Mount Stewart reopens

April 23, 2015
The central hall at Mount Stewart, showing the restored paintwork, cleaned marble columns, restored balustrade and redisplayed sculptures. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The central hall at Mount Stewart, showing the restored paintwork, cleaned marble columns, restored balustrade and redisplayed sculptures. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

Mount Stewart, the ancestral home of the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family in County Down, has now reopened after a three-year, £8 million restoration project.

The portrait of the race horse Hambletonian, by George Stubbs (1724-1806), in a new frame, on the staircase which has had its earlier wall colour restored. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The portrait of the race horse Hambletonian, by George Stubbs (1724-1806), in a new frame, on the staircase which has had its earlier wall colour restored. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The project was a hugely complicated logistical exercise. First the historic contents of the rooms had to be carefully removed (‘decanted’ in conservation-speak) and stored.

The drawing room during restoration. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The drawing room during restoration. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

Then the structure of the building was repaired. Much of the work was undertaken by the building firm H & J Martin, which was founded in 1840 and is associated with a number of landmark buildings in Northern Ireland, including Belfast’s City Hall.

The drawing room following restoration. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The drawing room following restoration. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The heating system was upgraded to make it more efficient and suitable for a historic building and collection.

Callum McCaffrey, apprentice joiner, at work at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

Callum McCaffrey, apprentice joiner, at work at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The joinery also needed attention. As much as possible of the original woodwork was left in place, and new sections were carefully joined in (similar to the method of conservation shown in a previous post).

The newly restored 'Rome' bedroom, epitomising Edith, Lady Londonderry's bold colour sense. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The newly restored ‘Rome’ bedroom, epitomising Edith, Lady Londonderry’s bold colour sense. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

Following repairs to the plasterwork the rooms were redecorated, often restoring them to their appearance during the time of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry (1878-1959), who put a distinct stamp on the house and garden (personally I love her colour sense, as you can also see here). Finally the original contents were moved back in.

Portrait by Lawrence of Frances Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry (1800-65) and her son Charles, Viscount Seaham, later the 5th Marquess (1821-84), on display in the drawing room. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

Portrait by Lawrence of Frances Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry (1800-65) and her son Charles, Viscount Seaham, later the 5th Marquess (1821-84), on display in the drawing room. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

There are also many new things to see at Mount Stewart. A large number of historically associated objects has recently been allocated to the house through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. A further group of important works of art and other items has been lent by the estate of Alistair Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the 9th Marquess of Londonderry (1937-2012). All of these objects reflect the historical significance of the family and their taste and interests.

The restored breakfast room, including one of the views of Mount Stewart by Solomon Delane (c.1727-1812) accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Mount Stewart, 2014. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The restored breakfast room, including one of the views of Mount Stewart by Solomon Delane (c.1727-1812) accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Mount Stewart, 2014. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

There are now 11 paintings by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) on display at Mount Stewart, including portraits of Robert Stewart, 2nd Marquess of Londonderry (1769-1822, usually known by his courtesy title Lord Castlereagh), who played an important role in stabilising Europe following the Napoleonic wars.

One of Mount Stewart's stone floors being restored. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

One of Mount Stewart’s stone floors being restored. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

A brief interview with Lady Rose Lauritzen, the granddaughter of Edith, Lady Londonderry, can be seen here.

Lady Londonderry's sitting room, following restoration and reinstatement. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

Lady Londonderry’s sitting room, following restoration and reinstatement. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The project was funded by the National Trust with help from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the Royal Oak Foundation, the BH Breslauer Foundation, the Lauritzen Foundation, the Friends of the National Libraries, the Northern Ireland Museums Council and a number of individual supporters.

Philip Webb and Red House

April 21, 2015
Portrait of Philip Webb by Charles Fairfax Murray. ©National Portrait Gallery, London

Portrait of Philip Webb by Charles Fairfax Murray. ©National Portrait Gallery, London

In the centenary year of the death of Philip Webb (1831-1915), we are celebrating the life and work of this remarkable architect and designer. The National Trust looks after the two Webb-designed houses that are open to the public, Red House and Standen.

