The Boudoir revisited

The Boudoir at Attingham, by Ethel Sands, probably 1929, oil on board, oil on board,  61 x 49.9 cm.  ©Christie's

The Boudoir at Attingham, by Ethel Sands, probably 1929,
oil on board, 61 x 49.9 cm. ©Christie’s

We have just purchased this small painting of the Boudoir at Attingham Park at auction at Christie’s South Kensington. It is by Ethel Sands (1873-1962) and was probably painted in 1929.

Recent photograph of the Boudoir. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Recent photograph of the Boudoir. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Between the two World Wars Teresa, Lady Berwick (1890-1972), entertained a cosmopolitan and artistic circle at Attingham.



Lady Berwick’s father, William Stokes Hulton (1852-1921), had been a painter who knew Sickert and Sargent. Her mother, Costanza Mazini (1863-1939) had links with the international literary and artistic community in Florence, including the Brownings and the Berensons. Thomas Noel-Hill, 8th Lord Berwick (1877-1947), met Teresa while serving as a diplomat in Italy during the First World War, when she was working as a nurse, and they were married in 1919.



After the war they gradually restored and updated Attingham, adding furniture and art to the collection. They also acknowledged recent artistic developments by naming cows on the farm after Picasso, Gaugin and Matisse. There are records of Ethel Sands visiting Attingham on several occasions in 1929, when she was joined by writers, intellectuals and aesthetes such as L.P. Hartley, Cesare Visconti, Count of Marcignago, Albert (‘Bertie’) Landsberg and Angela Mond.

Sir Gerald Kelly (1879-1972) painting Lady Berwick in the Boudoir, c. 1923. ©National Trust

Sir Gerald Kelly (1879-1972) painting Lady Berwick in the Boudoir, c. 1923. ©National Trust

The late 18th-century painted decoration of the Boudoir, originally created for Anne Vernon, 1st Lady Berwick (1744-97), was cleaned and restored a few years ago. But this late 1920s painting is a beautiful and useful snapshot of the room in one of its more recent incarnations.

16 Responses to “The Boudoir revisited”

  1. style court Says:

    Emiile, over at Tate, there’s a small selection of Sands’s interiors paintings. The museum compares her work to that of Bonnard and Vuillard, emphasizing her ‘intimiste’ subject matter. One painting, “The Chintz Couch,” with sunlight filtered through the room, really does have a nice Vuillard feel to it. Love the use of blue in NT’s new acquisition.

  2. style court Says:

    Oh, and I love the cows’ names too 🙂

  3. The Devoted Classicist Says:

    I always find it interesting to see what paintings of interiors show and what they don’t show. Here, there is a hint of the domed ceiling, but there seems to be more of an intent to show the room as a somewhat cozy space.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks very much Courtney, I hadn’t thought to look there:

    And indeed those vivid purples and blues seem to be there in her ‘Tea with Sickert’ as well.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes indeed Classicist, and that may partly have been an expression of the felling of the room at the time, and partly of Sands’s ‘intimiste’ style.

  6. artandarchitecturemainly Says:

    My latest post, as it happens, deals with one of the crowd you mentioned (Matisse) in exactly the era you were focusing on (post WW1).

    Now I don’t know how often those writers, painters, intellectuals and scholars got together, but it was a pretty impressive cultural environment! Would you use the term “salon” for Lady Berwick and Attingham?

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes in a way it seems to have been a kind of salon, although a ‘salon’ usually seems to imply a very regular (e.g. weekly) gathering at the metropolitan home of a hostess – I am not sure how regularly and how consistently Lady Berwick’s guests assembled at Attingham. Lady Berwick’s papers are currently being catalogued, so perhaps over time a clearer picture will emerge of her ‘salon’.

  8. style court Says:

    Emile, great point about the palette.

    I also found this essay on domestic interior paintings, from posh to humble, by Vanessa Bell, Sands and others:

  9. Andrew Says:

    The colours of the boudoir’s decoration seem to brighter in the painting than the photo. Was that artistic licence, or did the recent cleaning and restoration tone them down again?

    There are a few other photos closer to the view shown by the painting here:
    It looks better with table and chairs, I think, but presumably visitors can sit on the (rather ugly) grey chair (what would you call that? a pouffe?). And was that the same red carpet as in the painting?

    For a very different view of the Bloomsbury set, Augustus John and their millieu, I suggest you try the recent biography of Horace de Vere Cole.

  10. ldm Says:

    Lord and Lady Berwick feature in James Lees-Milne’s diaries, both as slightly tragicomic figures overwhelmed by the impact World War II and high taxation made on them and the home they loved.

    PS As Lady Berwick was born in 1890, surely her mother was born well before 1884?

  11. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Andrew, thanks for those links. Those images you refer to show the room before its fairly recent restoration. I think (but I am double-checking with Sarah Kay, the curator for Attingham) that the ottoman was recently placed there to show how it would have looked during the 1st Lady Berwick’s time. The conservation work removed the discolouration of the painted decoration and made the room a little brighter again. The fact that it also looks fairly bright in the painting is probably because it was painted on a sunny day:)

    Idm, thanks for that correction, I have found other dates for her which I have now inserted. Our collections database seems to list two different sets of dates for her, something which I have flagged up and we will correct.

    Yes Lord and Lady Berwick are described at length in James Lees-Milne’s diaries and also in his book ‘People and Places’. I think one always needs to take his descriptions with a pinch of salt, as he was such a gifted (and occasionally waspish) storyteller. But in ‘People and Places’ JL-M is full of admiration for their altruism and stoicism during the difficult war and immediate post-war years, particularly when referring to Lady Berwick.

  12. deana Says:

    I must say, license or no, that violet rug in the painting would be heaven in that room. Brilliant color choice that would give the room a color heart. I so love paintings and watercolors of rooms that catch them in amber — it gives you such insight into the lives lived there. Great acquisition.

  13. Andrew Says:

    Thanks. Unfortunately the NT images site does not seem to date the photos.

    I was tempted to call it an ottoman, but I think they generally don’t have back support… Sorry, I still think it is ugly!

  14. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    That’s OK, you are allowed to not like it 🙂

    Yes sometimes image captions for older images don’t get updated. I will check if we can do something about these.

  15. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Sarah tells me the ottoman is a copy of the two ottomans that have been in the Picture Gallery since at least 1861. We no longer have the original Boudoir furniture.

  16. Andrew Says:

    The green ones in the picture gallery are a much nicer colour 🙂

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