Archive for the ‘V&A Purchase Grant Fund’ Category

Recycling in the grand manner

October 9, 2012

Silver basin by Anthony Nelme, 1692, subsequently engraved with the arms of Sir Matthew Featherstonhaugh, 1st Bt, and his wife Sarah Lethieullier. ©Christopher Hartop

Recycling and retrofitting is nothing new. We have just acquired a silver basin with a connection to Uppark, West Sussex, from Christopher Hartop. This luxurious item was originally most likely used in the bedchamber, then became a christening bowl, and finally reverted to being a bedroom hand basin.

The Saloon at Uppark. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The bowl was made by London silversmith Anthony Nelme in 1692, and may have been commissioned by Sir Heneage Fetherstone, 1st Baronet (d. 1717). It was later inherited by Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh, 1st Baronet (1714-1774),  and engraved with his an his wife Sarah’s arms.

The Althorp christening bowl, by Paul de Lamerie, 1723-1724. The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection, on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. © V&A Images

Originally it may have bee intended for the washing of hands, for shaving, or perhaps as a punch bowl. In 1754, with the birth of Sir Matthew and Sarah’s son Harry, later the 2nd Baronet, it was used for his christening, which took place in the Saloon at Uppark.

Pair of silver salvers by William Peaston, 1746, purchased for Uppark at auction in 2010 with funds from gifts and bequests to the National Trust and with a contribution from a fund set up by the late Simon Sainsbury. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

During the Commonwealth baptismal fonts in churches were considered to be among the trappings of ‘Popery’, and grander families began to hold christening ceremonies discreetly at home. The practice persisted in some quarters even after the Restoration, but surviving christening bowls (like the Althorp Christening bowl in the Gilbert collection) are very rare .

Late 19th-century photograph showing Miss Frances Bullock-Fetherstonhaugh sitting on the south steps at Uppark surrounded by friends. ©National Trust

Both the 1st and the 2nd Baronet acquired silver for Uppark. Most of these pieces were dispersed during the twentieth century, although the National Trust has been able to repatriate a few in recent years.

The Tapestry Bedroom at Uppark. ©National Trust Images/Geoffrey Frosh

By the late 19th century, Sir Harry’s sister-in-law, Miss Frances Bullock-Fetherstonhaugh, was once again using the silver basin in her bedroom for washing her hands. It has now been placed in the Tapestry Bedroom to evoke that everyday use.

This acquisition was made possible by a grant from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

In praise of the Purchase Grant Fund

December 13, 2010

Purity of heart by Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787). Purchased for Uppark, West Sussex, in 1976 with the help of the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. ©NTPL/Prudence Cuming

I recently learned that there is some uncertainty about the future of the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, due to various government cuts and reorganisations.

Detail of view of Verona by Bernardo Bellotto (1720-1780). Purchased for Powis Castle, Powys, in 1981 with the help of the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. ©NTPL

The Purchase Grant Fund has been a staunch supporter of the National Trust over the years.

Late seventeenth-century Florentine tabletop cabinet inlaid with lapis lazuli. Purchased for Belton House, Lincolnshire, in 1984 with the help of the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The grants were initially funded and administered throught the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Portrait of Edward Dryden and his family, c. 1715, by Jonathan Richardson the Elder (1665-1745). Purchased for Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire, in 1987 with the help of the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. ©NTPL

Latterly the funding came from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), though the V&A still adminsters the grants. The MLA is now to be abolished.

Le passé et le présent by Max Ernst. Purchased for Ernö Goldfinger’s house at 2 Willow Road, London, in 1999 with the help of the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. ©NTPL/Matthew Hollow

Numerous museums across Britain have benefitted from Purchase Grant Fund support, which has enabled them to collect fascinating, beautiful and relevant objects like the ones shown here.

Late eighteenth-century Chinese punchbowl showing the western trading posts in Canton. Purchased for Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire, in 2008 with the help of the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

The Purchase Grant Fund is a very efficient and cost-effective part of the funding system for UK museums, and I very much hope it will be allowed to continue in some form.

