Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Do Chinese wallpapers show the gardens of Guangzhou?

June 23, 2015
Chinese painting on paper showing a garden, used as wallpaper at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Chinese painting on paper showing a garden, used as wallpaper at Saltram. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Two papers presented at the Chinese garden history conference, held at the University of Sheffield last week, gave me a lot to think about with regard to the – at first sight unrelated – subject of Chinese wallpapers.

Photograph by Felice Beato showing Howqua's garden, Canton, 1860. ©J. Paul Getty Trust

Photograph by Felice Beato showing Howqua’s garden, Canton, 1860. ©J. Paul Getty Trust

Liyuan Gu spoke about rockwork in Chinese gardens and Josepha Richard discussed the gardens of Guangzhou (Canton) in the nineteenth century. The images both Liyuan and Josepha showed were very reminiscent of Chinese wallpapers.

Chinese wallpaper previously at Beaudesert, Staffordshire, illustrated in Nancy McClelland's book Historic Wallpapers (1924).

Chinese wallpaper previously at Beaudesert, Staffordshire, illustrated in Nancy McClelland’s book Historic Wallpapers (1924).

Many Chinese wallpapers show floral imagery, and it is generally assumed that most of these wallpapers were made in Guangzhou, the international port from where they were shipped to the west.

Photograph by John Thomson of a garden in Guangzhou, probably Howqua's garden, 1870s. ©J. Paul Getty Trust

Photograph by John Thomson of a garden in Guangzhou, probably Howqua’s garden, 1870s. ©J. Paul Getty Trust

The visual evidence shown at the conference strongly suggests that at least some of these wallpapers specifically show the gardens of Guangzhou, or of the wider Lingnan region, with their abundant use of water, their stone embankments and balustrades and their profusion of potted shrubs and dwarf trees.

Chinese wallpaper in the Lower India Room at Penrhyn Castle, including decorative rockwork and a stone-edged waterway in the foreground. ©National Trust Images/Michael Caldwell

Chinese wallpaper in the Lower India Room at Penrhyn Castle, including decorative rockwork and a stone-edged waterway in the foreground. ©National Trust Images/Michael Caldwell

So this would seem to confirm the link between the wallpapers and Guangzhou. And it also provides more clues as to what we are actually seeing in Chinese wallpapers: a glimpse of Guangzhou on our British walls.

English Arcadia

August 26, 2014
The temple of Apollo at Stourhead. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

The temple of Apollo at Stourhead. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Stourhead is one the most influential and admired English landscape gardens. Even Horace Walpole, notorious for his bitchy comments on other people’s houses and gardens, was impressed.

Self portrait with Apollo leading the Marchese Pallavicini towards the temple of Virtue, by Carlo Maratta (1625-1713), at Stourhead, inv. no. 732098. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Self portrait with Apollo leading the Marchese Pallavicini towards the temple of Virtue, by Carlo Maratta (1625-1713), at Stourhead, inv. no. 732098. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Although the entire ensemble of the lake and the buildings ranged around it is artificial, it manages to convey an atmosphere of dreamlike harmony.

Curved bench made for the temple of Apollo at Stourhead, with a depiction of Apollo in his chariot with Aurora and the Hours, attributed to William Hoare of Bath, RA (1707–92), inv. no. 562873.2. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Curved bench made for the temple of Apollo at Stourhead, with a depiction of Apollo in his chariot with Aurora and the Hours, attributed to William Hoare of Bath, RA (1707–92), inv. no. 562873.2. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The intricate compositions and ever-changing views were clearly inspired by seventeenth-century landscape paintings.

View of Stourhead by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde (1719-91), 1775, inv. no. 730729. ©National Trust Images

View of the garden at Stourhead with the temple of Apollo at left, by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde (1719-91), 1775, inv. no. 730729. ©National Trust Images

There are also strong antiquarian and literary tropes, and originally there were even some exotic touches, including a Chinese-style bridge and pavilion.

View through the grotto at Stourhead, past the lakeside 'window' towards the statue of the river god. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

View through the grotto at Stourhead, past the lakeside ‘window’ towards the statue of the river god. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

The grotto, on the north side of the lake, takes the visitor down into the darkness where a river god a nymph reside. The temple of Apollo, by contrast, rises on an eminence on the opposite side of the lake, reaching towards the sun, Apollo’s symbol.

Statue of a river god by John Cheere (1709–87), inv. no. 562877, in the grotto at Stourhead. ©National Trust Images/Ian Shaw

Statue of a river god by John Cheere (1709–87), inv. no. 562877, in the grotto at Stourhead. ©National Trust Images/Ian Shaw

But the two buildings do reach out to each other: from an opening in the grotto the visitor can glimpse the temple of Apollo, which in turn reaches down through its reflection in the lake.

