Chickens and eggs

February 13, 2014
Detail of leather wall-hangings in the Dining Room at Bateman's. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Detail of leather wall-hangings in the Dining Room at Bateman’s. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

I have recently been looking at the similarities between the flowering trees, birds and rocks on Chinese silk and on Chinese wallpaper. There seems to have been a lot of visual cross-fertilisation going on, not only between these different categories of Chinese products, but also involving the ‘tree of life’ motifs on Indian chintz.

©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Another element in this fascinating but confusing mix is the category of European leather wall-hangings, like this set at Bateman’s. Many of these hangings are clearly decorated with the same type of bird and flower imagery.

©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The closest parallels to these seem to the the stylised, serpentine ‘tree of life’ motifs on Indian chintzes. But those, in turn, seems to have been partly influenced by European embroideries and by Chinese garden imagery as seen on textiles, lacquer, porcelain and wallpaper.

©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

It is a classic ‘chicken and egg’ problem: which came first? It may prove to be impossible to identify the Ur-version of this type of decoration, but we can certainly learn more by making further comparisons.

Between history and fiction

February 11, 2014

Part of the Drawing Room at Hatchlands. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

Part of the Drawing Room at Hatchlands. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

I have just been reading the fascinating catalogue marking the donation of Alec Cobbe’s career archive to the Victoria and Albert Museum. There is also an accompanying display currently on view at the V&A.

The Drawing Room at Hatchlands. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

The Drawing Room at Hatchlands. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

Alec Cobbe is a polymath who initially worked as a paintings conservator (although he prefers the older description ‘picture restorer’), but later became known for his sensitive rehangings of historic picture collections. He is also an artist, designer, musician and collector.

Part of the Library at Hatchlands. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Part of the Library at Hatchlands. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Alec Cobbe grew up in Newbridge House, County Dublin, which had been rebuilt in the 1740s by his ancestor Charles Cobbe, Archbishop of Dublin. In the 1750s and 1760s the house was filled with pictures by Archbishop Cobbe’s son Robert and his wife Elizabeth.

The Library at Hatchlands. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The Library at Hatchlands. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Alec Cobbe’s early experience of Newbridge, as well as his training as a conservator, informed his sensitivity to the historic settings of works of art. In the catalogue Julius Bryant puts Cobbe’s career in the context of the re-evaluation of picture hangs in museums and historic houses over the last forty years or so.

Broadwood grand piano, 1847, in the Staircase Hall at Hatchlands Park. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

Broadwood grand piano, 1847, in the Staircase Hall at Hatchlands Park. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

Apart from advising the National Trust, and becoming a Trust tenant at Hatchlands Park, Alec Cobbe has also been involved with picture rehangs in the private apartments at Petworth and at Harewood House, Kenwood and Hatfield House. He has also designed some striking historicist showcases, for instance for Powis Castle, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

The Dining Room at Hatchlands. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The Dining Room at Hatchlands. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

In 1984 Hatchlands was in need of a new purpose, having recently been a school and with little in the way of original contents.  Alec Cobbe was invited by the National Trust to display his collections of painting and historic keyboard instruments there and to make it once more into a living family home.

The Saloon at Hatchlands. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

The Saloon at Hatchlands. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

The catalogue not only provides an overview of Cobbe’s career and of the changing attitudes to historic houses, but it also touches on some fundamental questions about what it is that we value about the past.

As Julius Bryant puts it: ‘Once one accepts that all historic interiors have gone for good (for not only their historic contents, but also our way of perceiving them, have changed) then the latest ‘restoration’ project can be judged against values other than ‘accuracy’. In admiring a restored room as a work of art and design we can also ask how well it shows the collections, what it tells us about the use and display of the space over the centuries, and how well it conveys what Alexander Pope called ‘the genius of the place’.

Portraits from outer space

February 6, 2014
Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of Caroline Conolly, Countess of Buckinghamshire, 1784, at Blickling Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of Caroline Conolly, Countess of Buckinghamshire, 1784, at Blickling Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

We have been having a discussion about the relative merits of Arthur Devis and Thomas Gainsborough. I love the little details in Devis’s portraits, but I can also see that Gainsborough lifted British portraiture onto an altogether different plane.

