Author Archive

A late Edwardian lake at Mount Stewart

October 1, 2013

©Emile de Bruijn

Last week I visited Mount Stewart, in Country Down, where we were shown the inspirational conservation project underway in the house.

©Emile de Bruijn

©Emile de Bruijn

But I also had a chance to see part of the garden, and I was enchanted by the large lake surrounded by specimen trees and exotic plants.

©Emile de Bruijn

©Emile de Bruijn

This part of the garden was originally laid out by Charles Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry (1778-1854), but it was further enlarged and embellished by Edith, the 7th Marchioness (1878-1959).

©Emile de Bruijn

©Emile de Bruijn

It has a wonderfully opulent Edwardian atmosphere, with masses of exotic plants and trees and many Italianate and Japanese touches.

©Emile de Bruijn

©Emile de Bruijn

I was there on an extraordinarily still late afternoon, the garden poised on the brink of autumn, with not even Basho’s proverbial frog jumping into the water to disturb the silence.

In praise of copying

September 19, 2013
Detail of a Roman copy of a fifth century BC bronze figure of an Amazon, in the North Gallery at Petworth. ©National Trust Images/Stuart Cox

Detail of a Roman copy of a fifth century BC bronze figure of an Amazon, in the North Gallery at Petworth. ©National Trust Images/Stuart Cox

The other day I was having a discussion with a colleague about the relative merits of original works and copies. Although I am as keenly interested in original works of art as the next heritage-minded person, I found myself defending of the value of copies – in particular the copies of antique sculpture.

The North Gallery at Petworth. ©National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

The North Gallery at Petworth. ©National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

The Romans copied famous Greek sculptures, and following the Renaissance the Italians copied Greek and Roman works as well as combining disparate ancient fragments. These copies and hybrids tend to be beautifully made objects in themselves, but apart from their purely visual appeal I also find them fascinating because of what they tell us about our how our culture interacts with its past.

Roman figure of Agrippina as Ceres, Roman adaptation of a Greek original, restored in the eighteenth century, with two busts, in the North Gallery at Petworth. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Roman figure of Agrippina as Ceres, Roman adaptation of a Greek original, restored in the eighteenth century, with two busts, in the North Gallery at Petworth. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The past was being rediscovered, and the products of that past were so desirable that a reproduction market arose to satisfy the demand. Regardless of whether these objects are ‘originals’, ‘copies’, ‘bodges’ or ‘fakes’, they embody an ideal that was so powerful that people felt compelled to fill their houses with them, and indeed to rebuild their houses to realise that vision even more fully.

Volunteer Room Steward in the North Gallery at Petworth, next to a Greek seated figure of a philosopher, with a Roman head added in the eighteenth century. ©National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

Volunteer Room Steward in the North Gallery at Petworth, next to a Greek seated figure of a philosopher, with a Roman head added in the eighteenth century. ©National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

And of course we are doing more or less the same thing when we visit a historic place today, and buy the guidebook, and add images to our Pinterest boards, and change something in our own home inspired by what we have seen. When we look at our ancestors looking at their past, we are also looking at ourselves.

Perspectives on the English country house

September 17, 2013
The south front of Blickling Hall, with the service wings on either side. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

The south front of Blickling Hall, with the service wings on either side. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

The National Trust and Apollo magazine are presenting a panel discussion about the personal stories behind great historic houses.

One of the service wings at Blickling. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

One of the service wings at Blickling. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

Speakers include Simon Jenkins (journalist and chairman of the National Trust), Oscar Humphries (publisher of Apollo), Nicky Haslam (interior designer, who lives at King Henry’s Hunting Lodge), Robert Sackville West (who lives at Knole), Professor Maurice Howard (architectural and decorative art historian) and Robert O’Byrne (vice-president of the Irish Georgian Society).

View of the south front through a gateway. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

The discussion will explore how historic houses have shaped the aesthetics, cultural politics or academic research of the various speakers.

