A Japanese sculpture at Dyffryn

August 27, 2015
Detail of a bronze sculpture of a man riding an ox, possibly Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), possibly by Takamura Kōun (1852-1934), at Dyffryn gardens, NT 1682811. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Detail of a bronze sculpture of a man riding an ox, possibly Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), possibly by Takamura Kōun (1852-1934), at Dyffryn gardens, NT 1682811. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

As I was looking at images of Dyffryn Gardens while writing my previous post, I was reminded of the intriguing Japanese bronze sculpture situated in front of the house. It depicts a man dressed in traditional Japanese traveling costume sitting on the back of an ox, reading a book as he is carried along.

Back view of the sculpture of a man riding an ox at Dyffryn Gardens. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Back view of the sculpture of a man riding an ox at Dyffryn Gardens. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

A while ago I asked Menno Fitski, an expert on Japanese art and curator at the Rijksmuseum, who this figure might be. He suggested it could be Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), a Japanese scholar and courtier. When Michizane’s enemies managed to get him expelled from court a faithful ox carried him into exile. He was later worshiped as a patron of scholars and  deity of calligraphy.

Front view of the sculpture of a man riding an ox at Dyffryn Gardens. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Front view of the sculpture of a man riding an ox at Dyffryn Gardens. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Menno suggested the sculptor might be Takamura Kōun (1852-1934) or someone from his circle. Kōun worked to preserve traditional Japanese woodcarving skills during the turbulent Meiji period (1868-1912), when Japan was rapidly modernising and subject to western cultural influences. However, Kōun also made sculptures in bronze. Large-scale bronze figures from this period combined the western conventions of public sculpture with traditional Japanese subject matter.

This sculpture was donated to Dyffryn gardens by Grenville Morgan in 1951. Although its introduction post-dates the ownership of Dyffryn by the Cory family, it suits the Edwardian atmosphere of the garden, with its many Japanese trees and plants.

We would welcome comments either confirming that this sculptural group is by Kōun or suggesting another possible artist.

Dyffryn Gardens voted most special place

August 25, 2015
The Herbaceous Borders at Dyffryn, looking south. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

The Herbaceous Borders at Dyffryn, looking south. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

Dyffryn Gardens near Cardiff is the winner of the 2015 Special Places in Wales competition, organised by the National Trust in collaboration with Cadw, Cynnal Cymru, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Visit Wales, the RSPB, Ramblers Cymru and Keep Wales Tidy.

Dyffryn's entrance front, seen from the Rockery. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

Dyffryn’s entrance front, seen from the Rockery. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

Public voting began in May to select the most-loved place in Wales. By July 21st the selection had been narrowed down to Dolaucothi Gold Mines, Dyffryn, Gladstone’s Library, Rhossili and Snowdonia.

The view from the house at Dyffryn onto the Great Lawn. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

The view from the house at Dyffryn onto the Great Lawn. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

Dyffryn was the winner in the second round, receiving more than a third of the final votes.

The Vine Walk at Dyffryn. ©National Trust

The Vine Walk at Dyffryn. ©National Trust

The current house at Dyffryn was built by coalmine owner and philanthropist John Cory. In the early 1900s he commissioned landscape architect Thomas Mawson to lay out new gardens.

The Herbaceous Borders at Dyffryn, looking north. ©National Trust

The Herbaceous Borders at Dyffryn, looking north. ©National Trust

After John Cory’s death in 1910 his son Reginald Cory collaborated even more closely and enthusiastically with Mawson in building up the garden.

The interior of the Glass House at Dyffryn. ©National Trust

The interior of the Glass House at Dyffryn. ©National Trust

Reginald Cory was a keen plant hunter and dahlia enthusiast. He established the Cory Cup which is still awarded annually by the Royal Horticultural Society for the best new hardy hybrids.

Produce in the Walled Garden at Dyffryn. ©National Trust/John Millar

Produce in the Walled Garden at Dyffryn. ©National Trust/John Millar

After Dyffryn left the ownership of the Cory family in 1936 it was in institutional use for a number of decades. In 1996 the Vale of Glamorgan Council bought the freehold and the Heritage Lottery Fund provided substantial grants to begin the restoration of the gardens.

