Archive for the ‘London’ Category

Cutting and pasting Chinese pictures

June 21, 2016
Detail of the Chinese wallpaper in the Chinese Bedroom which dates from the construction of the room c1760 at Blickling Hall, Norfolk

Picture inserted into the overmantel in the Chinese Bedroom at Blickling Hall, Norfolk. NT 356855.

This picture, showing Chinese figures in a landscape, hangs above the chimneypiece in the Chinese Bedroom at Blickling Hall, Norfolk. The outlines of the imagery were printed with carved woodblocks, but the colours were added by hand.

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The overmantel in the Chinese bedroom at Blickling. ©National Trust/Paul Bailey

The picture is different from the surrounding fully painted Chinese wallpaper. Usually overmantel frames like this were decorated with mirrors or European oil paintings, but here the presence of Chinese wallpaper must have made it seem appropriate to use a Chinese picture instead.

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper in the Chinese Bedroom which dates from the construction of the room c1760 at Blickling Hall, Norfolk

The Chinese picture with the yellow line showing where the two separate prints have been cut and joined.

At first sight it appears to be a single picture. But when we look more closely we can see that two separate prints have been cut and joined together – indicated by the yellow line in the above image. The scale of the print on the right is actually ever so slightly larger than the one on the left.

Buck Pal Chin Chip Rm 1914 RCIN 2101873

The Chinese Chippendale Room at Buckingham Palace in 1914, photograph by Sir Alexander Nelson Hood, RCIN 2101873. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

I was recently discussing a similar collage of Chinese prints, which is in store at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, with Dr Alexandra Loske, curator at the Pavilion, and Dr Clare Taylor of the Open University. Here it is when it was still in the so-called Chinese Chippendale Room at Buckingham Palace, set into the overmantel frame.

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The chimneypiece and overmantel in the Chinese Chippendale Room at Buckingham Palace, originally from Eltham Lodge, Kent, RCIN 2580.

The overmantel and chimneypiece are very interesting too, beautifully carved in mid-eighteenth-century English rococo chinoiserie style. They were acquired for Buckingham Palace by King Edward VII in the early twentieth century and are thought to have originally come from Eltham Lodge, Kent.

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Part of a Chinese wallpaper panel from Eltham Lodge, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, E.2087-1914. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2016

The name Eltham Lodge will be familiar to those who know the Chinese wallpaper collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The museum owns a group of important early Chinese wallpaper panels that was removed from Eltham Lodge in 1911.

That makes me wonder if the chimneypiece and overmantel at Buckingham Palace, the collage of Chinese prints at the Royal Pavilion and the Chinese wallpaper at the V&A were all originally in the same room at Eltham Lodge? I don’t know if there is any hard evidence for that, but it would seem to be a possibility, and the Chinese Bedroom at Blickling provides  a suggestive parallel.

Philip Webb and Red House

April 21, 2015
Portrait of Philip Webb by Charles Fairfax Murray. ©National Portrait Gallery, London

Portrait of Philip Webb by Charles Fairfax Murray. ©National Portrait Gallery, London

In the centenary year of the death of Philip Webb (1831-1915), we are celebrating the life and work of this remarkable architect and designer. The National Trust looks after the two Webb-designed houses that are open to the public, Red House and Standen.

Philip Webb's drawing instruments. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House, 2014. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Philip Webb’s drawing instruments. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House, 2014. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

An exhibition has just opened at Red House showing a group of objects once owned by Webb. These items were recently accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax on the estate of the architect John Brandon-Jones and allocated to the National Trust. They include Webb’s architect’s drawing instruments.

Snuff box once owned by William Morris. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House, 2014. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Snuff box once owned by William Morris. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House, 2014. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Also in this group is a snuff box owned by William Morris, who commissioned Webb to design Red House.

The staircase landing at Red House. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

The staircase landing at Red House. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Red House was the architect’s first commission and was completed in 1860. Morris and Webb were both at the forefront of the Arts and Crafts movement, reacting against the excesses of Victorian industrialisation and advocating a return to honest craftsmanship and local materials.

