Archive for 2011

Vere is back at Dunham Massey

December 22, 2011

Portrait of a lady, presumed to be Vere Egerton, attributed to Robert Peake (c. 1551-1619). ©Sotheby's

The portrait of a lady, probably Vere Egerton, which we purchased recently at auction with help from the Art Fund, is now back at Dunham Massey.

English School, portrait of Lady Elizabeth Cecil, Countess of Berkshire (1596-1672), eighteenth-century copy after an original by the Comet Master, at Dunham Massey. ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

Vere Egerton married William Booth of Dunham in 1619, and her connections and wealth marked a rise in the family fortunes. The newly acquired portrait of her is the most spectacular of the early portraits at Dunham.

English School, portrait of Mary Bunce, Lady Langham (1599/1600-1652), 1650, at Dunham Massey. Lady Langham's granddaughter Mary married Henry Booth, 1st Earl of Warrington. ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

Its acquisition is important for that reason, but also because it allows the picture to be seen in the context of other late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century portraits of the Booth and Grey families at Dunham.

English School, after Cornelius Jonson, portrait of Lady Diana Cecil, Countess of Oxford and Elgin (c. 1603-1654), at Dunham Masey. ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

Vere’s great great granddaughter, Lady Mary Booth (1704-1772) married Harry Grey, 4th Earl of Stamford (1715-1768), and it was through that marriage that Dunham was inherited by the Earls of Stamford.

The Stone Parlour at Dunham, originally an informal dining room in the Tudor period, with early eighteenth-century (but deliberately old-fashioned) panelling, which was remodelled in antiquarian fashion in 1906. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

So the copies of the Jacobean portraits of the Countesses of Berkshire and Oxford, sisters-in-law of the 1st Earl of Stamford, who would have been Vere’s contemporaries, only came to Dunham much later. But it is those historical loops and connections, (as also seen in the development of the Stone Parlour shown above, for instance) that make country house collections so interesting.

Buckets and all: National Trust collections online

December 20, 2011

Leather fire bucket painted with the royal arms, at Scotney Castle, Kent. ©National Trust

The National Trust has just made another small step towards making its collections more accessible: our object database, including fine and decorative art, furniture and household and estate parafernalia is now available online as National Trust Collections.

Small metal bucket at Standen, West Sussex. ©National Trust

This is very much a work in progress. Although almost three quarters of a million items are currently available online, more are still being added and we will probably end up with closer to a million.

Mahogany and brass turf bucket, mid-eighteenth-century, at Ardress House, Co Armagh. ©National Trust

Some records are more extensive and complete than others, but several people (of which I am one) are constantly checking and improving descriptions and adding images. We thought it would be better to show you what has been recorded so far, warts and all, rather than wait until everything is perfect.

Child's metal bucket, at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton. ©National Trust

So do let us know if you spot anything that can be improved – either by emailing or by contacting me.

Leather fire bucket at Florence Court, Co Fermanagh, with the 'E' of the Earl of Enniskillen, the owner of the house. ©National Trust

Equally, we hope you will enjoy browsing the collections and discovering the beautiful, weird and wonderful objects lurking in the various historic houses of the National Trust. If you have a specific research interest there are various ways you can search, such as by historic house, by object category, or by date. Happy treasure-hunting!

Gilbert Russell returns to Mottisfont

December 15, 2011

Portrait of Major Gilbert Russell (1875-1942) by Sir William Orpen (1878-1931), pencil and watercolour on paper. ©Waddington's

We have just succesfully bid at auction at Waddington’s in Toronto for this portrait by Sir William Orpen of Major Gilbert Russell, a former owner of Mottisfont Abbey, Hampshire. We received a last-minute tip-off from Tim Knox, director of Sir John Soane’s Museum and himself a keen collector, that this was coming up. In the nick of time we were able to locate some funds and set up a bid. 

The south front of Mottisfont Abbey. ©NTPL/Robert Morris

Gilbert Russell was a great-grandson of the 6th Duke of Bedford. His military career took him to Egypt and the Sudan in 1898, South Africa between 1899 and 1902 and France during the First World War. He married Maud Nelke, who was to become a prominent hostess and patron of the arts.

The drawing room decorated by Rex Whistler. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Russells bought Mottisfont in 1934 from the Barker-Mill family and set about refurbishing it inside and out. The interiors were furnished in the neo-Georgian style which was then a relatively avant-garde taste. In the garden the Russells employed both Norah Lindsay and Geoffrey Jellicoe to redesign specific areas.