The garden front of the house at Dyffryn. ©National Trust

The garden front of the house at Dyffryn. ©National Trust

The National Trust has managed Dyffryn since 2013. Staff and volunteers are continuing to improve the gardens and to make this an Edwardian refuge for the twenty-first century.

New look collections website

August 20, 2015

The National Trust collections website has recently had an upgrade. The new look will hopefully make it easier to browse and search the collections and learn more about the individual objects.

When you scroll down the landing page you will see a selection of historic houses with particularly noteworthy collections.

If you choose to explore a particular property, you will be presented with some highlights of that collection. If you want to find out more about a specific object you can click through to find additional information.

Of course it is also possible to search the entire collections database. We continue to improve and refine the collections website, so do let us have your feedback.

The Gothic Tower at Wimpole refurbished

August 18, 2015
The Gothic Tower at Wimpole after the scaffolding came down earlier this year. ©National Trust

The Gothic Tower at Wimpole after the scaffolding came down earlier this year. ©National Trust

At Wimpole Hall a project has been underway to refurbish the Gothic Tower, which has acted as an eyecatcher since the eighteenth century. I will just show a few highlights here – more about this complex and fascinating project can be found on the Wimpole Estate blog and the East of England Conservation blog.

Design for the Gothic Tower at Wimpole by Sanderson Miller, 1751.

Design for the Gothic Tower at Wimpole by Sanderson Miller, 1751.

The Gothic Tower was designed by Gothic Revival pioneer and folly specialist Sanderson Miller in 1751, but was only built twenty years later. Many of the features of the Tower were made of clunch, a soft limestone. As this deteriorated over tine the building was patched up with brick and the tower lost its distinctive crenelation.

Photograph of the Gothic Tower in 1881, showing the crenelations beginning to deteriorate.

Photograph of the Gothic Tower in 1881, showing the crenelations beginning to deteriorate.

Between 1805 and the late 1920s the Gothic Tower was inhabited by the estate gamekeeper and kept in reasonably good condition. But during the twentieth century the building deteriorated, which prompted this conservation project.

The Gothic Tower before the conservation project began. ©National Trust

The Gothic Tower before the conservation project began. ©National Trust

The work was funded by a Higher Level Stewardship grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and was undertaken by Cliveden Conservation.

The Gothic Tower encased in a scaffolding tower. ©National Trust

The Gothic Tower encased in a scaffolding tower. ©National Trust

The walls have been repaired and repointed with lime mortar. The crenelations have been replaced using Chilmark stone, which looks similar to clunch but is more durable.

View of the Gothic Tower across the lake. ©National Trust

View of the Gothic Tower across the lake. ©National Trust

The doors and windows have been remade and the scrub has been cleared from around the Tower. It is now once again accessible to the public and ready for a new lease of life.

Uncloaking Dudmaston’s garden

August 13, 2015
Watercolour view of the house and park at Dudmaston, by Moses Griffith, 1793. ©National Trust Images

Watercolour view of the house and park at Dudmaston, by Moses Griffith, 1793. ©National Trust Images

The summer 2015 edition of our Arts, Buildings and Collections Bulletin has just been published. One of the contributions is an article by Sarah Kay about the garden at Dudmaston Hall in Shropshire.

The Big Pool at Dudmaston. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

The Big Pool at Dudmaston. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

As Sarah writes, the garden at Dudmaston has had a long and varied history. In the late eighteenth century it was a landscape garden, with the pastures coming right up to the house.

View of the entrance front of Dudmaston from the north-east. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

View of the entrance front of Dudmaston from the north-east. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Then in the nineteenth century the garden was embellished with terraces, parterres, island beds, ribbon borders and exotic specimen trees. The local Morfe Cottage Garden Society, founded in 1851, organised fiercely competitive annual flower shows.

Sculpture by Anthony Robinson in the grounds of Dudmaston. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Sculpture by Anthony Robinson in the grounds of Dudmaston. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Following retrenchment in the Edwardian period, the garden saw a renewed phase of innovation during the second half of the twentieth century. Sir George and Lady Labouchere reinvigorated the garden with the help of designer James Russell, even introducing contemporary sculpture into the grounds.