Dining table designed by Philip Webb, at Red House. Purchased with the help of the Art Fund, the John Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, an anonymous donor and other gifts and bequests. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Dining table designed by Philip Webb, at Red House. Purchased with the help of the Art Fund, the John Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, an anonymous donor and other gifts and bequests. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Webb also designed some of the furniture at Red House, such as the refectory-style dining table acquired by the National Trust in 2007.

Philip Webb's watercolour box. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Philip Webb’s watercolour box. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Webb originally wanted to become an artist, and he was a sensitive draughtsman. In 2013 the National Trust purchased four drawings of animals by Webb for the Arts and Crafts collection at Wightwick Manor.

The east front of Red House. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

The east front of Red House. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

Red House, which was acquired by the National Trust ten years ago, is slowly revealing more of its secrets, such as a pre-Raphaelite wall painting and an early Morris-designed floral pattern.

Art history, family history

February 27, 2014
William Dobson (1611-46), self-portrait. ©National Trust/John Hammond

William Dobson (1611-46), self-portrait. ©National Trust/John Hammond

Osterley Park is well known as an architectural and decorative masterpiece by Robert Adam, but the role of the Child family which owned the house has not been so obvious. From 1 March a group of portraits and other paintings will go on display at Osterley which will bring various members of the family and their personalities and tastes back into the frame.

The Dobson self-portrait on display at Osterley together with the portraits of Robert and Sarah Child and The Music Lesson by Sir Peter Lely. ©National Trust/Chris Lacey

The Dobson self-portrait on display at Osterley together with the portraits of Robert and Sarah Child and The Music Lesson by Sir Peter Lely. ©National Trust/Chris Lacey

The pictures are being lent to Osterley for a ten-year period by the trustee of the Earldom of Jersey Trust following consultation and backing from the 10th Earl of Jersey. The house and grounds of Osterley Park were given to the National Trust by the 9th Earl of Jersey in 1949, and the furniture in the house was purchased by the nation. However, most of the paintings were retained by the family, so it has been more than sixty years since these portraits were last on display in the house.

Attributed to John Collett (1725-80), view of Temple Bar. The premises of Child & Co are immediately to the left of Temple Bar. ©National Trust/John Hammond

Attributed to John Collett (1725-80), view of Temple Bar. The premises of Child & Co are immediately to the left of Temple Bar. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The most important picture from an art-historical point of view is undoubtedly the self-portrait by William Dobson, the first native English painter of major stature, in its exuberant baroque frame. It was bought by Sir Francis Child the elder (1642-1714) in 1712, together with the Van Dyck self-portrait which I featured earlier.

Lord Jersey pointing at Child's banking house in the view of Temple Bar attributed to John Collett (1725-80). ©National Trust/Chris Lacey

Lord Jersey pointing at Child’s banking house in the view of Temple Bar attributed to John Collett (1725-80). ©National Trust/Chris Lacey

Sir Francis Child the elder was a goldsmith, banker and property developer who became Mayor of London and a Member of Parliament. He acquired Osterley shortly before his death in lieu of an unpaid mortgage. The Child banking premises were based at 1 Fleet Street, next to the gateway called Temple Bar, and can be seen in the painting attributed to John Collett which will now be on display at Osterley. Indeed, Child & Co, now part of Royal Bank of Scotland, are still there today.

Alan Ramsay (1713-84) portrait of Francis Child III (1735-63). ©National Trust/John Hammond

Alan Ramsay (1713-84) portrait of Francis Child III (1735-63). ©National Trust/John Hammond

Sir Francis the elder’s sons Sir Robert Child (bapt.1674-1721), Sir Francis Child the younger (1684-1740) and Samuel Child (1693-1752) continued the family firm and also participated in the flourishing East India trade. The loan to Osterley also includes a number of lacquer and japanned items of furniture which were acquired by this generation of the family.

Child family

Margaret Battine after Daniel Gardner (1750-1805), portrait of Robert Child, his wife Sarah and their daughter Sarah Anne, originally created 1781. ©National Trust/John Hammond

Francis Child (1735-63, sometimes called Francis Child III to distinguish him from his uncle and grandfather) commissioned Robert Adam to remodel Osterley. Following his early death his brother Robert (1739-82) continued to employ Adam, giving the house the appearance it still has today.

