The gardens of Woolbeding

July 1, 2014
View over the lake to the chinoiserie bridge in the landscape garden at Woolbedding, created with the help if Julian and Isabel Bannerman from the late 1990s. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

View over the lake to the chinoiserie bridge in the landscape garden at Woolbedding, created with the help if Julian and Isabel Bannerman from the late 1990s. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

I just wanted to share these images of Woolbeding, the garden, or rather series of gardens, created by the Hon. Simon Sainsbury and Stewart Grimshaw.

River god in the landscape garden at Woolbeding. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

River god in the landscape garden at Woolbeding. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

Simon Sainsbury leased the house and garden from the National Trust in 1973, and together with his partner Stewart Grimshaw he gradually transformed the garden.

Rootwood bench at Woolbeding. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Rootwood bench at Woolbeding. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

An article by Stephen Lacey in the Sunday Times describes the development of the garden in some detail.

The rotunda at Woolbeding, designed by Philip Jebb to fill the place of a tulip tree that was blown over in the great storm of 1987. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

The rotunda at Woolbeding, designed by Philip Jebb to fill the place of a tulip tree that was blown over in the great storm of 1987. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

Various designers were involved, including Lanning Roper (1912-83), Philip Jebb (1927-95) and Julian and Isabel Bannerman.

View towards one of the cedars at Woolbeding. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

View towards one of the cedars at Woolbeding. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Simon Sainsbury died in 2006, but Stewart Grimshaw still uses Woolbeding as a weekend home and continues to be involved in the garden.

The 'ruined abbey' at Woolbeding. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The ‘ruined abbey’ at Woolbeding. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Although Woolbeding is still a private garden, visits can be pre-booked. More about the history of the house and garden can be found on the Parks and Gardens UK website.

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.

Alfred, the emblematic king

June 20, 2014
Historic building conservator Philip Scorer inspects the fabric of King Alfred's Tower. ©National Trust

Historic building conservator Philip Scorer inspects the fabric of King Alfred’s Tower. ©National Trust

The National Trust’s South West Blog keeps coming up with great images at the moment. A suitable caption for this one might be ‘Just another day working for the National Trust.’ I love Philip Scorer’s studious pose, pen and paper at the ready, while dangling off the side of an eighteenth-century folly.

King Alfred's Tower, Stourhead. ©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson

King Alfred’s Tower, Stourhead. ©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson

In fact it shows Philip inspecting King Alfred’s Tower, on the Stourhead estate, which is in need of repair. Significant funds have already been raised, including grants from the Viridor Environmental Credits Company and from the Mackintosh Foundation, but we are now trying to find the final £24,000.

King Alfred the Great, attributed to Samuel Woodforde (1763-1817), at Stourhead, inv. no. 732296. ©National Trust, image  supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

King Alfred the Great, attributed to Samuel Woodforde (1763-1817), at Stourhead, inv. no. 732296. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The tower demonstrates how the figure of King Alfred (849-99) was used as a cultural emblem in the eighteenth century. This Anglo-Saxon king was known for repelling vikings, rebuilding towns and cities, reforming the legal system and encouraging scholarship and religion.

Bust of King Alfred in the Temple of British Worthies at Stowe. ©National Trust Images/Jerry Harpur

Bust of King Alfred in the Temple of British Worthies at Stowe. ©National Trust Images/Jerry Harpur

From the sixteenth century onwards Alfred ‘the Great’ came to be revered as the epitome of a virtuous monarch. He was seen as a symbol of British virtues such as patriotism, love of liberty and respect for the rule of law.

Portrait of Anne Hoare, later Lady Mathew (d.1872), with King Alfred's Tower in the distance, by William Owen, RA (1769-1825), at Stourhead, inv. no. 732267. Image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of Anne Hoare, later Lady Mathew (d.1872), with King Alfred’s Tower in the distance, by William Owen, RA (1769-1825), at Stourhead, inv. no. 732267. Image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

King Alfred’s Tower at Stourhead was designed by Henry Flitcroft (1697-1769) for Henry Hoare II (1705-85). It commemorates the peace with France in 1762 and the recent accession of King George III (1738-1820), like Alfred seen as ‘a truly British King’.

Painted plaster relief of King Alfred, probably 1760s, in the Caesar's hall, Kedleston Hall, inv. no. 109000.2. ©National Trust/Andrew Patterson

Painted plaster relief of King Alfred, probably 1760s, in the Caesar’s hall, Kedleston Hall, inv. no. 109000.2. ©National Trust/Andrew Patterson

American readers of this blog might well question George III’s credentials as a champion of liberty, but I suppose that is one of the ironies of history.