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, 1784, at Blickling Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, 1784, at Blickling Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Gainsborough’s portraits zoom in on the sitters’ appearance, glamourising them in the manner of today’s media personalities. Gainsborough’s foregrounding of a person’s ‘aura’ contributes to the characteristic vividness and brilliance of his portraits.

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of a lady, possibly Elizabeth White, Mrs Hartley, c.1786-7, at Ascott. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of a lady, possibly Elizabeth White, Mrs Hartley, c.1786-7, at Ascott. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

However, it seems to me that in some ways Gainsborough’s pictures are – paradoxically – less realistic than Devis’s more muted portrayals.

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of the Hon Thomas Needham, 1768, at Ascott. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of the Hon Thomas Needham, 1768, at Ascott. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Gainsborough’s settings are often very effective in hinting at the sitter’s role, personality or achievements, but they do that by being very theatrical. Pillar = grandeur and permanence. Pike = military hero. Anchor = naval prowess. Devis’s hints of domestic life have been replaced by emblematic props and backdrops.

Thomas Gainsborough and another hand, portrait of Susanna 'Suky' Trevelyan, Mrs John Hudson, 1761, at Wallington. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Gainsborough and another hand, portrait of Susanna ‘Suky’ Trevelyan, Mrs John Hudson, 1761, at Wallington. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The way the sitters are dressed, and their body language, is again often rather theatrical. They appear like beautifully dressed and charismatically posed actors on a stage.

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of Commodore the Hon. Augustus Hervey, later Vice-Admiral and 3rd Earl of Bristol, 1767-8, at Ickworth. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

In their glamorous artifice Gainsborough’s portraits remind me of film posters or trailers.

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of Louisa Barbarina Mansel, Lady Vernon, 1763-7, at Sudbury Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Gainsborough, portrait of Louisa Barbarina Mansel, Lady Vernon, 1763-7, at Sudbury Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

All this makes his pictures at once very present and very distant. Gainsborough people seem a bit like beautiful aliens who have just arrived from outer space, surveying the assembled earthlings with gentle surprise and benign disdain.

Rococo lifestyle

February 4, 2014
Arthur Devis, portrait of Lucy Watson, Mrs Thornton, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundationk

Arthur Devis, portrait of Lucy Watson, Mrs Thornton, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Waldemar Januszczak has recently been entertaining and educating us about the rococo on British TV. By pure coincidence I just spotted these charming rococo-period portraits of English gentry by Arthur Devis (1712-87).

Arthur Devis, portrait of Lascelles Raymond Iremonger, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arthur Devis, portrait of Lascelles Raymond Iremonger, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Devis’s portraits always have something slightly stilted about them, but at the same time they show lots of telling little details of people’s dress and furnishings.

Arthur Devis, portrait of a lady, possibly Elizabeth Lacey, Mrs Joshua Iremonger III, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arthur Devis, portrait of a lady, possibly Elizabeth Lacey, Mrs Joshua Iremonger III, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The chimney board in the portrait of Mrs Thornton, for instance, appears to be decorated with a Chinese picture or section of wallpaper, a practice that was fairly widespread at the time – Lucy Johnson has found references to them being introduced at Woburn Abbey in the early 1750s.

Arthur Devis, portrait of Joshua Iremonger III, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arthur Devis, portrait of Joshua Iremonger III, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

It is also fascinating to see how empty the interiors are in Devis’s pictures, with just the occasional chair or table, a vase in the fireplace or a few porcelain jars and statuettes on the chimneypiece. Some of the floors are just bare boards, others appear to be covered by plain floorcloths with an occasional Turkey rug on top.

Arthur Devis, portrait of a man seated in a park, supposedly Sir James Burrow, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arthur Devis, portrait of a man seated in a park, supposedly Sir James Burrow, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Was life just elegantly simple then, or did they have hidden closets bulging with stuff, like 1990s minimalists?