The east front and the parterre. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

The east front and the parterre. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

The event will take place at the National Portrait Gallery in London on 23 September, at 7 pm, and tickets can be booked here.

View of the house and the service wings from the parterre. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

View of the house and the service wings from the parterre. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

When I was at Blickling Hall yesterday to give a talk I sensed something similar, what might be called Blickling’s ‘spirit of place’.

Blickling Hall seen from across the lake. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

Blickling Hall seen from across the lake. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

It is very difficult to define, but it has something to do with the characteristics of the surrounding rural Norfolk landscape, the Edwardian garden, the Jacobean proportions of the house, the materials, the surface textures, the various smells and fragrances, the fall of the autumn light through the windows and the layers of seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century furnishings and works of art.

The art of hanging Chinese wallpaper

September 12, 2013
The Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg Hall, hung with Chinese wallpaper in 1752. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg Hall, hung with Chinese wallpaper in 1752. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Another insight we have gained while working on the forthcoming catalogue of Chinese wallpapers in the historic houses of the National Trust is that there was a lot of skill involved in installing them. The paper was physically different from western paper and the drops were often wider. Sometimes the scenery was panoramic, requiring the joins to be either very exact or fudged and disguised.

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg, showing various artfully cut additions along the bottom.  ©National Trust Images/David Kirkham

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg, showing various artfully cut additions along the bottom. ©National Trust Images/David Kirkham

If the paper didn’t quite fit the walls the paper hangers had various tricks up their sleeves to achieve a harmonious end result. They would cut motifs from extra rolls and stick them over the joins to disguise breaks in the scenery. If they needed more height they would add plant and rock motifs at the bottom, cropped in various artful ways to make these disjointed elements look more natural. And as we saw in a recent post about the wallpaper at Blickling, they sometimes added a bit of sky at the top.

The Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram, with pairs of Chinese prints hung in an alternating pattern with various cut-out additions to create a wallpaper effect, possibly in the 1750s. ©National Trust Images/John Hammondn the Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram, Devon

The Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram, with pairs of Chinese prints hung in an alternating pattern with various cut-out additions to create a wallpaper effect, possibly in the 1750s. ©National Trust Images/John Hammondn the Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram, Devon

As Chinese wallpaper was very expensive – and, as catalogue co-author Andrew Bush has noted, you couldn’t just nip around the corner for an extra roll – this ‘cutting and pasting’ must have required considerable skill and nerves of steel.

Partition in the Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram, decorated with fragments of prints in a slightly less sophisticated manner, suggesting a later, amateur hand.©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Partition in the Chinese Dressing Room at Saltram, decorated with fragments of prints in a slightly less sophisticated manner, suggesting a later, amateur hand. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

These techniques were first noticed by conservator Mark Sandiford a number of years ago when he was working on the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg. When I was at Saltram recently  I noticed exactly the same ‘tricks of the trade’ being used in the Chinese Dressing Room there.

Sheringham uncovered

September 10, 2013
View of Sheringham Park from Repton's red book. ©National Trust Images

View of Sheringham Park from Repton’s red book. ©National Trust Images

This autumn the National Trust is scheduling a number of talks and event around the theme of the British landscape. Our specialists will be providing insights into how nature and culture interact in a number of different landscapes.

Present-day view of the house at Sheringham. ©National Trust Images/Rod Edwards

Present-day view of the house at Sheringham. ©National Trust Images/Rod Edwards

The full schedule can be seen here. Next up is a varied programme of events at Sheringham, in Norfolk, on 14 and 15 September.

View from Repton's Sheringham red book showing the house appearing beyond a turn in the drive. ©National Trust Images

View from Repton’s Sheringham red book showing the house appearing beyond a turn in the drive. ©National Trust Images

Sheringham Park is a landscape designed in a deliberately ‘natural’ and ‘picturesque’ manner by designer Humphry Repton. In 1812 Abbot Upcher, who had recently inherited Sheringham, and his wife Charlotte commissioned Repton and his architect son John Adey Repton to improve the estate and build a new Italianate house there.

