Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Multi-national screens

April 20, 2016
Six-fold incised lacquer screen decorated with scenes of Europeans hunting, one half of what was originally a twelve-fold screen, at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Six-fold incised lacquer screen decorated with scenes of Europeans hunting, seventeenth century (NT 1140102), one half of what was originally a twelve-fold screen, at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

I have just returned from speaking at a stimulating study day at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. As I mentioned earlier, I was talking about ‘Sino-Dutch’ interiors in late seventeenth-century England.

The other half of the twelve-fold incised lacquer screen, in a different room at Ham. ©National Trust/Christopher Warleigh-Lack

The other half of the twelve-fold incised lacquer screen (NT 1139776), in a different room at Ham. ©National Trust/Christopher Warleigh-Lack

While I was there I also visited the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston. I discovered that among the rich holdings of the MFA is a Chinese incised lacquer screen depicting Europeans out hunting. This reminded me of a screen with a similar subject at Ham House (separated in two parts, documented here and here), which had previously puzzled me.

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Twelve-panel Chinese incised lacquer screen depicting Europeans in a landscape, about 1700, height 244 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1975.333, Keith McLeod Fund. © 2016 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

This kind of depiction of westerners, with big noses, prominent moustaches and wide, pantaloon-style trousers, is known from Japanese screens, where the subject was called ‘namban’ or ‘southern barbarians’ – since the western ships arrived in japan from the south.

The Japanese were clearly fascinated by these exotic foreigners. But here this subject and style of depiction has been transposed to incised or kuan cai lacquer, which as far as we know was only made in China.

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Detail from the Chinese incised lacquer screen depicting Europeans in a landscape. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1975.333, Keith McLeod Fund. © 2016 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

So what was going on here? In their Arts of China handbook the MFA curators suggest that this type of screen was made in China, to be exported to Japan and to be sold there to the Dutch merchants based in Nagasaki.

That certainly sounds plausible, but I wonder whether there could also have been a market in China itself for screens decorated with quaint barbarians – a kind of chinoiserie in reverse? Either way, it is great to discover that the Ham screen is not an odd one-off but seems to have been part of a particular genre.

Consuming luxury: Asia in Amsterdam

March 18, 2016
Japanese lacquer cabinet on a Dutch gilt stand, c1630-50, in the Long Gallery at Ham House, Richmond-upon-Thames

Japanese lacquer cabinet (c. 1650) on a Dutch gilt stand (c. 1675), at Ham House, Surrey, NT 1140084. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, is currently showing the major exhibition Asia in Amsterdam, about the impact of Asian luxuries on Dutch art and life in the seventeenth century. The museum is also organising a public study day on the same topic, on Saturday 16 April.

A close up of a mirror and curtains in the Queen Anne Room at Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire

A state bed in the style of Daniel Marot, a japanned cabinet, marquetry table and Delft glazed earthenware vases, in the Damask Bedchamber at Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

I will be giving a talk at this study day about what I am tentatively calling the Sino-Dutch interior in seventeenth-century England. There was quite a lot of Dutch cultural, influence in Britain at that time, with gardening styles, Delft pots and the occasional Prince of Orange being brought across the North Sea. As Amsterdam was probably the most important European entrepot for Asian goods, the Asian and the Dutch inevitably mingled in the English interior.

SK-A-874

Group portrait of Frederik Hendrik, Prince of Orange, his wife Amalia van Solms and three of their daughters, by Gerard van Honthorst, c. 1647, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, inv. no. SK-A-874

As I am preparing my talk, I am becoming increasingly aware of the pivotal role of Amalia van Solms, the wife of Prince Frederik Hendrik of Orange. Frederik Hendrik was Stadtholder or ruler of most of the provinces of the Dutch Republic between 1625 and 1647.

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Late-seventeenth-century tapestries inspired by Asian lacquer, made by the Soho workshop for Belton House, Lincolnshire, in about 1691, NT 436999. ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

Frederik Hendrik and Amalia projected an almost royal political and cultural aura, acquiring and decorating a number of residences. Amalia pioneered the practice of taking apart lacquer coffers and cabinets and using the panels as wall decoration, juxtaposed with liberal quantities of Asian porcelain.

This taste spread across Europe and influenced the subsequent history of chinoiserie and interior decoration in general. Without Amalia’s initial moment of creative destruction we would probably never have had Coco Chanel’s Coromandel rooms at her rue Cambon apartment.

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.

Space for contemplation

February 25, 2016
The Oval Pavilion at Farnborough Hall, Warwickshire.

The Oval Pavilion, built in the 1740s, at Farnborough Hall, Warwickshire. Images/Chris Lacey

Fellow Twitterer K. Alexander (亞天恩, @thian_un) just mentioned how nice it would be to have a hermitage where one could retreat for a bit of sustained thinking and writing. In response I suggested this charming structure, the Oval Pavilion at Farnborough Hall, Warwickshire, as a model for the ideal retreat.

c18th domed ceiling at Farnborough with rococo plasterwork possible by W Perritt in the oval pavilion

Rococo plasterwork decoration inside the Oval Pavilion, Farnborough Hall. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

In good weather you could sit on the open lower level, admiring the landscape and perhaps doing a bit of sketching. The contemplation and writing could take place in the cosy and yet light-filled room upstairs.

The only problem might be that the exuberant rococo decoration would be rather distracting and might lead to frivolous thoughts.

Fashion and style

January 22, 2016
Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples (1782-1839), by Louis Ducis (1775-1847), c. 1810. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples (1782-1839), by Louis Ducis (1775-1847), c. 1810, NT 608957, at Attingham Park. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

I took part in a panel discussion at the Royal College of Art yesterday, part of their History of Design programme. The theme of the seminar was ‘research in action’, exploring the benefits and challenges of interacting with the public.

This reminded me of my previous linking with Unmaking Things, the lively blog run by second-year students of the History of Design course. I was inspired then by the observation made by Marilyn Zapf that the internet has the effect of making any object into a ‘found object’ – whether it is an ephemeral piece of packaging or a fine art masterpiece.

In a recent post Connie Burks writes about the difference between fashion and style – the former being more about historical trends, whereas the latter is more about individual choice, and is therefore more difficult to reconstruct. Connie mentions how style is often revealed by the way an individual combines different garments, patterns, textures and colours.

That, in turn, reminded me of the above portrait of Caroline Murat, who was something of an early-nineteenth-century style icon. The sister of Napoleon Bonaparte and married to one of his generals who became King of Naples, she channeled both French and Italian elements in her surroundings and her dress.

As Brittany Dahlin mentions in her recent thesis on Caroline Murat, she deliberately wore black velvet because of its associations with traditional Neapolitan female dress. At the same time the dress is tailored and cut in the high-waisted ‘Empire’ style, which of course had associations with French cultural and political dominance.

So perhaps this picture provides a glimpse of the fluid boundary between fashion and style.

 

New look collections website

August 20, 2015

The National Trust collections website has recently had an upgrade. The new look will hopefully make it easier to browse and search the collections and learn more about the individual objects.

When you scroll down the landing page you will see a selection of historic houses with particularly noteworthy collections.

If you choose to explore a particular property, you will be presented with some highlights of that collection. If you want to find out more about a specific object you can click through to find additional information.

Of course it is also possible to search the entire collections database. We continue to improve and refine the collections website, so do let us have your feedback.

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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