Archive for the ‘Acceptance in Lieu’ Category

Mount Stewart reopens

April 23, 2015
The central hall at Mount Stewart, showing the restored paintwork, cleaned marble columns, restored balustrade and redisplayed sculptures. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The central hall at Mount Stewart, showing the restored paintwork, cleaned marble columns, restored balustrade and redisplayed sculptures. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

Mount Stewart, the ancestral home of the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family in County Down, has now reopened after a three-year, £8 million restoration project.

The portrait of the race horse Hambletonian, by George Stubbs (1724-1806), in a new frame, on the staircase which has had its earlier wall colour restored. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The portrait of the race horse Hambletonian, by George Stubbs (1724-1806), in a new frame, on the staircase which has had its earlier wall colour restored. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The project was a hugely complicated logistical exercise. First the historic contents of the rooms had to be carefully removed (‘decanted’ in conservation-speak) and stored.

The drawing room during restoration. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The drawing room during restoration. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

Then the structure of the building was repaired. Much of the work was undertaken by the building firm H & J Martin, which was founded in 1840 and is associated with a number of landmark buildings in Northern Ireland, including Belfast’s City Hall.

The drawing room following restoration. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The drawing room following restoration. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The heating system was upgraded to make it more efficient and suitable for a historic building and collection.

Callum McCaffrey, apprentice joiner, at work at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

Callum McCaffrey, apprentice joiner, at work at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The joinery also needed attention. As much as possible of the original woodwork was left in place, and new sections were carefully joined in (similar to the method of conservation shown in a previous post).

The newly restored 'Rome' bedroom, epitomising Edith, Lady Londonderry's bold colour sense. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The newly restored ‘Rome’ bedroom, epitomising Edith, Lady Londonderry’s bold colour sense. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

Following repairs to the plasterwork the rooms were redecorated, often restoring them to their appearance during the time of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry (1878-1959), who put a distinct stamp on the house and garden (personally I love her colour sense, as you can also see here). Finally the original contents were moved back in.

Portrait by Lawrence of Frances Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry (1800-65) and her son Charles, Viscount Seaham, later the 5th Marquess (1821-84), on display in the drawing room. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

Portrait by Lawrence of Frances Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry (1800-65) and her son Charles, Viscount Seaham, later the 5th Marquess (1821-84), on display in the drawing room. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

There are also many new things to see at Mount Stewart. A large number of historically associated objects has recently been allocated to the house through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. A further group of important works of art and other items has been lent by the estate of Alistair Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the 9th Marquess of Londonderry (1937-2012). All of these objects reflect the historical significance of the family and their taste and interests.

The restored breakfast room, including one of the views of Mount Stewart by Solomon Delane (c.1727-1812) accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Mount Stewart, 2014. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The restored breakfast room, including one of the views of Mount Stewart by Solomon Delane (c.1727-1812) accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Mount Stewart, 2014. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

There are now 11 paintings by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) on display at Mount Stewart, including portraits of Robert Stewart, 2nd Marquess of Londonderry (1769-1822, usually known by his courtesy title Lord Castlereagh), who played an important role in stabilising Europe following the Napoleonic wars.

One of Mount Stewart's stone floors being restored. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

One of Mount Stewart’s stone floors being restored. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

A brief interview with Lady Rose Lauritzen, the granddaughter of Edith, Lady Londonderry, can be seen here.

Lady Londonderry's sitting room, following restoration and reinstatement. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

Lady Londonderry’s sitting room, following restoration and reinstatement. ©National Trust/Elaine Hill

The project was funded by the National Trust with help from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the Royal Oak Foundation, the BH Breslauer Foundation, the Lauritzen Foundation, the Friends of the National Libraries, the Northern Ireland Museums Council and a number of individual supporters.

Philip Webb and Red House

April 21, 2015
Portrait of Philip Webb by Charles Fairfax Murray. ©National Portrait Gallery, London

Portrait of Philip Webb by Charles Fairfax Murray. ©National Portrait Gallery, London

In the centenary year of the death of Philip Webb (1831-1915), we are celebrating the life and work of this remarkable architect and designer. The National Trust looks after the two Webb-designed houses that are open to the public, Red House and Standen.