Philip Webb's drawing instruments. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House, 2014. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Philip Webb’s drawing instruments. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House, 2014. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

An exhibition has just opened at Red House showing a group of objects once owned by Webb. These items were recently accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax on the estate of the architect John Brandon-Jones and allocated to the National Trust. They include Webb’s architect’s drawing instruments.

Snuff box once owned by William Morris. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House, 2014. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Snuff box once owned by William Morris. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House, 2014. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Also in this group is a snuff box owned by William Morris, who commissioned Webb to design Red House.

The staircase landing at Red House. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

The staircase landing at Red House. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Red House was the architect’s first commission and was completed in 1860. Morris and Webb were both at the forefront of the Arts and Crafts movement, reacting against the excesses of Victorian industrialisation and advocating a return to honest craftsmanship and local materials.

Dining table designed by Philip Webb, at Red House. Purchased with the help of the Art Fund, the John Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, an anonymous donor and other gifts and bequests. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Dining table designed by Philip Webb, at Red House. Purchased with the help of the Art Fund, the John Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, an anonymous donor and other gifts and bequests. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Webb also designed some of the furniture at Red House, such as the refectory-style dining table acquired by the National Trust in 2007.

Philip Webb's watercolour box. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Philip Webb’s watercolour box. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Webb originally wanted to become an artist, and he was a sensitive draughtsman. In 2013 the National Trust purchased four drawings of animals by Webb for the Arts and Crafts collection at Wightwick Manor.

The east front of Red House. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

The east front of Red House. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

Red House, which was acquired by the National Trust ten years ago, is slowly revealing more of its secrets, such as a pre-Raphaelite wall painting and an early Morris-designed floral pattern.

Restoring the stable yard gate at Hardwick

April 14, 2015
The stable yard gate at Hardwick Hall following restoration. ©National Trust

The stable yard gate at Hardwick Hall following restoration. ©National Trust

One of our building surveyors, Richard Lambert, was recently involved in restoring a historic stable yard gate at Hardwick Hall.

Part of the Hardwick stable yard gate affected by rot, with the markings delineating the sound and unsound sections. ©National Trust

Part of the Hardwick stable yard gate affected by rot, with the markings delineating the sound and unsound sections. ©National Trust

The colleagues at Hardwick had noticed some rot in part of the gate. When Richard inspected the gate the rot turned out to be worse than expected. As this entrance is used by all of the visitors to Hardwick there was added pressure to get it sorted out quickly.

A rotted section being chiseled out. ©National Trust

A rotted section being chiseled out. ©National Trust

Richard commissioned the local joiners and builders L.B. & J. Mather to repair the gate. He worked closely with them to achieve a historically appropriate result.

New and old sections of wood being connected with a scarf joint. ©National Trust

New and old sections of wood being connected with a scarf joint. ©National Trust

Richard marked up the extent of the required repairs, so that as much as possible of the old wood could be preserved. The wood used was Douglas fir, matching the original material.

The gate coming together again in the yard of L.B. & J. Mather. ©National Trust

The gate coming together again in the yard of L.B. & J. Mather. ©National Trust

All the joints were hand-cut. Mathers were asked to match the new joints to the existing mortise-and-tenon joints (i.e. a piece of wood fitted into a hole in another piece) and to use scarf joints (or overlapping joints) to fit the larger structural members into the existing framework.

Part of the ironmongery being reforged. ©National Trust

Part of the ironmongery being reforged. ©National Trust

Some of the gate’s ironmongery also needed refurbishing, but fortunately Mathers could turn their hands to that as well, having a forge and blacksmith expertise available.

Part of the gate's refurbished locking mechanism. ©National Trust

Part of the gate’s refurbished locking mechanism. ©National Trust

All the stages of the work were recorded in photographs, some of which are shown here.