The parterre on the south front designed by Norah Lindsay. ©NTPL/Robert Morris

The Russells entertained a circle of artists and writers, and Maud had her portrait painted by Orpen, John Singer Sargent, Sir William Nicholson and Henri Matisse (although she professed herself to be ‘horrified’ by how Matisse had depicted her). They commissioned Rex Whistler to decorate the drawing room at Mottisfont in his romantic and whimsical style.

The lime walk on the north front designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe. ©NTPL/Stephen Robson

We previously didn’t have any image of Gilbert, and it is very satisfying to see a portrait of the man who, together with his wife, shaped Mottisfont as we see it today – and by an interesting artist to boot.

A new old design for Avebury

December 13, 2011

A mock-up of the design for the Antechamber at Avebury (bottom), the stencil (left) and the chalked-up wall (right). ©NTPL/James Dobson

As part of the ‘Manor Reborn’ project at Avebury Manor on of the rooms was recently redecorated with a facsimile of an early English chinoiserie wallpaper.

The look of the design during the process of painting. ©NTPL/James Dobson

The original, dating to around 1700, came from Ord House in Northumberland and is now in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. The outlines of the design were printed, with the colours added with the use of stencils and the black background painted in by hand. The paper was then varnished, probably to make it look more like East Asian silk or lacquer.

©NTPL/James Dobson

 For the Antechamber at Avebury painter Mark Sands created a version of this design, but here applied directly onto the wall. Mark used stencils to lay out the pattern, which he then painted in by hand, taking care to recreate the slightly naive look of the original.

A detail from the design: a Chinese lady miraculously perched among flowering and fruiting branches. ©NTPL/James Dobson

In the playful spirit of the project, Mark added local wildlife to the scheme, including wild pansies, red admiral and peacock butterflies, great crested newts (whose appearance in the Avebury garden caused a delay to the project, as they are protected) and even a fox.

The scheme nearing completion. ©NTPL/James Dobson

The Avebury project has generated an interesting debate about how far an organisation like the National Trust should go in recreating history with a degree of freedom rather than rigorously sticking to the available historical evidence.

A 'Chinese' parrot, with a 'Chinese' squirrel lurking nearby. ©NTPL/James Dobson

Avebury was chosen for this project as it doesn’t have much in the way of original contents, and there are certainly no plans to give our other, more fully furnished historic houses such a radical make-over. But if you have an opinion about this kind of approach then do leave a comment.

Introducing Tredegar

December 8, 2011

The north-west front of Tredegar House. ©NTPL/Chris Lacey

It has just been annouced that the National Trust has signed an agreement with Newport City Council to manage Tredegar House and 90 acres of gardens and park on a 50-year lease.

The wrought iron gates and screen between the Middle Court and the Stable Court. made by William and Simon Edney between 1714 and 1718.

Newport Council and the Friends of Tredegar House have cared for this remarkable country house since 1974 and the National Trust plans to build on that excelent work. Although many of the contents were sold earlier in the twentieth century, some items were bought back with the help of the Art Fund and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

The door in the north-west front, dating from the nineteenth century but modelled on a seventeenth-century original. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Tredegar House was the seat of the Morgan family, later Lords Tredegar. The first record of a Morgan associated with the site is dated 1402, when Llewellyn ap Morgan’s estates were confiscated as punishment for supporting Owain Glyndwr’s rebellion.

The Orangery, built in the early 1700s. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

But the Morgans bounced back and subsequently became a wealthy gentry family. Between 1664 and 1672 parts of the house were completely rebuilt for Thomas Morgan and his son William.

Detail of the entrance to the stables. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Although the building has the hallmarks of fashionable Restoration architecture it is not known who designed it – it may have been a talented but otherwise unkown master mason or carpenter.

The Cedar Garden. The stone obelisk was erected to the memory of Sir Briggs, the horse that carried Godfrey Morgan at the charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War in 1854. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

I hope soon to be able to do another post with more about the interiors at Tredegar.

Betty Ratcliffe, artist in service

December 6, 2011

Model of the classsical ruins at Palmyra, created by Betty Ratcliffe in 1773 from mother-of-pearl, mica and glass and loosely based on illustrations in Robert Wood's 'The Ruins of Palmyra' (1753). ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

In response to a previous post on pagodas, a reader asked about the artist who created the model of the pagoda at Erddig. So here are some more of her works.

Needlework picture by Betty Ratcliffe, c. 1770, showing a spray of flowers including roses, honeysuckle and jasmine. ©National Trust/Susanne Gronnow

Elizabeth Ratcliffe (c. 1735-c. 1810) was the daughter of a Chester clockmaker. She became a lady’s maid and companion to Dorothy Yorke, née Hutton (d. 1787), who spent her long widowhood in the family’s London house in Park Lane.