George Romney (1734-1802), portrait of Sarah Jodrell, Mrs Robert Child, later Countess Ducie (c.1740-93), on display at Osterley Park. ©National Trust/Chris Lacey

George Romney (1734-1802), portrait of Sarah Jodrell, Mrs Robert Child, later Countess Ducie (c.1740-93), on display at Osterley Park. ©National Trust/Chris Lacey

Robert and Sarah’s only child, Sarah Anne (1764-93), eloped with the 10th Earl of Westmoreland. Robert changed his will so that the family fortune and posessions would devolve on the couple’s second child, bypassing the Westmorelands. This daughter, Sarah Sophia (1785-1867), married the 5th Earl of Jersey in 1804 and held such sway over Regency society that she was known as ‘Queen Sarah’.

A short video about the return of the pictures can be viewed here.

Global stories in domestic spaces

April 30, 2013
Chinese ivory model of boat, at Osterley Park (NT771742.2). ©National Trust Collections

Chinese ivory model of boat, at Osterley Park (NT771742.2). ©National Trust Collections

Osterley Park recently hosted an oral history event for local Hounslow residents. There are significant Sikh and Tamil communities living near Osterley, and the event sought to explore the connections between their heritage and the collection at Osterley, which is rich in Asian objects.

Japanese lacquer cabinet, early 18th century, on an English giltwood stand, at Osterley (NT771821) ©National Trust Collections

Japanese lacquer cabinet, early 18th century, on an English giltwood stand, at Osterley (NT771821) ©National Trust Collections

Participants learned about the Child family of Osterley, who were deeply involved in the trade between Britain and Asian in the 17th and 18th century. In addition people were encouraged to bring in objects that had a personal or cultural significance, and to share their thoughts and feelings about them.

Indian embroidered silk valance (NT772441) on the bed in Mrs Child's Bedroom at Osterley. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Indian embroidered silk valance (NT772441) on the bed in Mrs Child’s Bedroom at Osterley. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Objects can appear strange and exotic, of course, and the lure of the unknown seems to have been one of the reasons behind the popularity of Asian goods in 18th-century Britain.

Massive Chinese porcelain lidded vase, mid 18th century (NT771446.1) at Osterley. ©National Trust Collections

Massive Chinese porcelain lidded vase, mid 18th century (NT771446.1) at Osterley. ©National Trust Collections

Equally, the collection at Osterley demonstrates how people try to ‘own’ the unknown, both literally by collecting exotic objects, and symbolically by having their coats of arms put on them and by fitting them into familiar decorative schemes.

Mandarin duck from the Osterley menagery, in William Hayes's 'Portraits of Rare and Curious Birds and their Descriptions from the Menagery of Osterley Park', 1794. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Mandarin duck from the Osterley menagery, in William Hayes’s ‘Portraits of Rare and Curious Birds and their Descriptions from the Menagery of Osterley Park’, 1794. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Oral history events such as this one are part of the Global Stories in Domestic Spaces project, sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and masterminded by the East India Company at Home research team.

One of a set of Chinese porcelain dishes decorated with the Child coat of arms (NT771442), early 18th century with later additions, at Osterley. ©National Trust Collections

One of a set of Chinese porcelain dishes decorated with the Child coat of arms (NT771442), early 18th century with later additions, at Osterley. ©National Trust Collections

This event will also feed into the exhibition Trappings of Trade: A Domestic Story of the East India Company which will be on view at Osterley between July and November this year.

Fiction and truth

February 28, 2013
The Drawing Room at Fenton House, as redecorated by John Fowler in 1973. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Drawing Room at Fenton House, as redecorated by John Fowler in 1973. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Those who have followed the debates around the Stephen Poliakoff’s recent TV series Dancing on the Edge and its sometimes convoluted (or seemingly convoluted) plot may appreciate the interiors at Fenton House, in Hampstead, north London. Fenton House was used as a location for Dancing on the Edge, and features as the house of the wealthy, charming and determinedly superficial Arthur Donaldson.