Path along the edge of the Big Pool at Dudmaston. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Path along the edge of the Big Pool at Dudmaston. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Now a project is underway to ‘uncloak’ some of the picturesque features and views which have been lost over the years, while simultaneously keeping alive the spirit of innovation shown by successive owners of Dudmaston.

The Chinese bridge at Croome rebuilt

August 11, 2015
The new Chinese bridge at Croome. ©National Trust

The new Chinese bridge at Croome. ©National Trust

On 28 July a long-lost feature of the garden at Croome Court, the Chinese bridge, was reopened to the public.

The Chinese bridge was originally commissioned  by George Coventry, the 6th Earl of Coventry, from the designer William Halfpenny in the 1740s. It is clearly shown in a 1758 painting by Richard Wilson, but had rotted away about a hundred years later.

Design for a Chinese bridge in William Halfpenny's pattern book 'Developments in Architecture and Carpentry', 1749.

Illustration of the Croome Chinese bridge in William Halfpenny’s book ‘Improvements in Architecture and Carpentry’, 1754.

Halfpenny illustrated the bridge in his book Improvements in Architecture and Carpentry of 1754, stating that it was ‘executed for the Right Honourable the Earl of Coventry at his Seat at Croom [sic] in Worcestershire.’ Pattern books like Improvements helped to spread the taste for Chinese-style designs in the eighteenth century.

Elevation of the new Chinese bridge. ©Green Oak Carpentry Company

Elevation of the new Chinese bridge. ©Green Oak Carpentry Company

For the new bridge, constructed by the Green Oak Carpentry Company, Halfpenny’s design and Wilson’s painting have been used as models. Although Chinese-style bridges were popular in Europe in the mid-eighteenth century (I showed some other examples here), this particular design by Halfpenny only seems to have been used at Croome.

Axonometric drawing of the new Chinese bridge. ©Green Oak Carpentry Company

Axonometric drawing of the new Chinese bridge. ©Green Oak Carpentry Company

The original footings of the bridge were identified through archaeological excavations. Dams were inserted into the river and the water pumped out to create a relatively dry working area for contractors WM Planthire. The aquatic wildlife, including mussels, perch, tench, rudd and eels, was caught and moved to other parts of the river, to the great interest of visitors who could watch the work progressing.

The completed new Chinese bridge. ©National Trust/James Dobson

The completed new Chinese bridge. ©National Trust/James Dobson

The final section of the bridge was lifted into place with large cranes. The bridge will be left unpainted for a year to allow the traditional joints to tighten, but it will ultimately be painted in the off-white colour seen in the Wilson painting.

Martin Drury opening the new Chinese bridge. ©National Trust/Tracey Blackwelll

Martin Drury opening the new Chinese bridge. ©National Trust/Tracey Blackwelll

The bridge was officially opened by Martin Drury, a trustee of the Monument 1985 Fund (set up by the late Simon Sainsbury) which provided a grant towards the cost of the reconstruction, together with Lord Flyte of Worcester who helped to raise the remaining funds. The bridge can now be seen and walked over whenever the park at Croome is open.

Cotton and paper crossovers

August 6, 2015
Indian chintz coverlet decorated with a Chinese-style garden scene, c. 1750 - c. 1775, in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, inv. no. BK-1980-805

Indian chintz coverlet decorated with a Chinese-style garden scene, c. 1750 – c. 1775, in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, inv. no. BK-1980-805

While I was on holiday in The Netherlands over the last two weeks I spotted this image of an Indian chintz coverlet in the 2015 illustrated diary published by the Rijksmuseum (I am obviously a true modern consumer, accessing culture through merchandise). The coverlet has been approximately dated to the third quarter of the eighteenth century and has a provenance from the Twickel estate in Overijssel.