Philip Webb's drawing instruments. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House, 2014. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Philip Webb’s drawing instruments. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House, 2014. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

An exhibition has just opened at Red House showing a group of objects once owned by Webb. These items were recently accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax on the estate of the architect John Brandon-Jones and allocated to the National Trust. They include Webb’s architect’s drawing instruments.

Snuff box once owned by William Morris. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House, 2014. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Snuff box once owned by William Morris. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House, 2014. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Also in this group is a snuff box owned by William Morris, who commissioned Webb to design Red House.

The staircase landing at Red House. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

The staircase landing at Red House. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Red House was the architect’s first commission and was completed in 1860. Morris and Webb were both at the forefront of the Arts and Crafts movement, reacting against the excesses of Victorian industrialisation and advocating a return to honest craftsmanship and local materials.

Dining table designed by Philip Webb, at Red House. Purchased with the help of the Art Fund, the John Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, an anonymous donor and other gifts and bequests. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Dining table designed by Philip Webb, at Red House. Purchased with the help of the Art Fund, the John Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, an anonymous donor and other gifts and bequests. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Webb also designed some of the furniture at Red House, such as the refectory-style dining table acquired by the National Trust in 2007.

Philip Webb's watercolour box. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Philip Webb’s watercolour box. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Webb originally wanted to become an artist, and he was a sensitive draughtsman. In 2013 the National Trust purchased four drawings of animals by Webb for the Arts and Crafts collection at Wightwick Manor.

The east front of Red House. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

The east front of Red House. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

Red House, which was acquired by the National Trust ten years ago, is slowly revealing more of its secrets, such as a pre-Raphaelite wall painting and an early Morris-designed floral pattern.

Churchill paintings accepted for the nation

March 10, 2015
Looking south-east from the balcony at Chartwell towards the painting studio, with the Kentish Weald beyond, a view Churchill loved. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

Looking south-east from the balcony at Chartwell towards the painting studio, with the Kentish Weald beyond, a view Churchill loved. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

It has just been announced that the Government has accepted a major collection of paintings by Sir Winston Churchill in lieu of inheritance tax. Most of the paintings have been allocated to the National Trust and will remain at Chartwell, where they had been on long-term loan.

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

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

The paintings were part of the estate of Lady Soames, Churchill’s last surviving child, who died last year. The inheritance tax liability was less than the tax settlement value of the paintings, but the executors of Lady Soames’s estate generously agreed to forgo the difference. In addition one further painting by Churchill was donated directly to the National Trust by the executors.

The garden front of Chartwell seen from the Marlborough Pavilion. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

The garden front of Chartwell seen from the Marlborough Pavilion. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

Apart from being a soldier, writer and politician, Churchill was also a talented amateur artist. As Lady Soames herself wrote of her father: ‘… in his 41st year [1915] painting literally “grabbed” him, thereafter playing an increasing and abiding role in his life, renewing the source of his great inner strength and enabling him to face storms, ride out depressions and rise above the tough passages in his political life.’

Churchill's study at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Churchill’s study at Chartwell. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

This allocation is yet another example of the hugely important role of the Acceptance in Lieu scheme in safeguarding important works of art and heritage objects for the benefit of the public. Over the last five years the scheme has brought items to the value of £150 million into public collections in the United Kingdom.

Mount Stewart demesne to be opened to the public

January 20, 2015
Aerial view of Mount Stewart. The woodland areas mark the extent of the demesne. ©National Trust

Aerial view of Mount Stewart. The woodland areas mark the extent of the demesne. ©National Trust

As the project to restore the house at Mount Stewart nears completion, it has been announced that the adjoining historic demesne will also be opened to the public.

The big house at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/David Armstrong

The big house at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/David Armstrong

Part of the demesne, which was the core estate associated with the big house, has been accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust. Another part of the demesne has been simultaneously purchased by the National Trust, keeping this historic estate together and reuniting it with the house.