Another view of the Drawing Room. The curtain flounces were inspired by similar examples seen by John Fowler at Kasteel Duivenvoorde in the Netherlands. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Another view of the Drawing Room. The curtain flounces were inspired by similar examples seen by John Fowler at Kasteel Duivenvoorde in the Netherlands. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Although Fenton House was built around 1686, its neo-Georgian interiors reflect its ownership from 1936 by Katherine, Lady Binning, who left it to the National Trust on her death in 1952. She had been married to the heir of the Earl of Haddington, and Fenton House was furnished with Haddington family heirlooms as well as with the collections she had inherited from her mother, Milicent Salting, and the latter’s brother-in-law, George Salting.

The Oriental Room at Fenton House, also redecorated by John Fowler. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Oriental Room at Fenton House, also redecorated by John Fowler. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

As some of the furnishings were returned to the various Haddington houses after 1952, certain rooms at Fenton House were left somewhat bare. In 1973 the National Trust invited the decorator John Fowler to help refurbish the house and give it a mellow, lived-in atmosphere. Fowler aficionados will recognise the subtle multi-tone painted woodwork in several rooms, the varied upholstery fabrics and the sophisticated curtain treatments.

Mid-20th-century white King Pyramid telephone, acquired for Fenton House in 2003. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Mid-20th-century white King Pyramid telephone, acquired for Fenton House in 2003. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

So there is a strong element of fiction in the presentation of Fenton House, giving an added poignancy to its use as a sumptuous film set. But as Poliakoff’s work demonstrates, if fiction is successful it acquires a certain kind of truth.

Pictures and their uses

February 26, 2013
Attributed to Gaspard Dughet, Landscape with a Storm, at Osterley Park, London, donated by the estate of Sir Denis Mahon, 2013. ©National Trust Collections, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation.st, Osterley Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Gaspard Dughet, Landscape with a Storm. NT 771276. ©National Trust Collections, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation.

It has just been announced that the estate of Sir Denis Mahon is donating a painting attributed to Gaspard Dughet (1615-1675), Landscape with a Storm, to Osterley Park, where it had been on loan since 2001. Through the Art Fund the Mahon estate is also donating a further group of important Italian baroque paintings to a number of UK museums.

Sir Denis Mahon (1910-2011)

Sir Denis Mahon (1910-2011)

Sir Denis Mahon, CH, CBE (1910-2011) was an art historian of independent means who in the 1940s and 1950s pioneered the study of Italian 17th-century painting. He built up his own collection of Italian baroque pictures at a time when they were out of favour and relatively inexpensive.

Perhaps as a result of his fascination with ‘unfashionable’ pictures, Sir Denis was strongly opposed to the deaccessioning of art from public collections. He also campaigned for free entry to museums and to improve the effectiveness of the scheme whereby works of art can be accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax. He effectively used his own collection as a juicy carrot dangled in front of the various civil servants and ministers of the day – an interestingly ‘political’ use of fine art.

Gaspard Dughet, Wooded Rocky Landscape, at Osterley Park, London, donated by Sir Denis Mahon, 1996. NT 772275. ©National Trust Collections, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation.

Gaspard Dughet, Wooded Rocky Landscape, at Osterley Park, London, donated by Sir Denis Mahon, 1996. NT 772275 ©National Trust Collections, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation.

Sir Denis had already donated another Dughet, Wooded Rocky Landscape, to Osterley in 1996. Both paintings help to recreate the lost late 18th-century picture hang at Osterley. This painting had previously been owned by the important 19th-century collectors William Graham (1818-1885), a Glasgow cotton manufacturer, and Charles Henry Mills, 1st Baron Hillingdon (1830-1898), owner of the bank Glyn, Mills & Co (which, coincidentally, took over the bank Child & Co, owned by the Child-Villiers family of Osterley, in 1924).

Dughet, a French painter born in Italy, was the brother-in-law and pupil of Nicolas Poussin, and his pictures were popular among British Grand Tourists.

Framing China

January 25, 2013
Chimney-board in the Yellow Taffeta Bedroom at Osterley Park, decorated with a Chinese picture of birds, insects, flowers and rocks surrounded by decorative floral patterns, second half 18th century, possibly originally used as wall decoration. ©National Trust Collections

Chimney-board in the Yellow Taffeta Bedroom at Osterley Park, decorated with a Chinese picture of birds, insects, flowers and rocks surrounded by decorative floral patterns, second half 18th century, possibly originally used as wall decoration. ©National Trust Collections

When I was at Osterley Park yesterday I noticed this chimney board covered with Chinese painted paper. I was wondering if it might be a remnant of what had once been the decoration of the walls of one of the rooms.