The picturesque turn in the drive today. ©National Trust Images/Rod Edwards

The picturesque turn in the drive today. ©National Trust Images/Rod Edwards

Repton senior produced one of his ‘red books’, the watercolour albums in which he showed his clients how the various views and amenities on their properties could be improved. The red books are fascinating in how they combine professional presentation techniques with a quintessentially romantic ‘sensibility’.

Walkers immersed in the Repton work of art at Sheringham. ©National Trust Images/Rod Edwards

Walkers immersed in the Repton work of art at Sheringham. ©National Trust Images/Rod Edwards

Repton skilfully arranged the route of the drive so that the first glimpse of the house ‘will burst at once on the sight like some enchanted palace of a fairy tale.’ He was also something of a nature conservationist avant la lettre, encouraging the Upchers to leave the old trees contorted by the buffeting sea winds as ‘sublime memorials of the power of Nature’s mighty agents.’

The multiple layers of Chinese wallpaper

September 5, 2013
The Chinese wallpaper and border papers in the Chinese Bedroom at Blickling Hall. ©National Trust

The Chinese wallpaper and border papers in the Chinese Bedroom at Blickling Hall. ©National Trust

The work on our catalogue of the Chinese wallpapers in the historic houses of the National Trust is progressing well. Over the next few months I will be featuring a few sneak previews here.

The Chinese Bedroom at Blickling. The ivory pagodas may have come from Lady Suffolk's villa Marble Hill in Twickenham. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Chinese Bedroom at Blickling. The ivory pagodas may have come from Lady Suffolk’s villa Marble Hill in Twickenham. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

One of the striking things about Chinese wallpapers is that they force you to look at them in a multi-channel, multi-layered way. They are simultaneously art and decoration, eastern and western, realistic and fantastic. They relate both to the history of interior design and to the history of global trade. They document subtle shifts in social and cultural attitudes, but also illustrate the techniques of Chinese paper making, printing and painting, and of European wallpaper hanging.

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper ©National Trust

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper ©National Trust

Mirroring this complexity, we have had a lot of help in our research from a diverse group of academics, curators, conservators, historic interiors specialists and present-day Chinese wallpaper manufacturers. In an article just published in issue 50 of the National Trust’s Views magazine, entitled A Multi-Channel Approach to Chinese Wallpaper, I have tried to chart the development of the project so far, and the way it has drawn in a multiplicity of experts. We hope that we can build on this informal Chinese wallpaper study group following the publication of the catalogue, perhaps resulting in further events and publications.

Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk (d. 1767) in masquerade dress, by Thomas Gibson, c. 1720.  ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk (d. 1767) in masquerade dress, by Thomas Gibson, c. 1720. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Chinese wallpaper at Blickling Hall is a good example of how new insights can be gleaned by combining family history, art history and material evidence. At the outset we already knew that Henrietta Howard, Lady Suffolk, had helped her nephew John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, to redecorate Blickling in the run-up to his marriage in 1761.

Inscription on the back of one of the Chinese border papers at Blickling. Photograph by Mark Sandiford

Inscription on the back of one of the Chinese border papers at Blickling. Photograph by Mark Sandiford

This was confirmed when Mark Sandiford and Philippa Mapes removed the Chinese wallpaper from the walls for conservation treatment in 2002. On the back of the border papers they found inscriptions mentioning ‘1758’, ‘Suffolk’ and ‘Lott 30′, suggesting that Lady Suffolk had purchased these borders at auction, and possibly the wallpaper as well. She also had Chinese wallpaper at her own house, Marble Hill, in Twickenham, and this has recently been recreated.