Detail of the wallpaper in the Chinese Bedroom at Belton House, probably hung in about 1840. ©National Trust Images/Martin Trelawny

Detail of the wallpaper in the Chinese Bedroom at Belton House, Lincolnshire, probably hung in about 1840. ©National Trust Images/Martin Trelawny

The pattern of bamboo entwined with flowers reminded me of certain Chinese wallpapers, such as this one at Belton House. Bamboo entwined with flowers is found on wallpapers that are generally thought to be slightly later in date, from the late eighteenth and the nineteenth century. Does that mean that Indian chintz influenced Chinese wallpaper, as has been suggested in the catalogue of the recent Interwoven Globe exhibition?

Detail of a pheasant on  an ornamental rock in the Chinese wallpaper at Ightham Mote, kent. ©National Trust Images/Rob Matheson

Detail of a pheasant on an ornamental rock in the Chinese wallpaper at Ightham Mote, Kent. ©National Trust Images/Rob Matheson

But the perforated rocks depicted in the chintz coverlet are characteristic Chinese garden ornaments, as can be seen in Chinese wallpapers with garden scenery, such as those at Ightham Mote and Felbrigg Hall. So that suggests that Indian chintz was influenced by Chinese wallpaper, or by some other kind of Chinese image.

Chinese painted silk coverlet, 1760-1800, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, inv. no. T.3-1948. © V&A Images

Chinese painted silk coverlet, 1760-1800, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, inv. no. T.3-1948. © V&A Images

And then there is the Chinese painted silk coverlet in the Victoria and Albert Museum, dated to 1760-1800 (shown here earlier). This uses the imagery of Chinese wallpapers but has the same function as the Rijksmuseum chintz, i.e. to cover a bed.

So this game of chicken and egg is still very much inconclusive – with several eggs and several chickens – but what is clear is that there was some kind of mutual influence.

Painting acquired for Petworth

July 14, 2015
Attributed to Aurelio Lomi (1556-1622), The Circumcision. NT2900157. ©Christie’s

Attributed to Aurelio Lomi (1556-1622), The Circumcision. NT2900157. ©Christie’s

We have just purchased this painting for Petworth House. It came up at auction at Christie’s in London on 10 July.

Detail of The Circumcision, attributed to Aurelio Lomi. ©Christie’s

Detail of The Circumcision, attributed to Aurelio Lomi. ©Christie’s

The picture is attributed to the late-Renaissance, early-baroque painter Aurelio Lomi and depicts the circumcision of the Christ child.

Detail of The Circumcision, attributed to Aurelio Lomi. ©Christie’s

Detail of The Circumcision, attributed to Aurelio Lomi. ©Christie’s

It was recorded in the 1671 Petworth picture list and was almost certainly owned by Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland (1602-68).

Portrait of Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland, his first wife Lady Anne Cecil, and their Daughter, Lady Catherine Percy, by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, c. 1633-5. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

Portrait of Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland, his first wife Lady Anne Cecil, and their Daughter, Lady Catherine Percy, by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, c. 1633-5. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

The 10th Earl was a keen art collector and patron. He had collections of pictures at all of his principal southern English houses – Syon Park in Middlesex, Northumberland House in London, and Petworth.

St Joseph and the Christ Child, by Adam Elsheimer (c.1578-1610), acquired by the 10th Earl of Northumberland in 1645. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

St Joseph and the Christ Child, by Adam Elsheimer (c.1578-1610), acquired by the 10th Earl of Northumberland in 1645. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Later generations also admired this picture. George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837), the patron of Turner, hung it among his ‘modern’ paintings at Petworth.

Portrait of George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837), in the North Gallery at Petworth, by Thomas Phillips, RA, 1839. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

Portrait of George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837), in the North Gallery at Petworth, by Thomas Phillips, RA, 1839. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

This acquisition was made possible by a substantial contribution from a fund set up by the late Hon. Simon Sainsbury and by other gifts and bequests to Petworth and to the National Trust generally.

Detail of The Circumcision, attributed to Aurelio Lomi. ©Christie’s

Detail of The Circumcision, attributed to Aurelio Lomi. ©Christie’s

The picture will receive conservation treatment before going on display at Petworth.

