Archive for the ‘Kedleston Hall’ Category

‘A delight in her business’

November 4, 2014
Portrait of Mrs Mary Garnett by Thomas Barber the elder, c.1800, at Kedleston Hall, inv. no. 108766. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Portrait of Mrs Mary Garnett by Thomas Barber the elder, c.1800, at Kedleston Hall, inv. no. 108766. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

I was recently made aware of this portrait of Mrs Mary Garnett (1724-1809), the housekeeper at Kedleston Hall. She is shown in the Marble Hall at Kedleston, with the guidebook to the house in her hand, as if ready to take a visitor round. Mrs Garnett must have been considered a fairly important member of the household to have had her portrait painted. The presence of the guidebook in the picture hints at the already well-established practice of respectable sightseers being allowed entry to country houses. By all accounts Mrs Garnett was rather good at this ‘public-facing’ part of her job.

Caesars' Hall, the everyday ground-floor entrance hall at Kedleston Hall. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Caesars’ Hall, the everyday ground-floor entrance hall at Kedleston Hall. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Several appreciative descriptions of Mrs Garnett’s performance as a house guide have been preserved, but the most glowing and informative was one by James Plumptre who visited in 1793:

‘We entered the house at the Servant’s Hall, by a door under the Portico, put down our names, and were then shewn up into the Grand Hall, where the Housekeeper joined us. Of all the Housekeeper[s] I ever met with at a Noblemans Houses [sic], this was the most obliging and intelligent I ever saw. There was a pleasing civility in her manner which was very ingratiating, she seem’d to take a delight in her business, was willing to answer any questions which were ask’d her, and was studious to shew the best lights for viewing the pictures and setting off the furniture.’

Part of the Marble Hall at Kedleston Hall. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Part of the Marble Hall at Kedleston Hall. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

So not just country house visiting and country house guidebooks, but also visitor reviews were already clearly in evidence in the eighteenth century.

A style to suit the time of day

February 21, 2012

Reclining mermaid on one of a set of four sofas supplied by John Linnell to Kedleston Hall in 1765. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

Looking at images of Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, I was struck by the differences between two pieces of furniture, both made by the same cabinetmaker.

One of the sofas in its Drawing Room setting. The blue damask is meant to reinforce the maritime theme. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

The magnificent sofas in the Drawing Room featuring supine mermaids and sea gods were made by John Linnell in 1765 to suit the maritime theme of the room.

Design by John Linnell for a state coach, c. 1760. ©National Trust/Richard Holttum

Linnell was working to a design by Robert Adam, but also incorporated elements of his own designs for King George III’s coronation coach.

Chinoiserie porcelain cabinet by John Linnell, in the Wardrobe at Kedleston. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

Linnell also supplied a chinoiserie porcelain cabinet for Kedleston, using the ‘pagoda’ roof motif that he also deployed in the famous Badminton bed, now in the V&A.

The chinoiserie bed made for Badminton House, Gloucestershire, probably by John and William Linnell in about 1754. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

These very different pieces show how cabinetmakers like Linnell were able to switch styles with ease when required.

'Are we feeling maritime or Chinese, my dear?' The 1st Lord and Lady Scarsdale as portrayed by Nathaniel Hone. ©NTPL/John Hammond

It also tells us something about the different social associations of the classical/rococo style and the chinoiserie style: whereas the former was always chosen for the most formal and grand spaces of a house, the latter would appear in the more informal, intimate rooms.

James Paine interiors

January 14, 2011

The Saloon at Uppark, West Sussex, probably designed by James Paine. The compartmented ceiling and the pedimented chimneypiece are typical of Paine. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

The previous post showing Gibside Chapel designed by James Paine gave me the idea to feature some of his interiors.

The Drawing Room at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire. The chimneypiece and ceiling were designed by Paine, while the doorcases and sofas are slightly later additions by Robert Adam. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

Paine seems to have been born in Andover, Hampshire, in 1717 as the youngest child of a carpenter.  

Detail of the chimneypiece designed by Paine in the Dining Room at Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire. The grotesque decoration on the wall is by Adam. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

He appears to have studied at the St Martin’s Lane Academy in London and then to have come into contact with the circle of the 3rd Earl of Burlington, the promotor of Palladian architecture.

The top-lit Stair Hall by Paine at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

Paine built up a succesful architectural practice, both in Yorkshire and the north-east as well as in southern England.