Transcription of a faint Chinese stamp on the back of one of the Chinese border papers at Blickling. Drawn by Mark Sandiford

Transcription of a faint Chinese stamp on the back of one of the Chinese border papers at Blickling. Drawn by Mark Sandiford

One of the Chinese border papers at Blickling was also found to have a faint Chinese stamp on the reverse – perhaps the name of the paper manufacturer, although it has proved difficult to decipher so far. Yet another intriguing discovery was the fact that the sky of the landscape wallpaper is separate and not Chinese. It was probably added by the paper hangers, perhaps to extend the height of the wallpaper to fit this particular room. Recently we discovered that some other Chinese wallpapers surviving in Britain also have added skies, for instance the one at Harewood House.

The Chinese Bedroom at Blickling during conservation work in 2002, showing the sky section added to the Chinese wallpaper. Photograph by Mark Sandiford

The Chinese Bedroom at Blickling during conservation work in 2002, showing the sky section added to the Chinese wallpaper. Photograph by Mark Sandiford

Much remains to be discovered about this wallpaper, and Chinese wallpapers in general, but by combining all the physical and documentary evidence, and by comparing wallpapers in different houses (and even different countries), we are beginning to gain a greater understanding of their make-up, significance and development.

A Madonna returns to Tyntesfield

August 15, 2013
©National Trust/SWNS

©National Trust/SWNS

At the end of last week a rather special painting returned to Tyntesfield. The picture of the Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist was painted by the Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini and his workshop in the late 15th century.

The Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist, by Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516). ©National Trust/SWNS

The Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist, by Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516). ©National Trust/SWNS

In 1880 it was purchased by Anthony Gibbs (1841-1907) from a London dealer, to add to the growing collection of old master paintings at Tyntesfield begun by his father, William Gibbs (1790-1875).

Andrew Kent (kneeling) and Aaron Shaw of Fine Art Transport Services preparing and checking the fixings of the frame. ©National Trust/SWNS

Andrew Kent (kneeling) and Aaron Shaw of Fine Art Transport Services preparing and checking the fixings of the frame. ©National Trust/SWNS

William Gibbs had presided over the expansion of the family trading firm, particularly through the mining and shipping of guano, which was in demand as an agricultural fertiliser. The profits from this enabled him not just to rebuild and redecorate the house and to expand his art collection, but also to fund numerous philanthropic projects.

Curator Stephen Ponder communing with the picture. ©National Trust/SWNS

Curator Stephen Ponder communing with the picture. ©National Trust/SWNS

The decoration of Tyntesfield is an embodiment of the ideal, formulated by John Ruskin (1819–1900) in his book The Stones of Venice (1851–3), of a synthesis between the spiritual and the aesthetic.

Alex Smith, assistant house manager at Tyntesfield, cleaning the glass of the box frame before the paintings goes up on the wall. ©National Trust/SWNS

Alex Smith, assistant house manager at Tyntesfield, cleaning the glass of the box frame before the paintings goes up on the wall. ©National Trust/SWNS

The novelist Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901), a cousin of William Gibbs, seems to have been responding to this when she remarked that ‘that beautiful home was like a church in spirit.’

The picture ready to go up. ©National Trust/SWNS

The picture ready to go up. ©National Trust/SWNS

The fact that Tyntesfield is a largely complete survival of a high-Victorian country house in the Ruskinian mould was one of the reasons why the National Trust decided to try to acquire it following the death of Richard Gibbs, 2nd Lord Wraxall (1928-2001). The appeal was a success, attracting huge support from the public as well as an unprecedentedly large grant from the National Heritage memorial Fund.

The painting is first rested on the marble chimneypiece. ©National Trust/SWNS

The painting is first rested on the marble chimneypiece. ©National Trust/SWNS

The painting was accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by the Government and initially displayed at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. It was recently reallocated to the National Trust for display at Tyntesfield.

The final adjustments to the picture chains. ©National Trust/SWNS

The final adjustments to the picture chains. ©National Trust/SWNS

The return of the painting is an indication that, following the restoration of the house, Tyntesfield now meets the standards required for looking after and displaying works of this calibre.

A job well done. ©National Trust/SWNS

A job well done. ©National Trust/SWNS

The picture, which was painted on a wooden panel, had been given a box frame in 1969 to protect it against environmental changes. Some of the strain required in lifting such a heavy object is visible in the photographs shown here, but everyone involved was very pleased with the result.