Arthur Devis, portrait of a boy or young man fishing, possibly Christopher Lethieullier, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arthur Devis, portrait of a boy or young man fishing, possibly Christopher Lethieullier, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Or was Arthur Devis a stylist as well as a portraitist, skilfully editing his clients’ interiors? The little book propped on the dado rail in the portrait of Lascelles Raymond Iremonger, for instance, seems to betray the casually perfect touch of the stylist.

Arthur Devis, portrait of Sarah Lascelles, Mrs Christopher Lethieullier, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arthur Devis, portrait of Sarah Lascelles, Mrs Christopher Lethieullier, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The outdoor portraits are equally fascinating, showing the sitters enjoying ‘nature’ in carefully composed settings. Mrs Christopher Lethieullier seems to have been provided with a floorcloth to protect her shoes and dress from the dirt, while the gentlemen appear to be slightly more carefree, seated on green-painted garden chairs and even putting their tricorn hats on the ground.

Arthur Devis, portrait of a man seated in a parl, possibly Benjamin Lethieullier MP, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arthur Devis, portrait of a man seated in a park, possibly Benjamin Lethieullier MP, at Uppark. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

These portraits somehow seem to epitomise the rococo in Britain, delicately – or awkwardly – poised between baroque formality and Romantic sensibility.

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.

2006BB6160_jpg_l

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.

bird PEN Lower India 2009AB (6)

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.

Peeling back the years

January 23, 2014
Fragments of Chinese wallpaper recently discovered in the 4th Duke's Bedroom at Woburn Abbey. ©Woburn Abbey

Fragments of Chinese wallpaper recently discovered in the 4th Duke’s Bedroom at Woburn Abbey. ©Woburn Abbey

Exciting things are coming to light at Woburn Abbey, the seat of the Duke of Bedford – and in quite a literal sense. Historic interiors consultant Lucy Johnson has been discovering the remains of an early Chinese wallpaper in the 4th Duke’s Bedroom there, which had been hidden by later wallcoverings.

Section of the wallpaper in the Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammonder from the Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk

Section of the wallpaper in the Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammonder from the Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk

What makes this discovery even more interesting is that these fragments seem to relate to a Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg Hall: the head of a bird visible on one of the sections of wallpaper in the 4th Duke’s Bedroom is identical to a bird that is part of the wallpaper scheme in the Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg Hall.

Part of a bird on the Chinese wallpaper recently discovered in the 4th Duke's bedroom at Woburn Abbey. ©Woburn Abbey

Part of a bird on the Chinese wallpaper recently discovered in the 4th Duke’s bedroom at Woburn Abbey. ©Woburn Abbey

Andrew Bush, the National Trust’s paper conservation adviser, has established that the Felbrigg wallpaper was printed in outline and then painted in by hand. It looks like the Woburn paper was produced in the same way, presumably by the same workshop.

Detail of a bird in the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg Hall. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

Detail of a bird in the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg Hall. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

Since we know that the Felbrigg scheme was put up in 1752, by a London paper hanger called John Scrutton, it would seem likely that the Woburn paper was put up in about the same period.

Detail of a peony in the Chinese wallpaper discovered at Woburn Abbey. ©Woburn Abbey

Detail of a peony in the Chinese wallpaper discovered at Woburn Abbey. ©Woburn Abbey

And indeed Lucy has found references in the Woburn archives to the decorating firm of Crompton and Spinnage having hung ‘India paper’ in ‘His Grace’s Bedroom’ in that very same year. This wallpaper must have represented the height of chinoiserie fashion in the early 1750s.

Detail of a peony in the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg Hall. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

Detail of a peony in the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg Hall. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

Lucy is preparing an exhibition about these and other discoveries at Woburn (opening on 11 April) which will highlight the links between the orientalist elements in the interiors and the Asian plants and chinoiserie garden features outside.

Pre-Brummell male splendour

January 16, 2014
Embroidered oak leaf and acorn design on a cream silk tabby waistcoat, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Embroidered oak leaf and acorn design on a cream silk tabby waistcoat, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

I have just discovered a blog called The Hidden Wardrobe, which focuses on the costume collection assembled by Charles Paget Wade (1883-1956) which is now housed at Berrington Hall.