A portrait of Dame Jane Wilson for Wallington

April 7, 2015
Portrait of Jane Weller (1749-1818) aged sixteen, English School. ©Bellmans

Portrait of Jane Weller (1749-1818) aged sixteen, English School. ©Bellmans

We have just bought this portrait of Jane Weller (1749-1818) at auction at Bellmans, West Sussex. Jane’s daughter Maria married Sir John Trevelyan, 5th Bt. in 1791, and this picture will now join the collection at Wallington, the Trevelyan ancestral home.

The portrait is said to show Jane aged sixteen – and so would appear to have been painted in about 1765. She looks a bit younger than that to me, but this may be due to the relatively naive style of the unknown painter.

The white flowers on her pink dress are a nice touch, echoing the real flowers she holds in her hands – and which in turn may reflect an interest in natural history, which would become more evident later.

Portrait of Jane Weller, Lady Wilson (known as 'Dame Jane'), with Charlton House, Greenwich, in the background, by R.C. Saunders, after Giovanni Trossarelli. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of Jane Weller, Lady Wilson (known as ‘Dame Jane’), with Charlton House, Greenwich, in the background, by R.C. Saunders, after Giovanni Trossarelli. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Jane was an heiress, the beneficiary of several family fortunes. In 1767 she married Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson, 6th Bt., a soldier and politician. This picture shows her in later life, in front of Charlton House, Greenwich, which she had inherited from her great uncle, the Rev. John Maryon.

A recent photograph of Charlton House, Greenwich. ©Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust

A recent photograph of Charlton House, Greenwich. ©Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust

The Jacobean mansion of Charlton House still survives. One of Jane’s descendants, Sir Spencer Maryon Wilson, sold it to London County Council in 1925 and it is now in the care of the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust. It has also lent its name to the local Charlton Park rugby club.

Group of stuffed birds in the Museum at Wallington. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Group of stuffed birds in the Museum at Wallington. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Jane was a pioneer beetle expert, or coleopterist. She enjoyed going on beetle and fossil hunting expeditions and assembled a collection of natural history specimens which formed the basis of the ‘museum’ still at Wallington.

A classical landscape for Belton

March 25, 2015
Attributed to Nicolaes Berchem (1620-83), Classical Landscape with Figures and Animals. ©Tennants

Attributed to Nicolaes Berchem (1620-83), Classical Landscape with Figures and Animals. ©Tennants

We have just managed to purchase this painting at auction at Tennants, attributed to the Dutch Italianate landscape painter Nicolaes Pieterszoon Berchem (1620-83). It was at Belton House during the nineteenth and the early twentieth century, and it will now return there.

A nice story about Berchem’s name is that this was a descriptive nickname given to him by the pupils in the studio of the painter Jan van Goyen, who regularly used to hide him (‘Berg hem!’ meaning ‘Hide him!’) when he was in disgrace and was being pursued by his father. A more prosaic explanation is that it relates to his father’s hometown, Berchem, near Antwerp.

Berchem travelled to Westphalia with Jacob van Ruysdael in about 1650, and he subsequently may have traveled to Italy as well. Certainly his style reflects the contemporary fashion for Italian light and scenery.

Martin Archer Shee (1769-1850), portrait of John Cust, 1st Earl Brownlow (1779-1853). ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Martin Archer Shee (1769-1850), portrait of John Cust, 1st Earl Brownlow (1779-1853). ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The painting was recorded at Belton House in 1809, in the ownership of John Cust, 2nd Baron and later 1st Earl Brownlow (1778-1853), who had himself traveled to Italy in 1802. The 1st Earl’s brother’s grandson, Adalbert Cust, 5th Baron Brownlow (1867-1927) left it to his sister, the Hon. Marion Isabella Tower (née Cust, 1854-1939). In 1958 it was with the London dealer Alfred Brod.