A Gilded Age cottage in Cambridgeshire

August 13, 2013
Regency-period wheelbarrow in the Library Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Regency-period wheelbarrow in the Library Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

I have just seen a copy of the newly published Treasures from Lord Fairhaven’s Library at Anglesey Abbey, written by Mark Purcell, William Hale and David Pearson. The authors describe the extraordinary collection of books assembled at Anglesey Abbey by Huttleston Broughton, 1st Lord Fairhaven (1896-1966) between the 1920s and the 1960s.

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

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

Lord Fairhaven was the eldest son of Urban Hanlon Broughton (1857-1929), an Anglo-American sanitation and mining entrepreneur, and Cara Rogers (1867-1939) the daughter of Henry Huttleston Rogers (1840-1909), an American oil, gas, copper and railway tycoon. Rogers was an exponent of the rise of the monopolistic businessman in late nineteenth-century America, which saw him and other ruthless titans like John D. Rockefeller, Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan amass stupendous fortunes.

The Library at Anglesey Abbey, with its infinity mirrors and William Kent-designed silver chandeliers. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Library at Anglesey Abbey, with its infinity mirrors and William Kent-designed silver chandeliers. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Although this book is strictly speaking about Fairhaven’s library, it also clearly shows how his tastes more generally were shaped by his American plutocratic background. The appearance of Anglesey Abbey and its gardens reflects the ideas of Gilded Age arbiters of taste such as Edith Wharton (1862-1937). Anglesey Abbey is, in effect, a Gilded Age ‘cottage’ preserved in the Cambridgeshire Fens.

Regency rococo revival mantle clock by James McCabe in the Library. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Regency rococo revival mantle clock by James McCabe in the Library. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Fairhaven loved British art and architecture, and he had the ancient Anglesey Abbey – latterly used as a farmhouse – carefully restored and – in phases – extended. But the interiors were done up lavishly, complete with fitted carpets and central heating, relatively rare at the time. And he gradually filled the house with a very fine, if also very personal, collection of paintings, bronzes, tapestries, furniture, clocks and books.

The library desk, said to have come from Houghton Hall and possibly used by Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The library desk, said to have come from Houghton Hall and possibly used by Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Library, as described in this book, ‘is a slightly modernised 1930s take on the historicist style in vogue in Britain and America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – with just a hint of Gotham City and the Bat Cave.’ This book once again triumphantly proves the point (previously made by Mark Purcell here and here, for instance) that books are not just information carriers but also biographical, social and cultural signifiers.

Master of marquetry

August 8, 2013
Top of a table veneered with floral marquetry, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-83 (NT114043), at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Top of a table veneered with floral marquetry, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-83 (NT1140043), at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Another fascinating article in the recently published book about Ham House is Reinier Baarsen’s investigation of the seventeenth-century Dutch furniture in the house.

Table veneered with floral marquetry, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-83 (NT1140043), at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Table veneered with floral marquetry, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-83 (NT1140043), at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The courts of Charles II, James II and William and Mary employed numerous foreign artists and craftsmen, and as a result English late seventeenth-century taste in interior decoration was decidedly international.

Top of a table veneered with floral marquetry, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-82 (NT1139568), at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Top of a table veneered with floral marquetry, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-82 (NT1139568), at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Baarsen attributes a number of pieces of marquetry furniture at Ham to the cabinetmaker Gerrit Jensen. Not much is known about Jensen, but he seems to have come to England from Holland, possibly in the 1660s, and he appears to have been one of the craftsmen who exported the Dutch taste for floral marquetry across Europe.

Table veneered with floral marquetry, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-82 (NT1139568), at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Jensen appears to have wowed the London scene with his floral marquetry, and by the early 1680s he was accredited as a royal cabinetmaker.

Mirror veneered with floral marquetry, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-83, at Ham House (NT1139551). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond.

