The house was built by Sir John Vanburgh in the 1720s for Admiral George Delaval and his nephew and heir Captain Francis Blake Delaval. Its theatrical silhouette and massing is an impressive example of Vanburgh’s Baroque genius.
One of the works of art acquired with the house is a bust of Charles II attributed to John Bushnell (above). It was reputedly given by the King to Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Baronet, in recognition of his family’s loyalty to the Royalist cause during the Civil War. The purchase of the bust was enabled by generous grants from The Art Fund and from Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement.
A related terracotta model is in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Alastair Laing, the National Trust’s sculpture expert, has noted that Bushnell was the only British sculptor of the period able to create busts of such monumentality and presence, due to his training on the Continent.
Charles II created a strong royal ‘brand’ around his person, partly in imitation of the leading royal brand of the time, Louis XIV of France. Like Louis, Charles believed in the divine right of kings and he enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of his role.
Artists were employed to glorify the King in a variety of ways. This portrait, from the collection at Packwood House, is a rare surviving fragment of the ceiling of the Drawing Room at Windsor Castle. The distortions are due to the fact that the image would have been seen from below. It is currently on loan to the Verrio exhibition at the Musée des Augustins, Toulouse.
The image management extended to the titles that the King liberally sprinkled among his supporters. Like many other financially straitened rulers before or since, he was adept at rewarding people through symbolic gestures.