Pencil drawing by Betty Ratcliffe after Hubert Drouais the younger, depicting the sons of the Duc de Bouillon as Montagnards, 1765. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The Yorke family recognised Betty’s talents and paid for her education. She seems to have excelled at fine and detailed work.

The Yorke family arms in cut paper, by Betty Ratcliffe. ©National Trust

There is a fascinating collection of servant portraits at Erddig, although sadly no picture of Betty – but she obviously lives on through her work.

Some pistols from the Glorious Revolution

December 1, 2011

Pair of late seventeenth-century English pistols with a provenance from Dunster Castle. ©Brian Godwin

Yesterday we succesfully bid at auction on a pair of of pistols dating from the late seventeenth century and with a provenance from Dunster Castle, Somerset. They were coming up in the Bonhams arms and armour sale at their Knightsbridge auction rooms in London.

Dunster Castle. ©NTPL/Magnus Rew

The sale was well attended, with some strong prices, and we had to bid quite a bit above the top estimate in order to secure the pistols at £24,000 hammer price.

We are very grateful to the V&A Purchase Grant Fund for offering a grant towards this acquisition, and to our firearms adviser Brian Godwin for assessing the importance of the pistols.

The gatehouse at Dunster. ©NTPL/Arnhel de Serra

The pistols had been sold from Dunster in the early 1970s (before the National Trust acquired the castle), but up till that time they had been there continuously since the 1680s.

In 1688 Francis Luttrell, a local squire and owner of Dunster, joined the Glorious Revolution when William of Orange landed at Torbay. Luttrell managed to raise a regiment in a mere three days, partly due to his local connections, but also because there was a well-stocked armoury at Dunster, which this pair of pistols was probably part of.

Francis Luttrell (1659-1690). ©NTPL/John Hammond

Apart from playing a minor role in this momentous event in British history, Francis Luttrell also repaired and refurbished Dunster Castle, which had been damaged and neglected during the Civil War.

Plasterwork on the ceiling of the Dining Room at Dunster, put up in 1681. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

His heiress wife Mary Tregonwell provided the funds for some very fine plasterwork ceilings and a beautifully carved staircase. The carving on the latter is probably by the sculptor Edward Pearce the younger. Interestingly, the staircase was originally painted grey.

Detail of the carved balustrade of the staircase at Dunster, showing acanthus leaves, a beagling hound and a cornucopia. ©NTPL/Bill Batten

We hope soon to be able to display the pistols at Dunster, to enhance the story of this ancient castle at the time of the Glorious Revolution.

The Chinese wallpapers at Saltram

November 29, 2011

Chinese picture used as wallpaper in the Study at Saltram. ©NTPL/John Hammond

After the recent flurry of posts about Chinese wallpapers and related subjects, both on this blog and on Style Court and Little Augury, I wanted to show a few of the intriguing eighteenth-century papers that have inspired the ones being created today by Fromental and De Gournay.

The Study, showing the astonishingly varied arrangement of papers used to decorate the walls. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Saltram, in Devon, was rebuilt and redecorated in the 1740s for John Parker and his heiress wife, Lady Catherine, daughter of the 1st Earl Poulett. They introduced high-quality plasterwork and also a variety of Chinese wallpapers.

A garden scene, in the Study. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The walls of the Study have a collection of sections of wallpaper and decorative pictures on paper of widely differing sizes and subjects divided and framed by (European) key-fret strips. It has the phantasmagoric feeling of a room-size picture book.

The Chinese Chippendale Bedroom. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Chinese Chippendale bedroom has a panoramic ‘wallpaper’, which in fact is a painted silk hanging showing people engaged in various occupations and industries. Mid-eighteenth-century Chinese paintings on glass hang on top of the wallpaper, and the chairs and hanging shelves with chinoiserie fretwork further enhance the exotic feeling of the room.

The Chinese Dressing Room. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The wallpaper in the Chinese Dressing Room, painted on mulberry paper, is probably the oldest at Saltram, dating from the early eighteenth century, and depicts elegant people in a garden setting.

A number of the panels are repeated, and various birds and other elements have been cut out from other papers and pasted in, showing how the decorative value of the pattern was valued more than its realistic content.

One of the mirror paintings in the Mirror Room, with the panoramic paper behind. NTPL/Rob Matheson

The paper in the so-called Mirror Room was moved here in recent times from a room not on view to the public. It is made up of sections of a panoramic wallpaper, again augmented by glass paintings, fretwork furniture, lacquer and porcelain.

Many grand houses would have had more than one Chinese wallpaper in the past, but Saltram is one of the few where so many of them survive.

