On Tuesday 26 June I will be taking a group on a tour of Saltram, near Plymouth, looking at the Chinese and Chinese-inspired collections in the house. The tour begins at 6.30 pm, and to book a (free) place you can call 01752 333500. It is part of Sinopticon, a programme of exhibitions and events exploring what chinoiserie means in a contemporary context.
While preparing the tour I noticed the similarities and differences between Saltram, Osterley Park, in west London, and Nostell Priory, in West Yorkshire, all houses with important eighteenth-century chinoiserie decoration.
Saltram has a great collection of Chinese wallpapers complemented by Chinese mirror paintings, east Asian ceramics and sets of chinoiserie chairs. The Parkers of Saltram were wealthy and fashion-conscious, but they rebuilt and redecorated the house in a piecemeal manner.
The Childs of Osterley, by contrast, were among the super-rich and could really splurge on chinoiserie decoration. The decoration of Osterley included lacquer furniture, Chinese wallpaper, mirror paintings, Indian fabrics, east Asian ceramics, carved ivory objects, live exotic birds in the menagerie, a multi-room and fully furnished chinoiserie pavilion in the garden and a Chinese-style boat on the lake.
The chinoiserie taste of Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet, of Nostell was slightly different again, as he concentrated on commissioning several sets of beautiful chinoiserie furniture from Thomas Chippendale, set against the backdrop of Chinese wallpaper. There was a chinoiserie garden pavilion at Nostell too, but it was a relatively small, portable affair.
I find it fascinating how the different ‘ingredients’ of the chinoiserie style were combined in different quantities and configurations at these three houses in the middle of the eighteenth century. In the tour tomorrow I hope to be able to bring out the uniqueness of Saltram by contrasting it with what the other ‘Joneses’ were doing at about the same time.