The Temple of the Winds at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/Peter Aprahamian

The Temple of the Winds at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/Peter Aprahamian

The demesne was acquired by Alexander Stewart in 1744. His son, the first Marquess of Londonderry, commissioned James ‘Athenian’ Stuart to build the romantic Temple of the Winds on the shores of Strangford Lough in 1782-3. In the twentieth century Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, created the now celebrated gardens, which she gave to the National Trust in 1957 (and which I have mentioned before).

The lake at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/David Armstrong

The lake at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/David Armstrong

The parts of the demesne that have already been opened to the public are the walled garden and the dairy. There are plans to revive the rose garden and replant fruit trees. In the longer term the aim is to restore the vineries and peach houses, and to improve access to the woodland.

Woodland garden at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/David Armstrong

Woodland garden at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/David Armstrong

This project is being supported by funding from the Garfield Weston Foundation.

Lyme Park carvings re-attributed

December 19, 2014
Detail with vessels from the carved limewood festoons in the Saloon at Lyme Park. Inv. no. 499408.10. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Detail with vessels from the carved limewood festoons in the Saloon at Lyme Park. Inv. no. 499408.10. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) Panel recently announced that a set of nine limewood carvings has been accepted in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Lyme Park. These carvings were traditionally thought to have been made by Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721), but the AIL Panel and their advisers felt that they are more likely to be by another master carver.

The Saloon at Lyme Park with the limewood carvings on the walls. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzieire

The Saloon at Lyme Park with the limewood carvings on the walls. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzieire

Carvings displaying a similar, distinctive style of composition survive at nearby Chatsworth. Both of these groups may be the work of a local carver who learned from or was aware of Grinling Gibbons but went on to develop his own style.

Section with musical instruments of the limewood carvings in the Saloon at Lyme Park. Inv. no. 499408.9. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Section with musical instruments of the limewood carvings in the Saloon at Lyme Park. Inv. no. 499408.9. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Lyme Park was donated to the National Trust by the 3rd Lord Newton in 1946, but much of its contents, including the carvings, remained in private hands. The AIL scheme is of huge benefit to the National Trust in allowing important collections to be preserved in their historical settings. But the scheme also helps to throw a spotlight on individual groups of items, occasionally leading to interesting re-attributions such as this one.

A Roman quartet returns to Wimpole

June 3, 2014
Detail of the bust of the emperor Caracallarecently returned to Wimpole Hall (inv. no. 2900080). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Detail of the bust of the emperor Caracalla recently returned to Wimpole Hall (inv. no. 2900080). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Four seventeenth-century Roman marble busts have recently returned to Wimpole Hall after a 60-year absence.

The four Roman busts back in the entrance hall at Wimpole. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The four Roman busts back in the entrance hall at Wimpole. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Two of the busts, of the emperor Caracalla and of a man described as ‘a philosopher’, were accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by the Government and allocated to Wimpole.

The bust of the 'philosopher', whose identity is yet to be further researched (inv. no. 2900081). ©National Trust/Phil MynottPhilosopher Phil Mynott

The bust of the ‘philosopher’, whose identity is yet to be further researched (inv. no. 2900081). ©National Trust/Phil MynottPhilosopher Phil Mynott

The other two, of the emperor Trajan and of another as yet unidentified emperor, were purchased by private treaty with the help of grants from the Art Fund, from a fund set up by the late the Hon. Simon Sainsbury, the Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Levy bequest and other gifts and bequests.

The busts of an as yet unidentified emperor (left) and Trajan (right) in the inner hall,  flanking curator Wendy Monkhouse, who originally made the case for their acquisition. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The busts of an as yet unidentified emperor (left) and Trajan (right) in the inner hall, flanking curator Wendy Monkhouse, who originally made the case for their acquisition. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The busts are back on display in the entrance hall, where they were previously, and they join a fifth bust of the emperor Marcus Aurelius which had remained at Wimpole.