Churchill paintings accepted for the nation

March 10, 2015
Looking south-east from the balcony at Chartwell towards the painting studio, with the Kentish Weald beyond, a view Churchill loved. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

Looking south-east from the balcony at Chartwell towards the painting studio, with the Kentish Weald beyond, a view Churchill loved. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

It has just been announced that the Government has accepted a major collection of paintings by Sir Winston Churchill in lieu of inheritance tax. Most of the paintings have been allocated to the National Trust and will remain at Chartwell, where they had been on long-term loan.

The south front of Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

The south front of Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

The paintings were part of the estate of Lady Soames, Churchill’s last surviving child, who died last year. The inheritance tax liability was less than the tax settlement value of the paintings, but the executors of Lady Soames’s estate generously agreed to forgo the difference. In addition one further painting by Churchill was donated directly to the National Trust by the executors.

The garden front of Chartwell seen from the Marlborough Pavilion. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

The garden front of Chartwell seen from the Marlborough Pavilion. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

Apart from being a soldier, writer and politician, Churchill was also a talented amateur artist. As Lady Soames herself wrote of her father: ‘… in his 41st year [1915] painting literally “grabbed” him, thereafter playing an increasing and abiding role in his life, renewing the source of his great inner strength and enabling him to face storms, ride out depressions and rise above the tough passages in his political life.’

Churchill's study at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Churchill’s study at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

This allocation is yet another example of the hugely important role of the Acceptance in Lieu scheme in safeguarding important works of art and heritage objects for the benefit of the public. Over the last five years the scheme has brought items to the value of £150 million into public collections in the United Kingdom.

How to build a ha-ha

February 17, 2015
A section of ha-ha being rebuilt at Croome Court. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

A section of ha-ha being rebuilt at Croome Court. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The ha-ha, a ditch with a wall built along one side, was developed as an aesthetically pleasing way of keeping grazing cattle out of the pleasure garden. Even from a short distance the ha-ha is invisible, and its name is said to have been derived from the exclamations of surprise it provoked.

The ha-ha at Croome Court before repair and rebuilding. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The ha-ha at Croome Court before repair and rebuilding. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The ha-ha at Croome Court has been undergoing a rolling programme of repair and rebuilding. Previously it is was  in quite poor condition and it had even collapsed in places.

Sections of the ha-ha had completely collapsed. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

Sections of the ha-ha had completely collapsed. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

Advice was sought from a structural engineer in order to provide a more durable solution for the collapsed sections. A backing wall of concrete blocks was inserted first, which was then covered by historically appropriate bricks.

Stable sections were preserved. The large blocks further behind provide structural support to contain the earth. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

Stable sections were preserved. The large blocks further behind provide structural support to contain the earth. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The sourcing of new, ‘old-look’ bricks proved to be quite challenging, as the colour and texture of the bricks of the original ha-ha varies considerably along its length. In the end different bricks and mortar mixes were used in different sections.

Concrete blocks provide the containment structure for the sections that had to be rebuilt. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

Concrete blocks provide the containment structure for the sections that had to be rebuilt. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The stable sections of the ha-ha were preserved as much as possible and repointed with traditional mortar. As time goes by the new brickwork will further blend in with the old.

An original section of ha-ha is repointed. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

An original section of ha-ha is repointed. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

A significant proportion of the funding for this work was provided by Natural England.

 

The English taste for pietre dure

February 11, 2015
Section of the pietre dure table in the Library at Charlecote Park, purchased by George Lucy from dealer Thomas Emmerson in 1824. Inv. no. 532986. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

Section of the pietre dure table in the Library at Charlecote Park, purchased by George Lucy from dealer Thomas Emmerson in 1824. Inv. no. 532986. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

The English taste for Italian pietre dure, or hard stone mosaic work, goes way back – that much is clear from a quick perusal of the new book  Roman Splendour, English Arcadia, about the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead.