The Manor Reborn

November 24, 2011

Penelope Keith and Paul Martin in front of Avebury Manor. ©BBC

Avebury Manor, in Wiltshire, is the setting for a BBC series entitled The Manor Reborn which documents the process of bringing this historic house back to life. The first episode airs tonight on BBC One.

View through the doorway between the Great Parlour and the Little Parlour at Avebury, taken as the rooms were being cleared prior to the recent project. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The series is presented by Penelope Keith and Paul Martin. The title is a reference to the former’s appearance in the 1970s sitcom To the Manor Born, in which she memorably played a feisty upper-class lady fallen on lean times and living in the gatehouse of her ancestral mansion.

The Dining Hall at Avebury as the project was about to begin. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Avebury Manor was originally a small medieval Benedictine priory on the site of an ancient stone circle. It was turned into a manor house in the mid-sixteenth century and was further altered in the early eighteenth century and in the 1920s (more about the house’s history can be found in this interesting post by the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre).

However, by the time the National Trust acquired the house very little of the original contents remained in situ. National Trust curators had been considering for some time how best to use the interiors when the BBC approached them with the proposal to make a series of programmes about refurbishing a house.

The Dining Hall after redecoration, reimagined as it may have been in the late eighteenth century. ©National Trust/Allan King

A team of experts was assembled including architectural historian Dan Cruickshank, historian Anna Whitelock, interior designer Russell Sage and gardener David Howard. The interiors of the house were redecorated to reflect various episodes in its history. Because of the lack of original contents, the team had more freedom to reinterpret the spaces than would normally be the case with a National Trust property.

Detail of the Fromental wallpaper, where the Chinese painters have added a vignette of Avebury. ©NTPL/John Hammond

However, the emphasis of the project was also to highlight the wide range of traditional craft skills still available today. In the Dining Hall, for instance, Chinese wallpaper makers Fromental have installed a hand-painted wallpaper reflecting the ownership of Avebury by Lieutenant-General Sir Adam Williamson in the late eighteenth century. 

Chinese wallpapers were very popular in Britain at that time, and Fromental’s Chinese craftsmen have made a new paper inspired by surviving antique examples, but customised with a few witty references to Avebury (I recently did another post about Fromental’s glamorous reinterpretations of traditional Chinese wallpapers). 

Another view of the Dining Hall. The section of wallpaper at left shows the western trading posts in Guangzhou, China, evoking Governor Williamson's international career. ©NTPL/John Hammond

I hope to do further posts about other aspects of this fascinating project soon. There is also a book available accompanying the television series

Chinese wallpaper: a living tradition

November 22, 2011

Wallpaper in 'Paradiso' pattern, 'Mahogany' colourway. ©Fromental

At the recent panel discussion about chinoiserie at Christie’s Education I met Lizzie Deshayes of Fromental, who held us spellbound with stories about how her company designs and makes bespoke Chinese wallpaper. I have since also met her husband and fellow director Tim Butcher, with whom she set up Fromental in 2005, and who is equally passionate about the subject.

Customised 'Nonsuch' pattern, part-embroidered, in 'Warrington' colourway on silk. ©Fromental

Fromental employs Chinese painters and embroiderers, based in a studio in Jiangsu province, who are skilled in using traditional materials and techniques. Fromental’s craftsmen can produce traditional Chinese wallpapers, as seen in historic houses, but they are equally adept at realising the contemporary designs created by Lizzie and Tim and their team.

Wallpaper in 'Paradiso' pattern, 'Kelly' colourway. ©Fromental

This uninhibited mixing of tradition and modernity gives Fromental’s wallpapers real design integrity: the papers are ‘now’ and yet at the same time you get the sense that they are part of a tradition. 

Part-embroidered 'Paradiso' pattern, 'Old Gold' colourway. ©Fromental

This also gives you a flavour of what the production process of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Chinese wallpapers must have been like. Those earlier designers (about whom virtually nothing is known) were operating within a similar matrix of constraints and opportunities: a traditional pictorial language, the availability of craftsmanship, trends in taste and the economics of consumer demand.

Wallpaper in 'Sylvaner' pattern, 'Bolero' colourway. ©Fromental

What is fascinating too is that there is now a Chinese market for these wallpapers, which were originally made purely for export to the west. International interior designers have been introducing them to Chinese clients, who recognise the traditional motifs and techniques but also appreciate the sense of ‘western’ style that these wallpapers exude.

'Sylvaner' pattern on gold leaf, 'Burnish' colourway. ©Fromental

Here we have yet another twist in the long history of chinoiserie: what was once created in China for a western market is now being re-designed in the west and being adopted by the Chinese as an emblem of international taste.

As it happens, Fromental has also contributed to the joint National Trust – BBC project at Avebury Manor, which I hope to post about shortly.