Cover to reveal

June 17, 2014
Collections officer Ruth Moppett showing the protective Eyemats in the chapel at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust

Collections officer Ruth Moppett showing the protective Eyemats in the chapel at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust

I just read on the National Trust’s South West Blog that the colleagues at Tyntesfield have commissioned high-tech floor coverings for the high Victorian chapel there.

View into the chapel. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

View into the chapel. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The chapel floor is an elaborate and sumptuous feature created by Powell and Sons for the ‘high church’ Gibbs family in the early 1870s. The materials used include marble, faience, Mexican onyx and blue john or Derbyshire fluorspar.

Detail of the vine leaf mosaic on the floor of the chapel. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Detail of the vine leaf mosaic on the floor of the chapel. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The floor is too fragile to withstand the wear and tear of the 220,000 visitors that Tyntesfield receives each year. So previously there had been carpets in the chapel, but that meant that the floors could not really be appreciated.

Quatrefoil stained glass window in the chapel at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Quatrefoil stained glass window in the chapel at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

So Tyntesfield commissioned the Eyemats company to create protective flooring printed with ultra high definition photographs of the floor. These ‘mats’ are so realistic that visitors often don’t notice them at all. And it allows the design of the floor to be appreciated in concert with the other decorations and furnishings in the chapel.

Detail of the wrought iron gate through which the priest would enter the chapel. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Detail of the wrought iron gate through which the priest would enter the chapel. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Similar illusionistic floorings has been used at a number of other National Trust properties and also at places such as Bowhill, Dumfries House and Houghton Hall. Apart from being a practical solution, they can also be appreciated as a metaphor for conservation in general: a little bit of artifice to bring out more of the historical reality of a place.

The many faces of a Rembrandt

June 10, 2014
Four images of the Rembrandt self portrait at Buckland Abbey (clockwise from top left): after cleaning, x-ray, before cleaning, infrared. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

Four images of the Rembrandt self portrait at Buckland Abbey (clockwise from top left): after cleaning, x-ray, before cleaning, infrared. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

The results of the technical investigation into the Rembrandt self portrait at Buckland Abbey, which I reported on earlier, have just been announced.

The self portrait after cleaning. Inv. no. 810136 ©National Trust/Chris Titmus

The self portrait after cleaning. Inv. no. 810136 ©National Trust/Chris Titmus

For more than forty-five years the authorship of this self portrait was in doubt. But the newly discovered physical evidence supports the opinion of Rembrandt scholar Dr Ernst van de Wetering that the picture is largely by the artist himself.

Painting conservation adviser Tina Sitwell inspecting the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

Painting conservation adviser Tina Sitwell inspecting the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

The self portrait has been cleaned and examined at the Hamilton Kerr Institute. This included visual inspection under magnification, infra-red reflectography, x-radiography, raking light photography and pigment and medium analysis.

X-ray image of the self portrait. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

X-ray image of the self portrait. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

The wood of the panel was identified as being of the poplar/willow family and the pigments include azurite, smalt and bone black. These are all materials that Rembrandt and his pupils used.

Infrared image of the self portrait. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

Infrared image of the self portrait. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

Signs pointing more specifically to the master himself were found when cleaning and removal of the yellowed varnish revealed the original depth of colour and skilful brushwork. The signature – thought possibly to be a later addition – was discovered to be contemporary with the creation of the painting.

Technicians Simon Jacobs and Martin Bartyle hang the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

Technicians Simon Jacobs and Martin Bartyle hang the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

The infra-red and x-ray images showed how the composition was changed as the painting progressed, something that is again consistent with an original work by a master and not with a copy being made by an assistant.

Young visitor Harry Dempster views the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

Young visitor Harry Dempster views the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

The investigation was funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery. The picture will be the centre-piece of an exhibition at Buckland Abbey entitled Rembrandt Revealed, opening on Friday 13 June.

Chinese style at Versailles and Woburn

June 6, 2014
View of the chinoiserie pavilion and carousel near the Petit Trianon at Versailles, by Claude-Louis Châtelet (1753-1795), black chalk, watercolour and gouache, 1786. ©Château de Versailles

View of the chinoiserie pavilion and carousel near the Petit Trianon at Versailles, by Claude-Louis Châtelet (1753-1795), black chalk, watercolour and gouache, 1786. ©Château de Versailles

In a comment on a previous post, François-Marc Chaballier kindly alerted us to a current exhibition entitled ‘China at Versailles’, about the diplomatic and cultural links between the French and Chinese courts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I immediately ordered the catalogue and am eagerly awaiting it.

