Archive for the ‘Cliveden’ Category

The well-travelled pagoda

March 9, 2016


The Japanese pagoda in the Water Garden at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire.

The Pagoda in the Water Garden at Cliveden. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The garden pavilion called the Pagoda, at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire, has recently been restored. Its stone pillars had become eroded, the paint was flaking and its dragon finial was corroding.

Investigation of the paint layers by Lisa Oestreicher had revealed six successive decorative schemes. It was decided to recreate the third one, which was thought to date from shortly after the pavilion’s arrival at Cliveden in 1900.

Golden Dragon Weathervane on the top of the Chinese Pagoda in the Water Garden at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

View of the painted decoration on the Pagoda in the Water Garden at Cliveden. ©National Trust Images / Rob Stothard

Decorative artist Saskia Huning was commissioned to recreate the painted decoration and gilding. Several tones of green were used, as well as polychrome decoration, to give the Pagoda back its delicate sparkle. The colouring of the trompe l’oeil fluting on the columns was graded to suggest the effect of sunlight towards the outside and shadow towards the inside.

The sinuous zinc dragon (or is it a sea monster?) on the roof was repaired by conservator Anna-Lena  Adamson and its tongue welded back in place by Rupert Harris Conservation. The restoration is described in detail in the winter 2013-14 issue of ABC Bulletin.

Illustration from William Chambers 'Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines and Utensils' (London 1757) at Springhill, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Plate showing Chinese ting garden pavilions, from William Chamber’s book Designs of Chinese Buildings. (1757, from a copy at Springhill, County Londonderry). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

As I mentioned previously, the Cliveden Pagoda was originally part of the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867. After the close of the exhibition it was purchased by the Marquess of Hertford and set up in the garden of his Paris residence, Bagatelle, in the Bois de Boulogne. In 1900 it was bought by William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor, and brought to Cliveden to provide added oriental ornament emphasis to the newly created Water Garden.

In fact its history goes back even further, as it is a copy of a pavilion that was erected in the garden of the château de Romainville, near Paris, in the 1780s. That pavilion, in turn, was based on the designs of ting-type garden pavilions in William Chambers’s book Designs of Chinese Buildings, published in 1757.

That just goes to prove that a pavilion is never just a pavilion.

Carl Laubin, capriccio painter

May 18, 2011

Carl Laubin, Vanbrugh Fields ©Carl Laubin/Plus One Gallery

Carl Laubin is an artist who is passionate about architecture. Many of his works are in the tradition of the capriccio, or imaginary landscape. Laubin combines an element of fantasy with a meticulous attention to detail, using historical sources to document the buildings he is painting.

Laubin will be having an exhibition at the Plus One Gallery in London from 8 June until 2 July 2011. Among the works on show will be Vanbrugh Fields, a painting celebrating the buildings of Sir John Vanbrugh. The capriccio format allows Laubin to depict the architecture as it was designed rather than as it was eventually built (or not built), in its ideal state.

Carl Laubin, National Trust capriccio. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Castle Howard (top right, on the hill), for instance, is shown with its now demolished entrance gate. The bridge at Blenheim (lower right) has its intended grand superstructure, which was never completed after the Duchess of Marlborough fell out with the architect.

As a tribute to Vanburgh’s conservation efforts at Blenheim, Laubin shows a whisp of smoke coming out one of the chimneys at Woodstock Manor (far right, just below the brow of the hill) – Vanburgh admired the picturesque building, lived in it for a while and wanted to preserve it, but the Duchess had it swept away. And can you spot Seaton Delaval Hall, which the National Trust acquired last year?

Carl Laubin, Fallen beech with prospect of Cliveden. ©NTPL

The National Trust commissioned a few paintings from Laubin some years ago, including National Trust capriccio, showing the buildings of architectural significance owned by the NT. Fallen beech with prospect of Cliveden commemorates the damage done by the great storm of 1987.

I will follow this up next week with a post showing the successive stages of development of another recent painting by Laubin, Vanbrugh’s castles.

Amazed at Cliveden

April 8, 2011

The newly planted maze at Cliveden. ©National Trust/Clare Kendall

Today Alan Titchmarsh and Lord Astor will open a new maze at Cliveden, in Buckinghamshire. In fact, it is a recreation of a yew maze that was created there in 1894 by Lord Astor’s great-grandfather, William Waldorf, 1st Viscount Astor.

©The Astor family

The maze had ceased to be maintained in the mid-twentieth century, but the original plan resurfaced in 2005 and that led to a plan to recreate the maze.

©National Trust/Clare Kendall

The area was cleared and levelled and the paths were laid out.  Finding enough yew trees was the greatest challenge of the project, but last autumn 1,100 twelve-year-old yew trees arrived and were planted over a twenty-day period.

©National Trust/Clare Kendall

The yews will fill out more over time, but the maze is now ready for visitors to explore – and get lost in.

The Long Garden at Cliveden. ©National Trust/Liz Ward

Other recent developments in the garden include the opening up of long-lost vistas and footpaths and the re-instatement of historical planting schemes.

Andrew Mudge, the Head Gardener at Cliveden, who has master-minded the maze project. ©National Trust/Clare Kendall

A video clip about the maze on the BBC website can be seen here.

A few snails thrown in

June 2, 2010

A visitor inspecting the a Roman sarcophagus at Cliveden. The carved reliefs depict scenes from the story of Theseus and Ariadne. ©NTPL/Arnhel de Serra

In response to a previous post about the Roman sarcophagus at West Wycombe, a reader has asked about the sarcophagi at Cliveden, in Buckinghamshire. As he surmised, they were indeed brought to Cliveden by William Waldorf Astor, first Viscount Astor (1848-1919).

William Waldorf Astor by Sir Hubert von Herkomer. ©NTPL/John Bethell

Astor had inherited a huge fortune based on New York real estate. In the 1880s he was appointed United States Minister to Italy, and while there he conceived a passion for art and architecture. In true plutocratic style, Astor was somewhat reclusive and prone to paranoia.

The south front of Cliveden. The Borghese balustrade acquired by William Waldorf Astor can be seen below the terrace. ©NTPL/Nick Meers

In 1891 Astor moved himself and his family to England, reputedly saying that ‘America is not a fit place for a gentleman to live.’ He purchased Cliveden from the first Duke of Westminster in 1893 and embellished it with numerous works of art and antique furnishings. 

Eighteenth-century Italian sculpture of Beatrice, a Commedia dell'Arte figure, in the Long Garden at Cliveden. ©NTPL/Ian Shaw

An amazing discovery has recently been made at Cliveden. As a group of volunteers went around cleaning the statues in the garden, they spotted tiny unfamiliar-looking snails that seemed to live in the crevices of the stone. 

The tiny Papillifera papillaris, the 'Cliveden snail'. ©National Trust/Mark Telfer

Snail guru Janet Ridout Sharpe was called in, and she identified the creatures as Papillifera papillaris. They have little spindle-shaped shells that are generally only 11 mm long. This snail has no English name, as it normally lives around the Mediteranean.

A section of the Borghese balustrade, home of the Papilliferas. ©National Trust

Most of the snails seemed to live on or near the Borghese balustrade, which sits between the terrace and the parterre. This balustrade was purchased by Astor from the Villa Borghese in Rome in 1896 and shipped to Cliveden. It seems that with his purchase Astor got some free snails thrown in – a natural import along with an architectural one. They have thrived at Cliveden in apparent harmony with the other wildlife there, and this species has now been dubbed the Cliveden snail.