe Chinese silk embroidered hangings on the State Bed at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire.

I am perusing the catalogue at the moment, and it is fascinating to read how European motifs ended up in Chinese silks, and how Chinese and Japanese motifs were in turn copied in Europe. Some ‘exotic’ textiles, such as Indian painted cotton palampores, actually combined elements from China, Persia, India and England.

Phoenix embroidered onto the white silk covering of the state bed at Calke. ©National Trust Images/John Millar the State Bed at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire.

Phoenix embroidered onto the white silk covering of the state bed at Calke. ©National Trust Images/John Millar the State Bed at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire.

This important exhibition is a suitable excuse for me to show some images of the rather gorgeous state bed at Calke Abbey, which is hung with Chinese embroidered silk. The bed was probably made for King George I in about 1715, and seems to have been given to Lady Caroline Manners by Queen Caroline when she married Sir Henry Harpur, 5th Bt, in 1734. Since the bed was hardly ever put up at Calke (it was too tall for most of the rooms in the family part of the house) the silk has been quite well preserved.

Qilin embroiderd onto the blue silk covers on the state bed at Calke. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

Qilin embroiderd onto the blue silk covers on the state bed at Calke. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

The blue material is like taffeta and is relatively light, while the white silk is heavier and has a satin finish. Tightly rolled peacock feathers were used for the knots in the tree trunks and the markings on the butterfly wings.

The private side of the public purse

March 30, 2012

Detail of the Lord Chancellor's purse of office at Wimpole Hall. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

I was wrong when I said earlier that we didn’t have good photographs of purses of office in National Trust collections. There are some excellent images of the Lord Chancellor’s purse, worn and tarnished but still an extraordinary example of the embroiderer’s art, that belonged the Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764), at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire.

The Lord Chancellor's purse on display at Wimpole. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The 1st Earl started out as an able and ambitious lawyer and politician and he went on to contribute to successive Whig governments. He was influential in shaping of the law of equity and the legal definition of marriage in England and Wales.

Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwick, as Lord Chancellor, by the Reverend James Wills (fl. 1746– d. 1777), c. 1740, at Erddig, inv. no. 1151294. His purse of office is propped up behind him. © National Trust Collections

He ended up being one of the longest-serving Lord Chancellors. It is said King George II did not recognise him after he left office since he had never before seen him without his robes of state and full wig.

Detail of the tarnished gold and silver thread on an angel's face on the Lord Chancellor's purse at Wimpole. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Hardwicke purchased Wimpole in 1740 as a country house suited to his personal and dynastic ambitions. He employed the architect Henry Flitcroft to rebuild the house, which retains its external appearance from that time.

The south front of Wimpole Hall and St Andrew's parish church, both rebuilt by Henry Flitcroft for the 1st Earl of Hardwicke. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

Wimpole was also the setting for Hardwicke’s growing family, especially during convivial late summer gatherings.  But then ‘family’ was often the equivalent of ‘business’ in the eighteenth century.

Portrait by Alan Ramsay of Jemima, Marchioness Grey and Countess of Hardwicke, the 1st Earl's daughter-in-law and a social networker in her own right. Inv. no. 207812.1 ©National Trust Images/Roy Fox

Hardwicke’s eldest son Philip married Jemima, Marchioness Grey, and they lived at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire. His eldest daughter Elizabeth married Admiral Anson who, when he wasn’t sailing the globe, lived at Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire. Their distant Yorke cousins were based at Erddig, in Wrexham. The extended family was a power network as well as a social network (as I also touched on in this earlier post).

Patterns of beauty at Wightwick

June 21, 2011

A corner of the Great Parlour at Wightwick Manor. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The July 2011 issue of The World of Interiors features an article on Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, with text by Nicholas Mander and photographs by Christopher Simon Sykes.

Detail of a piece of 'Diagonal Trail' fabric, designed by J.H. Dearle for Morris & Co, in the Oak Room at Wightwick. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

I thought I would use that as a pretext to show some more details of the amazing Arts and Crafts interiors at Wightwick.

Early Moorcroft vase in the Daisy Room at Wightwick. ©NTPL/Paul Raeside

Wightwick was built by Edward Ould for Theodore Mander, a prosperous Victorian paint and varnish manufacturer.

Detail of the 'Acanthus' wallpaper pattern, designed by William Morris in about 1875, in the eponymous Acanthus Bedroom at Wightwick Manor. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Theodore Mander was religious and public-spirited and was interested in John Ruskin’s ideas about the importance of craftsmanship and the inspiration of the past. His outlook is reflected in the Arts and Crafts-style decoration of the house.

Copy of the 'Kelmscott Chaucer', published by William Morris in 1896, his last major artistic project, at Wightwick Manor. ©NTPL/Paul Raeside

The house was further enriched by Theodore Mander’s eldest son Sir Geoffrey Mander and his wife, Pre-Raphaelite expert Rosalie Glynn Grylls. The Manders presented Wightwick Manor to the National Trust in 1937, when regard for anything Victorian was at a low ebb.

Detail of the 'Wild Tulip' wallpaper by Morris & Co in the Dining Room at Wightwick Manor. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Mander family subsequently continued to add choice pieces to the Wightwick collection, joined by several generous donors. In 2007, for instance, an anonymous benefactor gave a copy Morris’s Kelmscott Chaucer.


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