Archive for the ‘Chippendale, Thomas’ Category

An emblematic interior

February 28, 2012

Sir Rowland and Lady Winn in the Library at Nostell Priory, attributed to Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1736-1808). Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Nostell Priory, 1986 (inv. no. 960061). ©NTPL/John Hammond

The image of the Chippendale set of steps in the Library at Nostell Priory reminded me of the portrait of Sir Rowland and Lady Winn standing in that same room, painted by Hugh Douglas Hamilton.

The Library at Nostell. Hamilton's painting can be seen on the easel in the corner. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Here we see a couple in the room that they had just finished decorating, to designs by Robert Adam and with stucco by Joseph Rose, inset paintings by Antonio Zucchi and furniture by Thomas Chippendale.

Detail of the Chippendale desk in the Library (inv. no. 959723). Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Nostell Priory, 1986. ©NTPL/Jonathan Gibson

Sir Rowland seems to be leaning against the Chippendale desk, which is still very much the centrepiece of the room today.

Detail of a carved lion mask on the desk. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The artist has practised a sleight of hand in ‘folding open’ one of the walls of the room, to create a wider backdrop for the figures and allowing them to be more prominent and closer to the picture plane (as explained by our curator of pictures Alastair Laing in his article on the painting in the April 2000 issue of Apollo magazine).

Quite apart from providing a glimpse of the life of the specific inhabitants of a specific house, this picture has fairly recently also come to stand for English cultural life in the eighteenth century more generally, when it was reproduced on the cover of John Brewer’s widely-read book The Pleasures of the Imagination. The companionable atmosphere of the painting and its suggestion of culture and learning borne lightly seems to make it an emblem of the ideal of a certain way of life.

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.