Looking at the exhibition’s web pages I saw the above picture of a chinoiserie pavilion built near the Petit Trianon at Versailles for Queen Marie-Antoinette in about 1776.

The Chinese Dairy at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire. ©Woburn Abbey

The Chinese Dairy at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire. ©Woburn Abbey

The low, stretched-out silhouette of this pavilion reminded me of the so-called Chinese Dairy at Woburn Abbey, which was designed by Henry Holland for the 5th Duke of Bedford in 1787 and completed in 1794.

This application of the Chinese style to an ornamental dairy is unique in Britain. In France, however, the fashion for ornamental dairies (as described by Meredith Martin in her recent book Dairy Queens) coincided with a taste for garden pavilions in the Chinese style. The idealisation of milking, butter-making and country life in general chimed with the ‘physiocratic’ view of China as an admirably stable and productive agricultural society.

The chinoiserie pavilion cum dairy grotto in the garden of Claude Baudard de Saint James, from J.-C. Krafft, Plans, coupes, élévations des plus belles maisons et hotels construits à Paris et dans les environs (c. 1802).

The chinoiserie pavilion cum dairy grotto in the garden of Claude Baudard de Saint James, from J.-C. Krafft, Plans, coupes, élévations des plus belles maisons et hotels construits à Paris et dans les environs (c. 1802).

Marie-Antoinette had dairies included in her Hameau or ornamental village at Versailles in the mid-1780s. Her husband, Louis XVI, built another one for her at the Château de Rambouillet in 1787.

The link between China and dairies was made even more explicit in the garden structure built by François-Joseph Bélanger for Claude Baudard de Saint James at Neuilly-sur-Seine in the late 1780s: a chinoiserie pavilion with a dairy in a ‘grotto’ immediately below it.

Henry Holland is known to have visited Paris in 1787. It seems likely that he saw at least some of these pavilions and dairies and that they informed his design of the Chinese Dairy at Woburn – but this is just a hunch and needs more research.

A Roman quartet returns to Wimpole

June 3, 2014
Detail of the bust of the emperor Caracallarecently returned to Wimpole Hall (inv. no. 2900080). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Detail of the bust of the emperor Caracalla recently returned to Wimpole Hall (inv. no. 2900080). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Four seventeenth-century Roman marble busts have recently returned to Wimpole Hall after a 60-year absence.

The four Roman busts back in the entrance hall at Wimpole. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The four Roman busts back in the entrance hall at Wimpole. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Two of the busts, of the emperor Caracalla and of a man described as ‘a philosopher’, were accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by the Government and allocated to Wimpole.

The bust of the 'philosopher', whose identity is yet to be further researched (inv. no. 2900081). ©National Trust/Phil MynottPhilosopher Phil Mynott

The bust of the ‘philosopher’, whose identity is yet to be further researched (inv. no. 2900081). ©National Trust/Phil MynottPhilosopher Phil Mynott

The other two, of the emperor Trajan and of another as yet unidentified emperor, were purchased by private treaty with the help of grants from the Art Fund, from a fund set up by the late the Hon. Simon Sainsbury, the Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Levy bequest and other gifts and bequests.

The busts of an as yet unidentified emperor (left) and Trajan (right) in the inner hall,  flanking curator Wendy Monkhouse, who originally made the case for their acquisition. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The busts of an as yet unidentified emperor (left) and Trajan (right) in the inner hall, flanking curator Wendy Monkhouse, who originally made the case for their acquisition. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The busts are back on display in the entrance hall, where they were previously, and they join a fifth bust of the emperor Marcus Aurelius which had remained at Wimpole.

Unidentified emperor (inv. no. 2900083). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Unidentified emperor (inv. no. 2900083). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The Wimpole provenance of this group of busts can be traced back to at least the 1770s, but they may have been part of of the collection of Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford (1689-1741) who, apart from being a voracious bibliophile, also collected coins and antiquities.

The emperor Trajan (inv. no. 2900082). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott Phil Mynott

The emperor Trajan (inv. no. 2900082). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott Phil Mynott

The busts were made in Rome in the seventeenth century in response to the strong demand across Europe for objects evoking Roman history. Bust such as these referenced the lives and achievements of the different Roman emperors.

The emperor Marcus Aurelius (inv. no. 208037) on the great staircase. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The emperor Marcus Aurelius (inv. no. 208037) on the great staircase. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Trajan and Marcus Aurelius were among the good guys overseeing Rome’s golden age. The fratricidal Caracalla was definitely a bad boy, but his brooding countenance – and the fact that he came to power while in York – made his bust popular in eighteenth-century England.