Mirror veneered with floral marquetry, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-83 (NT1139551), at Ham House . ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The pieces at Ham attributed to Jensen appear to date from the 1670s or early 1680s.

Crest of a mirror veneered with floral marquetry, featuring a medallion with a Roman emperor, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-83 (NT1139551), at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Crest of a mirror veneered with floral marquetry, featuring a medallion with a Roman emperor, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-83 (NT1139551), at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The tables all have twisted legs, which is an English characteristic of the period and shows how Jensen was adapting his work to English taste.

Table veneered with floral marquetry, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-83 (NT1139923), at Ham House . ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Table veneered with floral marquetry, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-83 (NT1139923), at Ham House . ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The marquetry also includes French motifs, such as the a chevron-patterned outer border and a central panel showing a vase of flowers with acanthus scrolls on one of the table-tops. Baarsen speculates whether Jensen may have spent some time in Paris before coming to London.

Top of a table veneered with floral marquetry, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-83 (NT1139923), at Ham House . ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Top of a table veneered with floral marquetry, attributed to Gerrit Jensen, c. 1672-83 (NT1139923), at Ham House . ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

This inventive mixture of styles represents the international taste of the period, and Ham House is one of the few places where this can still be studied in detail.

A Dutch house in Gloucestershire

August 6, 2013
View of Dyrham Park from the entrance drive, with Claude David's statue of Neptune, acquired by William Blathwayt for his baroque garden. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

View of Dyrham Park from the entrance drive, with Claude David’s statue of Neptune, acquired by William Blathwayt for his baroque garden. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

In an article in the recently published 2013 National Trust Historic Houses and Collections Annual, Rupert Goulding reconstructs the personality and taste of William Blathwayt (?1649-1717), the builder of Dyrham Park.

The Great Hall at Dyrham, showing William Blathwayt's bookcases. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Great Hall at Dyrham, showing William Blathwayt’s bookcases. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

By analysing an inventory of Blathwayt’s lost print collection, Rupert has found telling details of Blathwayt’s intellectual interests and love of art and gardening.

Portrait of William Blathwayt by Michael Dahl. ©National Trust Images/Ian Blantern

Portrait of William Blathwayt by Michael Dahl. ©National Trust Images/Ian Blantern

Blathwayt was a government minister under King William III, ‘a master at managing information’ as Rupert characterises him.

Vanitas still life by Edwaert Colliers at Dyrham, 1675, reflecting Blathwayt's love of books, the visual arts and music. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Vanitas still life by Edwaert Colliers at Dyrham, 1675, reflecting Blathwayt’s love of books, the visual arts and music. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

This not only made Blathwayt an able Secretary of State and Secretary at War, but it was also reflected in the architecture and gardens of Dyrham Park and the collections he assembled there.

A view through a house by Samuel van Hoogstraten, 1662, at Dyrham Park. William Blathwayt liked to keep exotic and song birds, like the one shown in this painting. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

A view through a house by Samuel van Hoogstraten, 1662, at Dyrham Park. William Blathwayt liked to keep exotic and song birds, like the one shown in this painting. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Blathwayt might be dubbed a ‘Hollandophile': he not only spoke Dutch (which was useful when serving under a Dutch king), but he also owned many Dutch paintings and prints.

Engraving of Dyrham Park by Johannes Kip, 1712. ©National Trust Images

Engraving of Dyrham Park by Johannes Kip, 1712. ©National Trust Images

Blathwayt shared an appreciation of gardens with William III, and his print collection included a number of views of contemporary gardens. The garden at Dyrham was laid out in Dutch baroque style, like those at William’s palaces at Hampton Court and Het Loo. Rupert defines Dyrham as ‘essentially a Dutch house in Gloucestershire.’

Portrait of King William III after Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1690s, at Dyrham. ©National Trust, image supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of King William III after Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1690s, at Dyrham. ©National Trust, image supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Rupert’s article clearly demonstrates how an inventory can be the key to revealing the rich personal meanings contained within a house, a garden and a collection.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 932 other followers