Section of a pietre dure table-top made in Rome in about 1580, at Powis Castle, probably acquired by George Herbert, 2nd Earl of Powis, in the 1770s or 1780s. Inv. no. 1181054. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Section of a pietre dure table-top made in Rome in about 1580, at Powis Castle, probably acquired by George Herbert, 2nd Earl of Powis, in the 1770s or 1780s. Inv. no. 1181054. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

One of the earliest examples is the so-called Great Pavement in Westminster Abbey, which was created in 1269 by the Roman craftsman Petrus Oderisius or Odericus. But many English palaces and country houses subsequently also acquired tables, cabinets and caskets incorporating pietre dure.

Cabinet mounted with pietre dure panels, made in Florence in about 1650, at Chirk Castle. Inv. no. 1170817. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Cabinet mounted with pietre dure panels, made in Florence in about 1650, at Chirk Castle. Inv. no. 1170817. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

At Chirk Castle there is an ebony cabinet mounted with Florentine pietre dure plaques dating to about 1650, probably picked up by Sir Thomas Myddelton during his Grand Tour in the early 1670s. The central panel shows the mythical Orpheus, and the other panels show various animals, whom Orpheus famously charmed with his music.

The scagliola chimneypiece in the Queen's Closet at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The scagliola chimneypiece in the Queen’s Closet at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

At Ham House there is a chimneypiece made of scagliola or imitation marble which appears to be an expression of the same taste for Italian marble. It was made by the Roman craftsman Baldessare Artima for the Duke of Lauderdale in about 1673.

Detail from one of a pair of scagliola table-tops with landscapes and flowers, made by Don Petro Belloni in 1754, at Uppark. Inv. no. 137667 ©National Trust Images/Angelo Hornak

Detail from one of a pair of scagliola table-tops with landscapes and flowers, made by Don Petro Belloni in 1754, at Uppark. Inv. no. 137667 ©National Trust Images/Angelo Hornak

A scagliola table top at Uppark closely follows the style of many pietre dure panels in having floral motifs and a landscape cartouche against a black background. It was made by Don Petro Belloni near Florence for Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh in 1754.

English chinoiserie cabinet incorporating oriental lacquer, Florentine pietre dure and ivory medallions, made in about 1754, in the Little Parlour at Uppark. Inv. no. 137638. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

English chinoiserie cabinet incorporating oriental lacquer, Florentine pietre dure and ivory medallions, made in about 1754, in the Little Parlour at Uppark. Inv. no. 137638. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The same Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh also purchased several Florentine pietre dure plaques which he then had inserted, together with ivory medallions and oriental lacquer panels, into a chinoiserie cabinet possibly made by William Hallett in about 1754. It was common for the Chinese style to be combined with the Gothic, but a mixture of chinoiserie and Grand Tour taste in one piece of furniture is much rarer.

Ebony cabinet mounted with lapis lazuli, made in Rome in about 1640, at Belton House. Inv. no. 435082. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Ebony cabinet mounted with lapis lazuli, made in Rome in about 1640, at Belton House. Inv. no. 435082. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

An architecturally-shaped cabinet inlaid with lapis lazuli, made in Rome in about 1640, survives at Belton House. It may have been acquired Sir John Brownlow, later Lord Tyrconnell, during his Grand Tour in 1711.

Ebony cabinet mounted in gilt bronze and pietre dure, made in Rome in about 1610, at West Wycombe Park. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Ebony cabinet mounted in gilt bronze and pietre dure, made in Rome in about 1610, at West Wycombe Park. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Roman cabinet at West Wycombe Park, made in about 1610 and again with architectural features, was probably purchased by Sir Francis Dashwood, later Lord le Despencer, when he visited Rome in 1740.

Ebony casket with gilt bronze mounts incorporating hard stone fruits and with panels of pietre dure, made in Florence, at The Vyne. Inv. no. 718777. ©National Trust Images/James Mortimer

Ebony casket with gilt bronze mounts incorporating hard stone fruits and with panels of pietre dure, made in Florence, at The Vyne. Inv. no. 718777. ©National Trust Images/James Mortimer

Pietre dure were also used for the decoration of smaller casket-like cabinets, such as the one at The Vyne acquired by John Chute in Florence in the 1740s.