Unidentified emperor (inv. no. 2900083). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Unidentified emperor (inv. no. 2900083). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The Wimpole provenance of this group of busts can be traced back to at least the 1770s, but they may have been part of of the collection of Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford (1689-1741) who, apart from being a voracious bibliophile, also collected coins and antiquities.

The emperor Trajan (inv. no. 2900082). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott Phil Mynott

The emperor Trajan (inv. no. 2900082). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott Phil Mynott

The busts were made in Rome in the seventeenth century in response to the strong demand across Europe for objects evoking Roman history. Bust such as these referenced the lives and achievements of the different Roman emperors.

The emperor Marcus Aurelius (inv. no. 208037) on the great staircase. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The emperor Marcus Aurelius (inv. no. 208037) on the great staircase. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Trajan and Marcus Aurelius were among the good guys overseeing Rome’s golden age. The fratricidal Caracalla was definitely a bad boy, but his brooding countenance – and the fact that he came to power while in York – made his bust popular in eighteenth-century England.

Julia Glynn of Cliveden Conservation preparing the bust of Caracalla for display. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Julia Glynn of Cliveden Conservation preparing the bust of Caracalla for display. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The busts have been prepared for display by Clivenden Conservation and placed on the carved wooden plinths made for them by the Cambridge firm of Rattee and Kett in about 1860.

In the van Dyck tradition

December 18, 2013
The Hon Edith Helen Chaplin (1878–1959), Marchioness of Londonderry, DBE, with her favourite greyhound Fly, by Philip de László, 1913. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The Hon Edith Helen Chaplin (1878–1959), Marchioness of Londonderry, DBE, with her favourite greyhound Fly, by Philip de László, 1913. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Following the mention in the previous post of the van Dyck self-portrait which the National Portrait Gallery is trying to acquire, I was struck by how some of the portraits at Mount Stewart are very much in the van Dyck tradition.

The 7th Marquess of Londonderry sitting in front of a portrait of his ancestor, Lord Castlereagh, by Philip de László, 1927. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The 7th Marquess of Londonderry sitting in front of a portrait of his ancestor, Lord Castlereagh, by Philip de László, 1927. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

One of these, the Diana-esque portrait of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry by de László, has just been accepted in lieu of tax and allocated to Mount Stewart, along with a portrait by Lavery of her husband, the 7th Marquess, and a number of other objects associated with Mount Stewart and the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family.

Edward Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1902–1955), Lord Stewart, later 8th Marquess of Londonderry, as a page at the coronation of King George V, by Philip de László, c.1911. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Edward Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1902–1955), Lord Stewart, later 8th Marquess of Londonderry, as a page at the coronation of King George V, by Philip de László, c.1911. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The National Trust already owned a number of other family portraits at Mount Stewart, including a de László of the 7th Marquess draped with splendid van Dyckean nonchalance across a sofa in front of a portrait of his famous ancestor, Lord Castlereagh.

Lady Mairi Stewart (1921–2009), later Lady Mairi Bury, at the age of two, by Philip Alexius de László, 1923. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Lady Mairi Stewart (1921–2009), later Lady Mairi Bury, at the age of two, by Philip Alexius de László, 1923. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The are also two charming portraits by the same artist of Lord Edward and Lady Mairi Stewart as children. Lady Mairi lived at Mount Stewart until her death in 2009.

Pictorial furniture for Montacute

November 28, 2013
Figured walnut and gilt sofa with embroidered upholstery depicting a scene from the History of Troy, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Figured walnut and gilt sofa with embroidered upholstery depicting a scene from the History of Troy, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Acceptance in Lieu panel has recently published its review for 2012-13. This also included a number of pieces of early Georgian furniture which has been allocated to Montacute.

Beechwood chair veneered with walnut and decorated with gesso and gilding and upholstered with embroidery depicting Boreas and Oreithyia, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ,©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Beechwood chair veneered with walnut and decorated with gesso and gilding and upholstered with embroidery depicting Boreas and Oreithyia, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ,©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

The furniture was originally commissioned for Chicheley Hall, mostly by Sir John Chester, 4th Baronet (1666-1724). It remained in the house until it was given on loan to Montacute by Major Greville Chester in the late 1940s. Chicheley Hall was sold to the 2nd Earl Beatty in 1954 and to the Royal Society in 2009 (and there is an excellent history of the house by Peter Collins and Stefanie Fischer on the Royal Society website).

