Archive for the ‘Art Fund’ Category

Let’s save the Nostell Brueghel

October 4, 2010

Image Robert Thrift

An amazing painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger with a provenance from Nostell Priory is up for sale. The National Trust and the Art Fund have just started a joint campaign to purchase this picture, so that it can remain on public view at Nostell.

Image Robert Thrift

The painting, dated 1602, shows Christ being taken to Calvary to be crucified. But Christ himself is almost lost in the milling crowd. Some of the people are dressed in pseudo-Biblical costume, and others are wearing seventeenth-century Flemish dress.

Image Robert Thrift

On the left we can see Jerusalem bathed in sunshine. It looks rather like a Netherlandish town, complete with church spires and a windmill. 

Image Robert Thrift

On the right the procession winds its way towards Calvary, with the sky darkening ominously above. Mary Magdalene and other women can be seen grieving at the foot of a tree that has lost its leaves.

Image Robert Thrift

Close by, two little children sit cosily together by the side of the road watching the procession go past. These little everyday details make it seem as if the passion of Christ is taking place right here, right now.

Image Robert Thrift

The Art Fund have already contributed £500,000 to the campaign, and we hope to raise the remaining £2.2 million by Christmas. Click here to discover more about the picture and to make a donation.
To enable as many people as possible to see the Nostell Brueghel during the fundraising campaign, the painting will be on view at the National Gallery in London from 5 October to 9 November 2010, and then at the York Art Gallery from 18 November until Christmas.

Humble beginnings

September 20, 2010

Alfriston Clergy House in 1894. ©NTPL

Alfriston Clergy House, in East Sussex, was the first house to be acquired by the National Trust. It was bought for £10 in 1896, a year after the Trust’s founding.

Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley (1851-1920). ©NTPL

This acquisition demonstrates the awakening interest at the end of the nineteenth century in the fate of beautiful old buildings. The vicar of Alfriston had alerted Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the founders of the National Trust, to the fact that the house was ruinous and about to be demolished.

Octavia Hill (1838-1912), in a copy of a portrait by John Singer Sargent. ©NTPL

Canon Rawnsley and Octavia Hill, another of the founders, recognised the importance of the Clergy House as one of the few fourteenth-century hall houses that survived in a more or less unaltered state.

Although small, Alfriston Clergy House has a central hall that rises to the roof. The floor is made of rammed chalk sealed with sour milk, a practice local to Sussex.

The west front of Alfriston Clergy House. The timbering on the right was rebuilt after a fire in the seventeenth century. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Hill was tireless in her efforts to raise funds for the restoration of the house. Her passionate activism was a driving force behind the National Trust in its early years.

She was particularly keen to preserve areas of natural beauty so that they could serve as, in her words, ‘open-air sitting rooms for the poor’.

The vegetable garden. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Support also came from Sir Robert Witt, the first tenant of the house, who was honorary secretary to the National Art Collections Fund. That organisation is now called the Art Fund and it is still a staunch supporter of the National Trust’s work.

I shall be away for a few days, back on 30 September.

Ups and downs at Seaton Delaval

July 21, 2010

Admiral George Delaval (c 1667-1723) by Godfrey Kneller. ©NTPL/John Hammond

As part of the National Trust’s work to inventorise the collections at Seaton Delaval Hall, most of the portraits there have recently been photographed, so I can show some here.

The forecourt and north front of Seaton Delaval Hall. ©NTPL/John Hammond

As mentioned in previous posts, Seaton Delaval was acquired by the National Trust in 2009 the help of many individuals, charitable trusts and companies, and also through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, and with generous grants from organisations like the Art Fund.

During its history the house has seen a remarkable series of ups and downs, some of which still remain to be fully unravelled. John Goodall has a made a first attempt with his interesting article in the 7 April 2010 issue of Country Life.

The imposing stables at Seaton Delaval. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

It was Admiral George Delaval who commissioned the house from John Vanbrugh in 1720. He died unexpectedly in 1723, however, before the work was finished.

His nephew and heir, Captain Francis Blake Delaval, carried on adding to the house, although it is not clear who oversaw the work and when various things were done.

A partially hypothetical view of the north front by Arthur Pond, 1745. ©NTPL/John Hammond

A pair of paintings by Arthur Pond dated 1745 seem to record what had been built as well as what was being planned at this time. The wings encompassing the forecourt, which include the stables, were in fact completed, but some other elements were not.

Sir Francis Blake Delaval (1727-1791), after Joshua Reynolds, c 1760. ©NTPL/John Hammond

In 1752 Captain Delaval was succeeded by his son Sir Francis, whose spendthrift ways caused further work to the house to be halted.

John Hussey Delaval, first Baron Delaval (1728-1808) in Van Dyck costume, by W. Bell, 1774. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Sir Francis sold Seaton Delaval to his younger brother, John Hussey Delaval, first Baron Delaval. He was a succesful entrepreneur who developed the coal and mineral resources at Seaton. He added the statues to the hall and began work on the wings on the south front, but again they don’t seem to have been completed.

After the death of his brother Edward Hussey Delaval in 1814 the estate devolved onto the Astley family.

Watercolour of the south front by P. Abbott dated 1809, showing the south-west wing in an unfinished state. ©NTPL/John Hammond

In 1822 a fire gutted the house and since that time the central block has been left empty, although it was re-roofed in 1860. During the Second World War the east wing was used to house prisoners of war.

The post-war rose garden at Seaton Delaval. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

In 1946 Edward Astley, 22nd Baron Hastings, moved back into the west wing and over the following years did much to restore the house and the garden. He moved into Seaton Delaval permanently in 1990.

Following his death in 2007 his son, Delaval Astley, 23rd Baron Hastings, sold Seaton Delaval to the National Trust.

So crewel

May 5, 2010

Detail of the late seventeenth-century crewelwork bed cover in the Crimson Bedroom at Montacute House. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

A recent post about crewelwork by Courtney over at Style Court has inspired me to feature a bed with the same material at Montacute House, in Somerset.

The oak bed in the Crimson Bedroom at Montacute. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

The oak bed dates from 1612 and incorporates the arms of James I, Henry Prince of Wales and Frederick V. This bed was donated by Mr J.C.K. Gamlen via the Art Fund (then called the National Art Collections Fund) in 1945. It was the first gift that the National Trust received from the Art Fund, and there have been many since, both in the form of works of art and of grants.

In 1931 Montacute was presented to the National Trust through the generosity of Ernest Cook, the grandson of the founder of the Thomas Cook travel agency. The house was largely empty of contents, however, so pieces of furniture like this bed were acquired to furnish it appropriately.

Montacute House. ©NTPL/Rupert Truman

Montacute was built around 1600 by the succesful lawyer and courtier Sir Edward Phelips (?1516-1614). His descendants inhabited the house until 1911.

Rotunda and banqueting house in the garden at Montacute. ©NTPL/Robert Morris

In the late seventeenth century the garden at Montacute will have been formal and geometric, so any crewelwork that may have been in the house then will have looked refreshingly ‘wild’ in comparison. The garden contains several types of shrub rose that were in cultivation when the house was built, including the red rose of Lancaster, Rosa gallica officinalis, and the double white form of the Yorkist rose, Rosa alba ‘Maxima’.

Banqueting houses, set either in the garden or on the roof of the house, were used in Elizabethan and Jacobean times as a place where people could retire after dinner for a final course of cristallised quince paste, ginger bread and other sweet delicacies.

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.