Skirt and pocket of a waistcoat embroidered with sprays of flowers and leaves on ivory ribbed silk, 1775-85, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Skirt and pocket of a waistcoat embroidered with sprays of flowers and leaves on ivory ribbed silk, 1775-85, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Charles Wade was an eccentric collector who amassed a huge variety of historic artefacts at his Cotswold home, Snowshill Manor. He was fascinated by the aura of old, beautiful and well-made objects, and Snowshill is still an extraordinarily evocative place to visit.

Running sprays of leaves in gold purl, passing and sequins on the leading edges of a silver lamé silk waistcoat, 1775-80, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Running sprays of leaves in gold purl, passing and sequins on the leading edges of a silver lamé silk waistcoat, 1775-80, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

After the National Trust acquired Wade’s collections the costumes were taken to Berrington to improve their storage conditions. The Hidden Wardrobe now provides a glimpse of some of the 2,203 eighteenth- and nineteenth-century costume items in the collection.

Buttons and skirt of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Buttons and skirt of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

I was particularly struck by these sumptuous men’s waistcoats from the late eighteenth century. I suppose these represented the style that the Regency dandy Beau Brummell was reacting against when he crafted the minimalist look that is still influencing men’s suits today.

Front view of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Front view of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

These pre-Brummell waistcoats, buy contrast, project a more exuberant kind of masculinity – more Versace than Armani, perhaps.

Skirts and pocket of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Skirts and pocket of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

I am also fascinated by the interaction between the floral motifs, the colours and the background textures of the fabrics. They hint at the artistry of the anonymous tailors and embroiderers who created these items, now once again being brought to public attention through digital means.

Design thinking

January 10, 2014

The ultimate union of function and beauty: lyre-back armchair by Thomas Chippendale in the Library at Nostell Priory. ©National Trust Images/John Gibbons

The ultimate union of function and beauty: lyre-back armchair by Thomas Chippendale in the Library at Nostell Priory. ©National Trust Images/John Gibbons

I have been reading a thought-provoking book by Alice Rawsthorn entitled Hello World: Where Design Meets Life, analysing the pervasive presence and multi-facted role of design.

Fit for purpose, 1950s-style: melamine picnic set in the Butlers Passage at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Fit for purpose, 1950s-style: melamine picnic set in the Butlers Passage at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Rawsthorn shows how ‘design thinking’ (in David Kelly’s phrase) can help us to analyse problems, find solutions and persuade others to adopt them. She persuasively argues that design is not just high-end styling, but also includes aspects of psychology, sociology, communication and politics.

Shaping and shaped by the means of production: two engine-turned creamware vases produced by Josiah Wedgewood, in the Library at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Shaping and shaped by the means of production: two engine-turned creamware vases produced by Josiah Wedgewood, in the Library at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Josiah Wedgwood was engaging in design thinking when he brought together kiln technology, aesthetics, logistics and marketing to create and sell his eponymous ceramics. But so are the street traders and itinerant technicians of present-day Beijing when they customise their battered tricycles to suit their individual needs.

Functional, beautiful, but potentially deadly: mid eighteenth century pistol at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Functional, beautiful, but potentially deadly: mid eighteenth century pistol at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

I don’t agree with everything Rawsthorn posits in this book, but that is partly what makes it an engaging read. She equates good design with moral integrity, which I find slightly problematic. Weapons, for instance, though intended to wound or kill, can be both aesthetically beautiful and technically efficient. I think they can be called ‘good’ from the point of view of design even if one might call them ‘bad’ from an ethical perspective. It seems to me we need to treat moral virtue and design quality as two separate issues – without denying the importance of either.

Is it design or is it art: carved wooden finial in the shape of a sea monster, on the Oak Staircase at Clandon Park. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Is it design or is it art: carved wooden finial in the shape of a sea monster, on the Oak Staircase at Clandon Park. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

One the other hand, when Rawsthorn states that design and art can never be the same thing – because the former always has a function whereas the latter doesn’t necessarily have one – I don’t agree with her either. I tend to think that even ‘fine’ art fulfills all sorts of functions, it is just that they are slightly more abstract or intangible than those of design. Moreover, we live in an age when art and design seem to be increasingly resembling each other, and to her credit Rawsthorn describes some fascinating examples of that tendency.