Julia Glynn of Cliveden Conservation preparing the bust of Caracalla for display. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Julia Glynn of Cliveden Conservation preparing the bust of Caracalla for display. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The busts have been prepared for display by Clivenden Conservation and placed on the carved wooden plinths made for them by the Cambridge firm of Rattee and Kett in about 1860.

A Taste for China

May 29, 2014

9780199950980

There has recently been a spate of books examining the west’s historical fascination with east Asia through the lens of literature and the history of ideas. I have previously featured Chi-Ming Yang’s Performing China and Yu Liu’s Seeds of a Different Eden.

Pieter van Roestraten (1629–1700), Teapot, Ginger Jar and Slave Candlestick, c. 1695. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Pieter van Roestraten (1629–1700), Teapot, Ginger Jar and Slave Candlestick, c. 1695. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A new book by Eugenia Zuroski Jenkins, entitled A Taste for China: English Subjectivity and the Prehistory of Orientalism, once again approaches the subject by way of literary history. But at the same time it also sheds new light on a question that has long puzzled me: why were China and Chinese things so highly regarded in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe?

Chinese porcelain teapot, Zhangzhou ware, c. 1650-1670 with European silver-gilt mounts, c. 1660-1680, at Ham House (inv. no. 1139006). ©NTPL/Bill Batten

Chinese porcelain teapot, Zhangzhou ware, c. 1650-1670 with European silver-gilt mounts, c. 1660-1680, at Ham House (inv. no. 1139006). ©NTPL/Bill Batten

One of Zuroski Jenkins’s answers revolves around the theory of perception formulated by John Locke (1632-1704). According to Locke the mind is an empty receptacle which is gradually filled by external impressions and perceptions. In this view sophistication equals importation: the mind of a person of taste is like a collector’s cabinet, filled with wondrous things from across the globe.

This seems to explain why seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Europeans seemed to be so keen on collecting objects from cultures they barely understood, and to create decorative schemes that combined eastern and western styles without any sense of incongruity.

Pieter van Roestraten (1629–1700), Still Life with Silver Wine Decanter, Tulip, Yixing Teapot and Globe, c. 1690. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Pieter van Roestraten (1629–1700), Still Life with Silver Wine Decanter, Tulip, Yixing Teapot and Globe, c. 1690. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Zuroski Jenkins also argues that in the course of the eighteenth century there occurred a shift from this cosmopolitan idea of taste to a more polarised opposition between the self and the other, which increasingly defined China as something that stood in contrast to the British sense of identity.

These are just a few snippets from Zuroski Jenkins’s complex book, which I now want to reread to savour her analysis more fully. But it confirms my hunch that ‘China’ in 1700 and ‘China’ in 1800 were two radically different things.

Stamford Hospital revisited

May 23, 2014
The Saloon at Dunham Massey taken back to its appearance as a hospital ward during World War I. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

The Saloon at Dunham Massey taken back to its appearance as a hospital ward during World War I. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

During the First World War Dunham Massey was used as an auxiliary hospital for wounded soldiers, known as the Stamford Hospital. Some of the hospital wards have now been recreated for a period of two years to mark the centenary of World War I.

The Saloon before it was temporarily changed back into a hospital ward. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Saloon before it was temporarily changed back into a hospital ward. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Staff and volunteers at Dunham researched the stories of those involved, including the Countess of Stamford, who offered the house for use as a hospital, Sister Catherine Bennett, who was in charge of day-to-day treatment, and Lady Jane Grey, Lady Stamford’s daughter who worked there as a nurse.

The Great Gallery at Dunham displayed as a store room, as it was during World War I. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

The Great Gallery at Dunham displayed as a store room, as it was during World War I. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

Exhibition designers Outside Studios and Scenetec have recreated the appearance of some of the rooms as they were during the First World War, based on surviving photographs and other archive material.

The Great Gallery before its recent redisplay. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Great Gallery before its recent redisplay. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Treatment reports at the foot of the beds record the injuries and progress of individual patients. Inevitably, some died, others recovered, went back to the front and were killed, while others survived the war.

The Robinia pseudoacacia trees on the mount at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

The Robinia pseudoacacia trees on the mount at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

Some of the smells and sounds of the ward have been recreated and costumed interpreters reenact scenes between patients, nursing staff and family visitors. I found the combination of sensory impressions and factual information very powerful and affecting.

The garden at Dunham was looking very beautiful when I visited – one hopes it had the same soothing effect a hundred years ago.


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