Archive for the ‘Adam, Robert’ Category


July 28, 2010

The Marble Hall at Kedleston. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

A new temporary art installation called Promenade has just been installed at Kedleston Hall. The work by Susie MacMurray consists of 200 km of of gold thread woven among the pillars of the Marble Hall. A video of it can be seen here on the Daily Telegraph website.

The peacock dress. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The artist has been inspired by the peacock dress worn by Lady Curzon at the Delhi Durbar in 1903. Her husband Lord Curzon was the Viceroy of India at the time. The dress, also on display at Kedleston, was constructed of cloth of gold and Susie MacMurray imagined it unravelled and entwined amongst the pillars.

Detail of the State Apartments at Kedleston, with a blue-john urn and a gilded fillet surrounding the fireplace. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

Promenade also refers to the gold elements in the Robert-Adam-designed interiors at Kedleston, which have featured on this blog previously

And of course a maze of threads reminds one of the ancient Greek legend of Theseus, who unravelled a thread while searching for the Minotaur in his labyrinth. And then there are the threads of history, and of causality.

Pause amongst the pillars... ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

But the work is also intended simply to make the visitor aware of his or her  surroundings, to suggest a moment of contemplation.

Angelica Kauffman: Celebrity designer

May 26, 2010

Bacchus and Ariadne with Cupid, by Angelica Kauffmann, at Attingham Park, Shropshire. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Angelica Kauffman may have been hesitating between music and painting, as I showed previously, but she felt no need to choose between the fine and the decorative arts.

Kauffman collaborated with printmakers in the production of stipple engravings and mezzotints based on her paintings. She was directly involved in the production and marketing of her prints.

Print depicting Cupid, after Angelica Kauffman, in the Print Room at Blickling Hall, Norfolk. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Kauffman was one of the few contemporary artists whose works were used to make ‘mechanical paintings’ – a process of colour reproduction that was invented in the 1770s and was especially suited for use in decorative schemes.

Detail of the ceiling in the State Bedchamber at Osterley Park, Middlesex. The central roundel depicts Aglaia, one of the Three Graces, after Kauffmann. ©NTPL/Bill Batten

Kauffman may have provided some sketches for architect and designer Robert Adam, but she was not directly responsible for the many decorative works attributed to her.

Painted roundel showing a wedding feast by Antonio Zucchi, Kauffman's husband, set in a stucco panel in the Eating Room at Osterley. ©NTPL/Bill Batten

Although Kauffman’s designs were widely used on walls, ceilings, porcelain and furniture, most of them were actually copied or reproduced by others or simply based on her style.

Roundel depicting Venus guarding a sleeping Cupid after Kauffman on the marble mantelpiece in the Boudoir at Attingham. ©NTPL/James Mortimer

Even so, the usefulness of her neo-classical figures as decorative motifs ensured the continuing popularity of the Kauffman ‘brand’.

Lacquer lost and found

May 15, 2010

Secretaire attributed to Thomas Chippendale, c. 1773, with Chinese lacquer panels and English japanning. ©National Trust/Christopher Warleigh-Lack

In a previous post on the East Asian textiles at Osterley Park, I also mentioned the lacquer furniture there. The above secretaire, attributed to Thomas Chippendale, incorporates panels of Chinese lacquer as well as English japanning. It seems to have left Osterley at some point between 1922 and 1949.

The Etruscan Dressing Room at Osterley, designed by Robert Adam, where the secretaire may have stood originally. ©NTPL/Bill Batten

After turning up at auction in Gateshead in 1993 its Osterley provenance was re-identified. An export licence application for it was deferred, which allowed the National Trust to purchase it in 1996 with the help of a private benefactor, the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Commode with Chinese lacquer panels and English japanning, attributed to Chippendale, in the State Bed Chamber at Osterley. ©National Trust/Christopher Warleigh-Lack

As Simon Jervis writes in his article on the secretaire in the June 2006 issue of Apollo, the secretaire relates to two commodes attributed to Chippendale which had remained at Osterley.

The commodes also incorporate lacquer panels, the decoration of which is so similar to those on the secretaire that they may all have been taken from the same Chinese lacquer screen by the Chippendale workshop.

The straight lacquer panels were gently heated and painstakingly bent by Chippendale’s craftsmen to fit the curves of the commodes. English imitation lacquer, called ‘japan’ at he time, would then have been produced to fit the other surfaces.

Commode attributed to Chippendale in the Etruscan Dressing Room at Osterley. ©National Trust/Christopher Warleigh-Lack

The style of the commodes and the secretaire is French, which was considered to be advanced taste in Britain at that time. As simon Jervis notes, it was also French practice to combine a commode with a secretaire en suite, i.e. with the same decoration.

Moreover, the paterae and guilloche motifs on the secretaire are echoed by similar painted decoration in the Etruscan Dressing Room at Osterley.

©NTPL/Ian Shaw

Robert Child, who inherited a banking fortune on the unexpected death of his elder brother, employed Robert Adam to substantially rebuild and refurbish Osterley in the 1760s and 1770s. Adam often used Chippendale as a supplier of furniture and furnishings.

With thanks to Carl Deacon who located some of the images.

The gilded age at Kedleston

February 24, 2010


©NTPL/John Hammond

We recently managed to purchase a set of twelve silver-gilt plates that was made for Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire. It was part of a dinner service commissioned by Sir Nathaniel Curzon, 5th Baronet and later 1st Baron Scarsdale, in 1756.

Sir Nathaniel and Lady Caroline Curzon, by Arthur Devis. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The Curzon fortune, partly derived from coal mines, enabled Sir Nathaniel and his wife Caroline to embellish Kedleston on a grand scale. They were both very keen on ancient Greece and Rome, and employed a succession of architects to remodel the house in neo-classical style. Everything was harmonised, down to the doornknobs and the plate warmers.

The south front of Kedleston Hall. ©NTPL/Rupert Truman

James ‘Athenian’ Stuart is thought to have designed the silver service, but it was Robert Adam who provided the setting for it in the Dining Room.

Design by Robert Adam for the Dining Room at Kedleston. Note the similarities with the south facade shown above. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Adam’s designs survive, showing how he integrated the silver with the architecture. National Trust silver guru James Rothwell told me that the practice of showing of one’s plate in this way was stimulated by the improved means of travel at this time and the increased opportunities to visit country houses. The Curzons must have attracted a fair degree of interior design envy.

The Dining Room at Kedleston. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

The designs have been used to recreate the look of the Dining Room as accurately as possible. The silver service remained intact at Kedleston until the middle of the twentieth century. Since 1987 the National Trust has been able to reacquire much of the table silver.

This set of plates was purchased at auction at Christie’s in London on 25 November 2008, with generous support from The Art Fund and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

The Adam drawing illustrated above will be shown in the exhibition L’Antiquité retrouvée at the Louvre in Paris during the winter of 2010/11.