Detail of one of the embroidered chairbacks, this one depicting Diana and her nymphs, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by HM Government and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Detail of one of the embroidered chairbacks, this one depicting Diana and her nymphs, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by HM Government and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

The National Trust acquired Montacute in 1931 through the generosity of Ernest Cook, but without any contents. During the Second World War the house was used as one of the stores for the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which was under threat from bombing. Towards the end of the war a project was initiated to gather suitable furniture and furnishings to bring Montacute to life. The loan from Major Chester was one of the groups of items that came to the house then.

Folding screen decorated with embroidered mythological scenes and floral motifs, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Folding screen decorated with embroidered mythological scenes and floral motifs, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

The single most important item in the group is a swaggering giltwood and gilt-gesso side table probably made for Sir John Chester, 6th Baronet (1693-1748) incorporating his coat of arms and those of his wife, Frances Bagot.

Giltwood and gilt gesso side table with the arms of Sir John Chester, 6th Baronet, and his wife Frances Bagot, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Giltwood and gilt gesso side table with the arms of Sir John Chester, 6th Baronet, and his wife Frances Bagot, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

The group also includes a sofa, ten chairs and a screen upholstered with embroidery. Although the furniture is English, the embroidery may be French, depicting various scenes from Ovid based on engravings. Dudley Dodd identified the embroidered scenes in an article in the 2011 National Trust Historic Houses and Collections Annual, but the identity of the makers remains unclear.

Meeting Sophonisba

November 26, 2013
Sir Anthony van Dyck, portrait of Sophonisbna Anguissola in old age, c. 1624. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Knole. ©National Trust Knole, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sir Anthony van Dyck, portrait of Sophonisbna Anguissola in old age, c. 1624. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Knole. ©National Trust Knole, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Arts Council England has just published its 2012-13 report on the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. This report includes the recent allocation of a group of portraits to the National Trust which have a historic connection to Knole. Among these pictures is this portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck of the artist Sophonisba Anguissola in old age.

Copy by Hugh Howard of a sketch by Sir Anthony van Dyck of Sophonisba Anguissola. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Copy by Hugh Howard of a sketch by Sir Anthony van Dyck of Sophonisba Anguissola. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Sophonisba Anguissola was born into the minor nobility in Cremona, Lombardy. Her father ensured that all of his children received a cultivated upbringing, and four of her sisters also became painters. Sophonisba studied with local painters, setting a precedent for women to become art students.

Sophonisba Anguissola, portrait of the artist's sister in the garb of a nun, 1551. ©Southampton City Art Gallery, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sophonisba Anguissola, portrait of the artist’s sister in the garb of a nun, 1551. ©Southampton City Art Gallery, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

At the age of twenty-two, Sophonisba travelled to Rome, where she received informal instruction from Michelangelo. Although, as a woman, she was not allowed to study anatomy or life-drawing, she became an accomplished portraitist.

In 1559 she was invited to join the Spanish court as painter and lady in waiting to Elizabeth of Valois, King Philip II’s third wife. She married Don Francisco de Moncada, son of the Viceroy of Sicily, and they eventually went to live in Palermo. After her first husband’s death she married the considerably younger Orazio Lomellino, a ship’s captain whom she had met while travelling to Cremona. Both of her husbands supported her career as a painter.

Sophonisba Anguissola, portrait of the granddaughter of the Duke and Duchess of Parma, c. 1580. ©Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sophonisba Anguissola, portrait of the granddaughter of the Duke and Duchess of Parma, c. 1580. ©Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

In 1624, a year before her death, the by now famous artist was visited by Sir Anthony van Dyck, who sketched her and recorded her advice about painting. This sketch formed the basis for the portrait now at Knole.

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.


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