Humble functionality, timeless beauty: mahogany 'Windsor' armchair, c.1760, in the Hall Gallery at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Humble functionality, timeless beauty: mahogany ‘Windsor’ armchair, c.1760, in the Hall Gallery at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

But I am fully in agreement with the author about the list of qualities she thinks design and designers need in order to break free from the limitations of elitism and preciousness that have become associated with this profession. Rawsthorn argues that design needs more openness and empathy and that it needs to combine boldness with humility. It strikes me that those virtues are equally relevant to the museums and heritage sector.

Life in a French country house

December 20, 2013
The Château de Juvisy, by Pierre-Denis Martin (1663-1742), oil on canvas, 165 x 265 cm, c.1700. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Château de Juvisy, by Pierre-Denis Martin (1663-1742), oil on canvas, 165 x 265 cm, c.1700. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Victoria and Albert Museum is hoping to acquire this splendid bird’s-eye-view of the château de Juvisy. It will play a pivotal role in its ‘Europe 1600-1800′ galleries, which are currently being redeveloped.

Detail of the château de Juvissy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Detail of the château de Juvissy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Accurate depictions of French country estates are rare, and this one is even more unusual in showing many aspects of life as lived in a château and its grounds in about 1700.

Group of figures in the foreground of the view of the  château de Juvisy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Group of figures in the foreground of the view of the château de Juvisy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

It is thought that the group in the foreground depicts Louis XIV with his entourage.

Detail of the formal gardens in the view of the  château de Juvisy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Detail of the formal gardens in the view of the château de Juvisy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The V&A gallery in which it is proposed to hang this picture will focus on the rise of France in the period between 1660 and 1720.

Detail of the kitchen gardens in the view of the château de Juvisy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London1000

Detail of the kitchen gardens in the view of the château de Juvisy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London1000

The V&A is appealing for donations to help it raise the final £500,000 of the £1,300,000 purchase price.

In the van Dyck tradition

December 18, 2013
The Hon Edith Helen Chaplin (1878–1959), Marchioness of Londonderry, DBE, with her favourite greyhound Fly, by Philip de László, 1913. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The Hon Edith Helen Chaplin (1878–1959), Marchioness of Londonderry, DBE, with her favourite greyhound Fly, by Philip de László, 1913. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Following the mention in the previous post of the van Dyck self-portrait which the National Portrait Gallery is trying to acquire, I was struck by how some of the portraits at Mount Stewart are very much in the van Dyck tradition.

The 7th Marquess of Londonderry sitting in front of a portrait of his ancestor, Lord Castlereagh, by Philip de László, 1927. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The 7th Marquess of Londonderry sitting in front of a portrait of his ancestor, Lord Castlereagh, by Philip de László, 1927. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

One of these, the Diana-esque portrait of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry by de László, has just been accepted in lieu of tax and allocated to Mount Stewart, along with a portrait by Lavery of her husband, the 7th Marquess, and a number of other objects associated with Mount Stewart and the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family.

Edward Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1902–1955), Lord Stewart, later 8th Marquess of Londonderry, as a page at the coronation of King George V, by Philip de László, c.1911. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Edward Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1902–1955), Lord Stewart, later 8th Marquess of Londonderry, as a page at the coronation of King George V, by Philip de László, c.1911. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The National Trust already owned a number of other family portraits at Mount Stewart, including a de László of the 7th Marquess draped with splendid van Dyckean nonchalance across a sofa in front of a portrait of his famous ancestor, Lord Castlereagh.

Lady Mairi Stewart (1921–2009), later Lady Mairi Bury, at the age of two, by Philip Alexius de László, 1923. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Lady Mairi Stewart (1921–2009), later Lady Mairi Bury, at the age of two, by Philip Alexius de László, 1923. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The are also two charming portraits by the same artist of Lord Edward and Lady Mairi Stewart as children. Lady Mairi lived at Mount Stewart until her death in 2009.


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