Freshly squeezed research

Every year the National Trust produces a collection of articles, the Historic Houses and Collections Annual, reflecting the latest research by its curators. The 2010 issue has just come out, published in association with Apollo.

Read all about:

  • Riots at Knole
  • A Meissen folly
  • Books at Canons Ashby
  • Embroidery designs by Robert Adam
  • The library-rooms at Dunham Massey
  • Coleshill House and the 2nd Earl of Radnor
  • The Edwardian plant collector Frederic Lubbock
  • Scotney Old Castle
  • National Trust acquisitions 2009-10

To access or buy the Historic Houses and Collections Annual, click here (it is about to be listed on the NT bookshop site, but do let me know if it hasn’t appeared yet).

©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The slightly daunting cover image relates to a recent major acquisition at Lacock Abbey, where a group of Baroque terracotta figures by the mysterious artist Victor Alexander Sederbach populates the walls of the hall. We have now acquired the models for these sculptures, among many other things.

John Ivory Talbot (?1691-1772) by Michael Dahl. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Sederbach was commissioned to do these sculptures by John Ivory Talbot, who had the hall created by his architect Sanderson Miller in 1754-5. It is a well-preserved example of the the early neo-Gothic style, sometimes termed ‘Gothick’ in the self-consciously antiquarian fashion of the day.

©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The figure of a goat in one of the Sederbach sculptures has a sugarlump on its nose. It was first placed there by a student in 1919 and has remained there (or rather has been periodically replaced) ever since – we value our traditions!

13 Responses to “Freshly squeezed research”

  1. beeskep Says:

    Love the sugar lump. You always seem to deal with the opulance engulfing your life everyday with just the right touch.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Re opulence: You probably have this image in your mind of me sitting in a panelled room behind a Chippendale desk overlooking a Brownian park, which sadly couldn’t be further from reality 🙂

    But I appreciate your point. A Japanese tea ceremony teacher once told me: “If the utensil is heavy, carry it as if it is light; if it is light, hold it as if it is heavy.”

  3. le style et la matière Says:

    It would seem that the National Trust has skeletons popping out of its closets with this cover! Or is this evidence that ‘everything old is new again’ – and that you are in sync with current skull trends. In any case, it was a great choice!

    I don’t recognize the goat sculpture as fable or story of a saint? It seems to me that the becloaked figure would like to snatch that lump of sugar. Apparently, he manages to from time to time since you say it has to be replaced!

    Your site is truly wonder-ful.

  4. littleaugury Says:

    the cover is fetching, a great grab at the popularity of all things skull decorated. a craze? a sign of the times-it would seem the masses embrace-with little knowledge or care for its meaning. can not wait to investigate this catalog.pgt

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes our head curator, David Adshead, chose the rather ‘Goth’ front cover image – I am not sure if he was referring to any skeletons in our closet 🙂

    The symbolic programme of the Sederbach figures in the hall is not entirely clear: there are some historical figures, but also some symbolic ones, such as ‘Death’ and possibly the seasons.

    The figure of the goat apparently represents ‘the scapegoat’. This originally comes from a Biblical description (in Leviticus 16, as I have quickly checked) of the ancient rite of sending an animal out into the wilderness as a symbolic atonement for the sins of the community – the role later assigned to Christ. In a present-day context it might be a comment on the sins of a high-sugar diet…?

  6. le style et la matière Says:

    Very interesting – thank you!
    My sweet tooth says I may need a goat too.
    Poor fellow.

  7. Robert Says:

    It’s wonderful to have free access to this issue of the Historic Houses and Collections Annual. I wonder if there are any plans to make previous editions avaliable in the same way?

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Robert, I am very glad that you are finding it interesting. I will forward your question to our head curator, David Adshead, who edits the Annual, and report back.

  9. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Robert, in answer to your question, David is hoping to make all the Annuals digitally available, going back a number of years, but most of them will need to be scanned professionally, and we still need to identify the funds for that.

  10. Robert Says:

    Thanks for finding this out Emile. I’ll look forward to them appearing.

  11. Janet Says:

    Thanks for the heads up…I look forward to getting my copy!

  12. Robert Says:

    I found this delightful extract from a letter of January 1756 from Talbot to Sanderson Miller about Sederbach and his sculptures.

    “The Foreigner who has been here ever since May has executed his Performance in a very Workmanlike manner and your Niches are filled by a set of Inhabitants worthy such Repositories. I presume you are acquainted with the method of making Models for Statues. He proceeds on the same Principles, only Bakes them afterwards, by which means they become of a Red Colour and ring like a Garden Pot. … I fancy Lord Shelburn will employ him on his Arrival at London, where he goes next week; however, as so many of your friends are Connoisseurs, I would advise them seeing his Performances, which are both Easy and not Expensive. His name is sonorous, no less than Victor Alexander Sederbach and yet lodges at one King’s a Grocer in Green Street, near Castle Street, Leicester Fields. I am sorry he did not show all his Performances to the Gentleman you sent a note by, but on asking the Reason, was told that someone the day before had Broke a Figure, which had made him extremely Captious.”

    Clearly Sederbach made the figures on-site over some eight months.

    Looking at the cover image again Emile I realise that the maquette must be full size since it seems to be sitting on one of the plinths in the Gothick Hall at Lacock. Is this correct? If so it seems strange that he made a full size maquette then a final version of the same thing for firing. Perhaps breakages were common (they must have been difficult to fire) so at least he could have referred back to the model rather than begin again from scratch.

  13. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks very much for that evocative bit of correspondence, Robert. One can picture Talbot rapping his knuckles aginst one of the figures and thinking ‘Hm, rings just like a Garden Pot.’

    I should clarify that the figures shown here are the final versions – the maquettes that we have just acquired haven’t been properly photographed yet. I hope to show them as soon as possible, together with other hitherto unseen things from Lacock.

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