View of the Chinese Room at Erddig, showing the Chinese pictures on paper mounted on the walls in the 1770s. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

During the third quarter of the 18th century it seems to have been popular to decorate walls with Chinese pictures on paper or sections of Chinese wallpaper, framed with paper borders or gilded fillets.

Some of the 17 Chinese paintings hung in the bedroom of the 5th Lord Leigh's sister at Stoneleigh Abbey, Warwickshire, in 1765. They were sold from the house in 1981.

Some of the 17 Chinese paintings hung in the bedroom of the 5th Lord Leigh’s sister at Stoneleigh Abbey, Warwickshire, in 1765. They were sold from the house in 1981.

This practice is an intriguing example of Asian objects being inserted, literally and figuratively, into a western decorative framework, conceptually similar to the encasing of Asian porcelain in European ormolu mounts.

Some of the Stoneleigh Abbey pictures when they hung at Albemarle House, Virginia, from which they were sold in 2010. ©Sotheby's

Some of the Stoneleigh Abbey pictures when they hung at Albemarle House, Virginia, from which they were sold in 2010. ©Sotheby’s

In some cases there seems to have been a practical element to this as well, as a means of making the expensive and relatively scarce ‘India paper’ cover larger expanses of wall.

The Chinese Room at Carton House, County Kildare, decorated c. 1759. Image from Lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.co.uk

The Chinese Room at Carton House, County Kildare, decorated c. 1759. Image from Lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.co.uk

Stella Tillyard, in her book Aristocrats (1994), quotes the Countess of Kildare writing from Carton House to her husband in London: ‘My dear Lord Kildare, don’t let Louisa forget the India paper, and if you see any you like buy it at once for that I have will never hold out for more than three rooms, and you know we have four to do; for I have set my heart upon that which opens into the garden being done, for ‘tis certainly now our only and best good living room.’ Perhaps Lord Kildare didn’t manage to obtain any more, as the end result was a careful composition of framed fragments.

View of the interior of a Santa Monica residence decorated by Schuyler Samperton, incorporating Chinese wallpaper panels produced by Fromental. ©Schuyler Samperton Interior Design

View of the interior of a Santa Monica residence decorated by Schuyler Samperton, incorporating Chinese wallpaper panels produced by Fromental. ©Schuyler Samperton Interior Design

And this practice persists to this day, with framed sections of both antique and new Chinese wallpaper being used as decorative focal points.

A room with a blog

October 23, 2012

The breakfast Room at Osterley Park, before its recent repainting in ‘Batman grey’ and the start of the conservation project. ©National Trust Images/Mark Fiennes

Some rooms have views, other have blogs — and some have both. The Breakfast Room at Osterley now has its own blog, documenting the conservation process that aims to rediscover its original yellow colour scheme.

The Breakfast Room as the contents are being removed. © National Trust

Between 1949 and 2011 the Breakfast Room had undergone several redecorations, including a green and a yellow scheme, carried out first by the Victoria & Albert Museum and latterly by the National Trust.

James Finlay scrutinizing the evidence. © National Trust

The room was recently painted grey when it was used as one of the sets for the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. The fees charged for the filming have now enabled Osterley to instigate a full-scale investigation into the original yellow.

A paint scrape from the dado, showing a yellow layer on top of an earlier blue one. © National Trust

In 1772 Agneta Yorke visited Osterley and described the Breakfast Room as being ‘a lemon colour with blew ornaments.’

An unpicked sample of the 20th-century wallpaper, showing different layers of paint, paper and linings. © National Trust

But descriptions of colours are notoriously subjective, and it would be ideal if we could identify physical traces of the original paint.

The discovery of a doorway which once connected the Breakfast Room to the Library Passage. © National Trust

20th-century layers have now been stripped off and paint scrapes have been taken. The various findings are now being analysed, and you will be able to follow the story on the Osterley Breakfast Room blog.

