Archive for the ‘Hampshire’ Category

Gilbert Russell returns to Mottisfont

December 15, 2011

Portrait of Major Gilbert Russell (1875-1942) by Sir William Orpen (1878-1931), pencil and watercolour on paper. ©Waddington's

We have just succesfully bid at auction at Waddington’s in Toronto for this portrait by Sir William Orpen of Major Gilbert Russell, a former owner of Mottisfont Abbey, Hampshire. We received a last-minute tip-off from Tim Knox, director of Sir John Soane’s Museum and himself a keen collector, that this was coming up. In the nick of time we were able to locate some funds and set up a bid. 

The south front of Mottisfont Abbey. ©NTPL/Robert Morris

Gilbert Russell was a great-grandson of the 6th Duke of Bedford. His military career took him to Egypt and the Sudan in 1898, South Africa between 1899 and 1902 and France during the First World War. He married Maud Nelke, who was to become a prominent hostess and patron of the arts.

The drawing room decorated by Rex Whistler. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Russells bought Mottisfont in 1934 from the Barker-Mill family and set about refurbishing it inside and out. The interiors were furnished in the neo-Georgian style which was then a relatively avant-garde taste. In the garden the Russells employed both Norah Lindsay and Geoffrey Jellicoe to redesign specific areas.

The parterre on the south front designed by Norah Lindsay. ©NTPL/Robert Morris

The Russells entertained a circle of artists and writers, and Maud had her portrait painted by Orpen, John Singer Sargent, Sir William Nicholson and Henri Matisse (although she professed herself to be ‘horrified’ by how Matisse had depicted her). They commissioned Rex Whistler to decorate the drawing room at Mottisfont in his romantic and whimsical style.

The lime walk on the north front designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe. ©NTPL/Stephen Robson

We previously didn’t have any image of Gilbert, and it is very satisfying to see a portrait of the man who, together with his wife, shaped Mottisfont as we see it today – and by an interesting artist to boot.

The many layers of The Vyne

May 2, 2011

The Strawberry Parlour at The Vyne. The 1690 walnut writing-cabinet is flanked by mid-eighteenth-century chairs for which Laura, Lady Chute, made the covers in the early twentieth century. The seascape is eighteenth century. The panelling was painted green until it was stripped at the end of the nineteenth century. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

I recently showed images of the amazing contemporary furniture by Mark Brazier Jones being displayed at The Vyne. But even without such added bling the house has many different layers of history and meaning.

Early-sixteenth-century Flemish tiles, based on Italian designs, in the Chapel. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Vyne was created in the early sixteenth century as a Tudor ‘power house’ for the Sandys family out of a group of medieval buildings. In 1653 the estate was bought by Chaloner Chute, a Speaker of the House of Commons, who modernised it and added the portico (see previous post) – the first to be used on an English house.

Giltwood and black-painted agate-topped pier-table and pier-glass, dating to about 1760, in the Further Drawing Room. The black and gold cornice is characteristic of ‘Strawberry Hill’ taste. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

John Chute, an architect and antiquarian, inherited The Vyne in 1754. Chute was a friend of Horace Walpole and a member of the ‘Committee of Taste’ that advised Walpole on the building of his house, Strawberry Hill. In his remodelling of The Vyne Shute used a mixture of Gothic and Classical, but he also showed considerable respect for the history of the house itself.

The Library, which was heavily altered by Wiggett Chute after 1842. He created the shelves by using a cornice from the family pew in the parish church and brought woodwork and panelling from elsewhere in the house. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The next generation to make a significant impact was that of William Wiggett Chute and his wife Martha, who took up residence in 1842. With characteristic Victorian enterprise Wiggett Chute repaired the house and rearranged its contents.

The chinoiserie tapestries in the Tapestry Room may have been in the house since shortly after they were made at the Soho factory in about 1720. Laura, Lady Chute, produced the needlework on the stools in the early twentieth century. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

He brought running water to the upper floors and added sixteen bedrooms as well as a back staircase for the servants. Nevertheless Wiggett Chute was keen to preserve the historical spirit of the place, for instance by buying Vyne-related items at the great Strawberry Hill sale in 1842.