Section of a pietre dure table top, made in Rome in about 1580, said to have been owned by the Borghese family and purchased by George Lucy at the Beckford sale in 1823, in the Great Hall at Charlecote Park. Inv. no. 532954. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

Section of a pietre dure table top, made in Rome in about 1580, said to have been owned by the Borghese family and purchased by George Lucy at the Beckford sale in 1823, in the Great Hall at Charlecote Park. Inv. no. 532954. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

The English interest in pietre dure persisted in the nineteenth century, the wealthy aesthete William Beckford being a notable collector. A number of pieces now at Charlecote Park were purchased by George Lucy at the sale of Beckford’s collection in 1823.

And these are just some of the pietre dure objects in the care of the National Trust. The book mentions many more examples of this English taste – including the splendid so-called Badminton cabinet, now in Liechtenstein.

Opening up the Sixtus cabinet

February 4, 2015
The Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

It is not often that a whole book is devoted to one piece of furniture, but the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead amply rewards such treatment.

The attic storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The attic storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The newly published book Roman Splendour, English Arcadia, by Simon Swynfen Jervis and Dudley Dodd, celebrates the visual impact of this extraordinary cabinet, its architectural complexity, lavish gilt-bronze mounts and dazzling semi-previous stones.

The Composite third storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The Composite third storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The book also explores how the cabinet was made in about 1585 for Pope Sixtus V, who rose from humble origins to become the rebuilder of Rome, and how it was handed down in the dynasty of his relatives, the Peretti family, who joined the ranks of the Roman princely elite.

The Corinthian second storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The Corinthian second storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The cabinet came to Stourhead in the 1740s, after it had been bought by the banker Henry Hoare, ‘the Magnificent’. It was a key element in Hoare’s project to transform both the house and the garden at Stourhead into an arcadian realm inspired by Italian art and the classical world.

The podium and Ionic first storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©2010 John Hammond

The podium and Ionic first storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©2010 John Hammond

Although it is strictly speaking a piece of furniture, the Sixtus cabinet has the impact of a luxurious model building and the aura of a tabernacle or a reliquary.

The pedestal for the Sixtus cabinet, made for Henry Hoare in the shape of a triumphal arch. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The pedestal for the Sixtus cabinet, made for Henry Hoare in the shape of a triumphal arch. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The book can be obtained from the National Trust online shop.

William Chambers, Chinese design guru

January 22, 2015
Plate 4 from Sir William Chambers's book Designs of Chinese Buildings (1757). ©British Library

Plate 4 from Sir William Chambers’s book Designs of Chinese Buildings (1757). ©British Library

This evening I will be giving a talk on the Chinese designs of the architect William Chambers, as part of the seminar series on the history of gardens and designed landscapes organised by the Institute of Historical Reseach.

Plate 2 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

Plate 2 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

I cannot give a full preview of the talk here, but essentially it will be about the pervasive influence of Chambers’s 1757 book Designs of Chinese Buildings on the appearance of chinoiserie garden pavilions across Europe.

Plate 5 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

Plate 5 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

Chambers claimed to have written the book to correct European misconceptions about Chinese architecture which were being perpetuated by the authors of fanciful and frivolous ‘Chinese’ pattern books.

Plate 10 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

Plate 10 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

Ironically, the popularity of Chambers’s ‘correct’ book meant that his designs were quickly adapted by others and used to design yet more cheerfully fantastical pavilions, especially as part of the so-called jardins anglo-chinois which were popular in France in the 1770s and 1780s.

Plate 14 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

Plate 14 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

But in some ways Chambers had the last laugh, as his version of Chinese architecture became the ‘correct’ chinoiserie style for about the next hundred years.


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