Reflections of China

June 25, 2012

The Chinese Chippendale Bedroom at Saltram, with its Chinese wallpaper, mirror paintings and ceramics. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

On Tuesday 26 June I will be taking a group on a tour of Saltram, near Plymouth, looking at the Chinese and Chinese-inspired collections in the house. The tour begins at 6.30 pm, and to book a (free) place you can call 01752 333500. It is part of Sinopticon, a programme of exhibitions and events exploring what chinoiserie means in a contemporary context.

While preparing the tour I noticed the similarities and differences between Saltram, Osterley Park, in west London, and Nostell Priory, in West Yorkshire, all houses with important eighteenth-century chinoiserie decoration.

One of the Chinese mirror paintings, in English Rococo frames and with Chinese porcelain leaping carp figurines on the mantelpiece below, in the Mirror Room at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/Rob Matheson

Saltram has a great collection of Chinese wallpapers complemented by Chinese mirror paintings, east Asian ceramics and sets of chinoiserie chairs. The Parkers of Saltram were wealthy and fashion-conscious, but they rebuilt and redecorated the house in a piecemeal manner.

Chinese mirror painting inserted into a neo-classical frame designed by Robert Adam, c. 1760, in the Yellow Taffeta Bedchamber at Osterley Park. ©National Trust Collections

The Childs of Osterley, by contrast, were among the super-rich and could really splurge on chinoiserie decoration. The decoration of Osterley included lacquer furniture, Chinese wallpaper, mirror paintings, Indian fabrics, east Asian ceramics, carved ivory objects, live exotic birds in the menagerie, a multi-room and fully furnished chinoiserie pavilion in the garden and a Chinese-style boat on the lake.

Chinoiserie pier glass by Chippendale, with matching japanned commode below, in the State Bedroom at Nostell Priory. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The chinoiserie taste of Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet, of Nostell was slightly different again, as he concentrated on commissioning several sets of beautiful chinoiserie furniture from Thomas Chippendale, set against the backdrop of Chinese wallpaper. There was a chinoiserie garden pavilion at Nostell too, but it was a relatively small, portable affair.

I find it fascinating how the different ‘ingredients’ of the chinoiserie style were combined in different quantities and configurations at these three houses in the middle of the eighteenth century. In the tour tomorrow I hope to be able to bring out the uniqueness of Saltram by contrasting it with what the other ‘Joneses’ were doing at about the same time.

The East India Company at home

October 26, 2011

Model in ivory of a Chinese pleasure barge, mid-eighteenth-century, at Osterley Park, London. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

I was talking to Dr Kate Smith yesterday about a project she is involved in called ‘The East India Company at home’. The project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and aims to place country house interiors of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in a wider global context.

Chinese lacquered chair with the Child coat of arms, at Osterley Park. It is part of a suite of hall furniture made for Sir Francis Child the Younger, a director of the East India Company, in the 1720s. ©National Trust/Christopher Warleigh-Lack

The Warwick University project team, led by Professor Margot Finn, will explore the routes by which Asian luxury goods ended up in the homes of the propertied classes in England, Scotland and Wales in the Georgian and early Victorian periods.

Embroidered Indian silk on an eighteenth-century bed at Osterley Park. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

The team welcomes collaboration with individuals and groups engaged in research into country houses, material culture and the history of colonialism and empire. This is an interesting attempt to incorporate ‘crowd sourcing’ into a research project – of which there have been recent examples on this blog as well, including the card-racks at Attingham and the portrait of the Chinese page at Knole.

Plate showing a Chinese duck in 'Portraits of Rare and Curious Birds and their Descriptions from the Menagery of Osterley Park' by William Hayes, 1794. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The aim is to weave together a series of case studies of places, objects and people that illuminate the way in which trade and colonialism shaped British material culture and identity. Some National Trust colleagues, including members of the team at Osterley Park, have already expressed an interest to contribute.

Chinese porcelain side plate with the Child arms, commissioned by Francis Child the Younger in the 1720s, at Osterley Park. ©National Trust/Christopher Warleigh-Lack

The project website already hosts bibliographies and other research tools, and it will gradually become a portal for research and information about the global context of the British country house.


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