The Print Room, which was created in 1804. By 1959 the prints had deteriorated beyond repair and were replaced by the National Trust. Beyond is the classical Staircase Hall, constructed by John Chute between 1769 and 1771. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Wiggett Chute’s son, the second Chaloner Chute, published A History of the Vyne in 1888, one of the most scholarly of nineteenth-century country house histories. Sir Charles Chute, 1st Baronet, gave The Vyne to the National Trust in 1956.

Questions of influence

January 28, 2011

Illustration from Johan Nieuhof’s ‘Embassy’ (1665 and subsequent editions). ©Edizioni White Star

In prepration for a talk that I am giving tonight I have been looking at the printed sources for chinoiserie. It is often very difficult to pinpoint the exact source for a particular design, but every now and again you come upon an exact match.

Chinoiserie tapestry at Belton House, Lincolnshire, commissioned from the Soho workshop in 1691 (acquired by the National Trust with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 1984). ©NTPL/Graham Challifour.

The illustrated book about China by Johan Nieuhof, entitled The Embassy … to … the Present Emperor of China and first published in 1665, seems to have been particularly influential. You can find echoes of the palaces, pagodas, trees and figures depicted there in all kinds of decorative art in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century.

But in the case of the bullock-drawn carriage shown above the motif was copied almost literally in the lower left-hand quadrant of an early 1690s Soho tapestry at Belton House.

Sections of Soho tapestry hung in the Tapestry Room at the Vyne, Hampshire. They were originally commissioned for the house in about 1720. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

The Soho tapestries at Belton are rather faded, but the ones at The Vyne have retained more of their rich dark colours. They were originally meant to evoke East Asian lacquer.

Design for a fireplace and wall treatment by Daniel Marot, c. 1700.

The architect Daniel Marot depicted them in the prints of interiors that he published in about 1700. And if you look closely you can see another direct match: the pavilion shown three quarters of the way up in the tapestry in the Marot print also appears in the top left-hand corner of the tapestry at The Vyne.

Bringing on the bling

July 14, 2010

Inkstand by William Plummer, 1786, engraved with the Chute and Barrett-Lennard (Dacre) arms. Image: Bonhams

We purchased this delicate boat-shaped inkstand at Bonhams in London on 30 June. It was once owned by Thomas Chute (1721-1790) of The Vyne, Hampshire, and it will now go back on display there.

View of The Vyne by Johann Heinrich Muntz (1727-98), c 1755. The view is slightly idealised, reflecting John Chute's plans for the house as well as the reality. ©NTPL

The Vyne was orinially a Tudor house owned by the Sandys family. In 1653 it was bought by Chaloner Chute (c 1595-1659), Speaker of the House of Commons. He employed the architect John Webb, a pupil of Inigo Jones,  to add the portico to the north front in the 1650s, the first of its kind on an English country house.

Bench designed by Mark Brazier-Jones on display on the staircase landing at The Vyne. Its shape and detailing seem to echo the silver inkwell shown above. ©National Trust

His descendant John Chute (1701-1776) was a friend of the collector Horace Walpole, and he was a member of the ‘Committee of Taste’ that helped to design Walpole’s famous Gothick villa at Twickenham, Strawberry Hill.

Baroque? Rococo? Neo-classical? Pieces by Mark Brazier-Jones in the setting of John Chute's staircase. ©National Trust

The Strawberry Hill circle was in the vanguard of the new antiquarian taste. At The Vyne John Chute refurbished some rooms in the Gothick style, while in others he employed a neo-classical idiom. The staircase, in particular, is a neo-classical tour de force.

You can probably spot the Brazier-Jones by now. ©National Trust

John Chute bequeathed The Vyne to the above-mentioned Thomas Chute, a distant cousin originally called Lobb who assumed the Chute name upon coming into his inheritance.

A chair combining the traditions of stamped leather, metalwork and horsemanship in the Oak Gallery. ©National Trust

The Vyne is currently hosting an exhibition by designer Mark Brazier-Jones (until 1 August), showing his avant-garde pieces in the context of John Chute’s radical eighteenth-century interiors.