Statue of a sleeping nymph, probably by John Cheere (1709-87), inv. no. 562876, with an inscription taken from a fifteenth-century Latin poem translated by Alexander Pope, in the grotto at Stourhead. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

Statue of a sleeping nymph, probably by John Cheere (1709-87), inv. no. 562876, with an inscription taken from a fifteenth-century Latin poem translated by Alexander Pope, in the grotto at Stourhead. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

Parts of the garden are now in need of major conservation work. Our American partner organisation, the Royal Oak Foundation, has dedicated its 2014 appeal to raise funds for the temple of Apollo, the grotto and the pinetum at Stourhead.

Genealogies of taste

August 14, 2014

Paneling from a room in the town house of the Nassau-Dietz family, c.1695, in the Rijks Museum, inv. no. BK-16709. Image in the public domain, supplied by the Rijks Museum.

Paneling from a room in the town house of the Nassau-Dietz family, c.1695, in the Rijks Museum, inv. no. BK-16709. Image in the public domain, supplied by the Rijks Museum.

As I was browsing the website the of Rijks Museum I found this image of the paneling of a room that was formerly in the town house of the Nassau-Dietz family in Leeuwarden, where it was installed by 1695.

Two tapestries with orientalist scenes taken from Indian, Chinese and Japanese sources and from European illustrated travel books, woven in the Soho workshop c.1691, at Belton House, inv. no. 436999. The backgrounds of the tapestries would originally have been darker and more like lacquer. ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

Two tapestries with orientalist scenes taken from Indian, Chinese and Japanese sources and from European illustrated travel books, woven in the Soho workshop c.1691, at Belton House, inv. no. 436999. The backgrounds of the tapestries would originally have been darker and more like lacquer. ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

The paneling is a combination of Chinese incised (or Coromandel) lacquer above and Dutch gilded carving below. The lacquer panels started life as folding screens which were originally made for the Chinese market, but became popular in Europe during the second half of the seventeenth century. They inspired the production of European products such as Asian-style tapestries and leather screens and wall hangings.

Chinese wallpaper depicting a landscape, hung at Blickling Hall c.1760. Inv. no. 354141. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Chinese wallpaper depicting a landscape, hung at Blickling Hall c.1760. Inv. no. 354141. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Rooms paneled in this way are now very rare. A more or less contemporary example surviving in Britain is the Chinese Room at Burton Agnes Hall, which dates from the early eighteenth century.

Chinese wallpaper on silk depicting a landscape, hung at Saltram possibly in the 1760s. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Chinese wallpaper on silk depicting a landscape, hung at Saltram possibly in the 1760s. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

I am wondering how this vogue for lacquer rooms fits into the genealogy of Chinese wallpaper, which seems to have appeared in Europe a few generations later, around 1750. The subjects on Chinese wallpaper – architecture, figures, landscapes, birds and flowers – are reminiscent of the decoration of incised lacquer. It would seem likely that Chinese lacquer – along with Chinese silk and porcelain and their European imitations – helped to make the European market receptive for the arrival of Chinese wallpaper.

A man and his purse

May 8, 2014
Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen, portrait of Sir Thomas Savage, 1st Viscount Savage. ©National Trust/Amy Howe

Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen, portrait of Sir Thomas Savage, 1st Viscount Savage. ©National Trust/Amy Howe

Melford Hall has recently acquired a portrait of one of its seventeenth-century owners, Sir Thomas Savage, 1st Viscount Savage (c. 1586-1635). Previously only one likeness of him was known, in a private collection in Yorkshire.

©National Trust/Amy Howe

©National Trust/Amy Howe

The newly acquired picture was long thought to be of John Williams (1582-1650), a seventeenth-century Archbishop of York. But when it was recently consigned for sale at Christie’s the red purse of office bearing the cipher ‘HMR’ shown in the picture caused some interest.

©National Trust/Amy Howe

©National Trust/Amy Howe

‘HMR’ stands for ‘Henrietta Maria Regina’, or Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of King Charles I, and the sitter would therefore have been the queen’s chancellor, a post not held by John Williams.

©National Trust/Amy Howe

©National Trust/Amy Howe

But Sir Thomas Savage was the queen’s chancellor from the mid-1620s until his death in 1635. Moreover, comparison with the Yorkshire portrait suggested this was indeed Savage.

©National Trust/Amy Howe

©National Trust/Amy Howe

The National Trust purchased this portrait at auction in April 2013 and sent it to the Hamilton Kerr Institute for conservation. Cleaning revealed the signature of the artist, Cornelius Jonson (or Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen, to give him his original Flemish name), and the date 1632.

English School, portrait of Lady Elizabeth Darcy, Viscountess Savage and Countess Rivers. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

English School, portrait of Lady Elizabeth Darcy, Viscountess Savage and Countess Rivers. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The picture is now on display at Melford near that of Savage’s wife, Lady Elizabeth Darcy (1581-1651). Lord and Lady Savage extended and refurbished Melford Hall, but appear to have overspent. That and the sacking of the house at the start of the Civil War forced their son to sell it in 1649.


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