The Dining Room at Felbrigg, created by Paine in 1752. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Although he worked within the context of Palladianism, he emphasized the need to make classical architecture fit contemporary needs. Top-lit staircase halls were one of his specialities.

The Staircase Hall at Uppark, another example of Paine's compact, top-lit staircases. The red baize door leads to the servants' quarters. ©NTPL/Geoffrey Frosh

In his earlier interiors Paine mixed Palladian with Rococo, but later he also adopted the newly fashionable neoclassical style.

Paine's Rococo ceiling of the Staircase Hall at Uppark. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Elegant chimnneypieces were another signature element of Paine’s, for which he ran a dedicated workshop.

For this post I consulted the guidebooks for Felbrigg Hall, Kedleston Hall, Nostell Priory, Uppark and Wallington as well as the entry on Paine by Peter Leach in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

A sacred conversation

September 10, 2010

Attributed to Palma il Vecchio (c 1480-1528), Sacra Conversazione: The Madonna and child with St Mary Magdalene, St Peter and St Peter Martyr, oil on panel, 75.5 x 105.1 cm. Image Christie's

This painting came up at auction at Christie’s in London on 7 July. It was in the collection of John Barnard in the eighteenth century and was then acquired by the first Baron Scarsdale. It was at Kedleston Hall by 1778.

The north front of Kedleston Hall. ©NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

I was bidding for this picture at the auction on the National Trust’s behalf, but it went just beyond the limit we had set ourselves. However, one of our curators, Amanda Bradley, quickly contacted Christie’s to find out if the buyer might want to sell the picture on to us at a modest profit.

Italo-Byzantine triptych showing the Madonna and child with saints, early fourteenth century, at Polesden Lacey, Surrey. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Christie’s Old Master Paintings department very helpfully forwarded this offer to the buyer, who agreed, and after finding a little bit more money we were able to acquire the picture after all. We are very grateful to everyone who helped to make this happen.

Sacra Conversazione: The Virgin and child with St Jerome, St Justina, St Ursula and St Bernardino of Siena by Palma il Vecchio, at Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The title of the picture, meaning ‘sacred conversation’, refers to a type of religious picture that developed in the Renaissance, showing the Virgin and the Christ child surrounded by saints. Previously saints had been depicted in a rigidly emblematic way, but gradually they were shown more informally, as if conversing with the Virgin and child.

The first Lord and Lady Scarsdale walking in the grounds of Kedleston Hall by Nathaniel Hone, 1761. ©NTPL/John Hammond

This particular painting has been restored in the past, but it is nevertheless important to Kedleston as evidence of the taste for Old Master paintings of the first Lord Scarsdale and his wife Caroline.

Although Lord Scarsdale never seems to have gone on a Grand Tour of  Italy, he was nevertheless deeply interested in Italian art and architecture, as is evident in the building works he commissioned at Kedleston from James ‘Athenean’ Stuart and Robert Adam.

A design for the decoration of a state room at Kedleston, c. 1757-58, by James 'Athenian' Stuart. ©NTPL/John Hammond

As the new house was going up, Lord Scarsdale was buying more and more Old Masters, many of them through the painter and landscape designer William Kent.

The Drawing Room at Kedleston. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

Many of the pictures were incorporated into plasterwork frames that were part of the architecture. The Old Masters were shown in the east side of the main block, whereas portraits were displayed in the State Appartment on the west side.


July 28, 2010

The Marble Hall at Kedleston. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

A new temporary art installation called Promenade has just been installed at Kedleston Hall. The work by Susie MacMurray consists of 200 km of of gold thread woven among the pillars of the Marble Hall. A video of it can be seen here on the Daily Telegraph website.

The peacock dress. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The artist has been inspired by the peacock dress worn by Lady Curzon at the Delhi Durbar in 1903. Her husband Lord Curzon was the Viceroy of India at the time. The dress, also on display at Kedleston, was constructed of cloth of gold and Susie MacMurray imagined it unravelled and entwined amongst the pillars.

Detail of the State Apartments at Kedleston, with a blue-john urn and a gilded fillet surrounding the fireplace. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

Promenade also refers to the gold elements in the Robert-Adam-designed interiors at Kedleston, which have featured on this blog previously

And of course a maze of threads reminds one of the ancient Greek legend of Theseus, who unravelled a thread while searching for the Minotaur in his labyrinth. And then there are the threads of history, and of causality.

Pause amongst the pillars... ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

But the work is also intended simply to make the visitor aware of his or her  surroundings, to suggest a moment of contemplation.

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.