The state bed canopy at Hardwick

July 7, 2015
Full-length portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, English School, 1590s, oil on canvas, at Hardwick Hall, acquired through the National Land Fund and transferred to the National Trust in 1959,  NT1129128. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Full-length portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, English School, 1590s, oil on canvas, at Hardwick Hall, acquired through the National Land Fund and transferred to the National Trust in 1959, NT1129128. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The previous two posts about textiles at Hardwick Hall gave me the idea to show some images of the Long Gallery there.

This imposing, almost hieratic portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, which hangs in the Long Gallery, illustrates the importance of textiles in Elizabethan interiors and court display. In her spectacularly embroidered clothes, encrusted with jewels, the queen is effectively en suite with the hangings behind her, the upholstered chair next to her and the carpet beneath her feet.

The late seventeenth-century silk canopy in the Long Gallery at Hardwick, originally part of a state bed made for Chatsworth by Francis Lapierre in 1697. Acquired through the National Land Fund and transferred to the National Trust in 1959, NT1127772. ©National Trust Images/Nick Guttridge

The late seventeenth-century silk canopy in the Long Gallery at Hardwick, originally part of a state bed made for Chatsworth by Francis Lapierre in 1697. Acquired through the National Land Fund and transferred to the National Trust in 1959, NT1127772. ©National Trust Images/Nick Guttridge

Near this portrait is a red silk bed canopy and headboard. It was originally part of the bed in the State Bedroom at Chatsworth and is one of the most magnificent surviving examples of late-seventeenth-century English upholstery.

The interior of the canopy in the Long Gallery. National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The interior of the canopy in the Long Gallery. National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

It was brought to Hardwick by the 6th Duke of Devonshire in the nineteenth century and set up as a kind of romantic stage set.

The portrait of Queen Elizabeth I hanging on top of one of the Gideon tapestries in the Long Gallery. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The portrait of Queen Elizabeth I hanging on top of one of the Gideon tapestries in the Long Gallery. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The walls of the Long Gallery are hung with a set of thirteen Flemish tapestries, probably made in Oudenaarde, showing the Biblical story of Gideon and his triumph over the Midianites.

These unusually tall tapestries were purchased by Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, the builder of Hardwick, in 1592. Originally they were the sole wall decoration in this room, but by the second half of the eighteenth century a number of paintings had been added on top.

Cut-velvet at Hardwick

July 3, 2015
The voided cut-pile velvet hangings and headboard of the bed in the Cut-Velvet Bedroom at Hardwick Hall. NT1127838 ©National Trust Images/Nick Guttridge

The voided cut-pile velvet hangings and headboard of the bed in the Cut-Velvet Bedroom at Hardwick Hall. NT1127838 ©National Trust Images/Nick Guttridge

In the previous post about the flossy silk hangings at Hardwick Hall I mentioned the Cut-Velvet Bedroom next door. Here are some images of that room, with its cut-velvet bed.

The Cut-Velvet Bedroom at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Cut-Velvet Bedroom at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The bed was made in about 1740 by Thomas Vardy and was originally at Chatsworth. It was brought to Hardwick by the 6th Duke of Devonshire as part of his antiquarian redecoration of Hardwick during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Detail of a voided cut-pile velvet curtain at Blickling Hall. NT355834 ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

Detail of a voided cut-pile velvet curtain at Blickling Hall. NT355834 ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

Velvet is made by raising warp threads over wires so that a looped pile is created on the surface of the cloth. Sometimes these loops were left uncut, or ‘unshorne’ in early-seventeenth-century parlance. But if they were cut in order to create a short tufted pile the resulting fabric would be called cut-velvet or cut-pile velvet.

Eighteenth-century mahogany chair from the Cut-Velvet Bedroom at Hardwick Hall, upholstered with voided-cut pile velvet en suite with the bed. NT1127929.2 ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

Eighteenth-century mahogany chair from the Cut-Velvet Bedroom at Hardwick Hall, upholstered with voided-cut pile velvet en suite with the bed. NT1127929.2 ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

One way of forming a pattern on velvet was to leave some areas pile-free or ‘voided’, as has been done here. The similar voided cut-pile velvet curtains at Blickling Hall show bright the colours originally were.


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