A Breenbergh returns to Belton

December 1, 2010

Landscape with figures bathing near classical ruins, by Bartolomeus Breenbergh. ©Sotheby's

Yesterday we bought a painting at auction at Sotheby’s Amsterdam that was sold from Belton House in 1984.

Belton House seen across the Italian Garden. ©NTPL/Nick Meers

At that time Belton was being acquired by the National Trust with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. However, there were not enough funds to purchase all of the contents of the house, and some of them were dispersed at auction, including this painting.

Classical ruins with Christ and the woman of Samaria, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh, at Ham House, Surrey. ©NTPL/John Hammond

It is by Bartolomeus Breenbergh (1598-1657), a Dutch painter who spent time in Rome and developed a style of landscape painting that usually included classical ruins. Indeed, ruins became such a part of the Breenbergh ‘brand’ that he even included them in scenes from the Old and New testaments.

King Charles I owned no less than six Breenberghs, one of which ended up at Ham House, and is still in its early seventeenth-century frame.

The Red Drawing Room at Belton, showing some of the old master paintings still at Belton. ©NTPL/Mark Fiennes

In 1984 the Belton Breenbergh still had its ‘Belton’ frame, which many of the pictures there were fitted with. After being sold from the house it was given a new, seventeenth-century Dutch-style frame, which the new owner must have thought looked more authentic. The painting will now have a Belton-style frame made for it once again before it goes on display.

Birds in a garden, by Melchior de Hondecoeter (1636-95), at Belton. ©NTPL/Christopher Hurst

The Breenbergh originally came to Belton as part of the inheritance of Frances Bankes (1756-1847), who married Sir Brownlow Cust, 1st Baron Brownlow (1744-1807). Her father, Sir Henry Bankes (1714-1774), was a wealthy London merchant who assembled a substantial collection of Continental paintings.

The Hondecoeter Room, with paintings by Jan Weenix the Younger and Melchior de Hondecoeter. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The acquisition of the Breenbergh for Belton was supported by the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

Seventeenth-century satnav

November 3, 2010

The Belton copy of Ogilby's Britannia, showing the route from London to Lincoln. ©National Trust

A few months ago we purchased a copy of John Ogilby’s Britannia at auction at Bonhams in London. The book has a provenance from Belton House, Lincolnshire. 

The north front of Belton House seen from the Dutch Garden. ©NTPL/Rupert Truman

John Ogilby (1600-1676) was an amazing polymath, who had successive careers as a dancing master, courtier, theatre owner, poet, translator and compiler of geographical works and atlases. 


In 1675 he produced Britannia, which was essentially a road atlas in the form of strip maps guiding the traveller from A to B, not unlike today’s satellite navigation devices.

The maps were based on on-the-ground research facilitated by a wheeled contraption to measure distances. Britannia represented the first major advance in cartography since Tudor times and helped to standardize the mile at 1760 yards.

The Study at Belton, which was the main library in Lord Tyrconnel's day. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The book collections at Belton House are among the finest in any National Trust house, showing the reading and book collecting habits of one family over a period of more than 350 years.

The copy of Britannia was owned by one of the most bookish members of the family, Sir John Brownlow, fifth Baronet and Viscount Tyrconnel (1690-1754). 

Portrait of Sir John Brownlow, Viscount Tyrconnel by Charles Jervas. Acquired with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 1984. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Tyrconnel was keen on politics, but in spite of his support for the Walpole government (which earned him his Viscountcy) his contempories were not much impressed by his political skills. However, he was praised for his ‘nice taste and well-chosen knowledge’ of the arts.

The Belton conversation piece, by Philippe Mercier, showing Lord Tyrconnel (on the left) with his family in the grounds of Belton House. Acquired with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 1984. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Tyrconnel assembled a collection of old master paintings, but he also patronised the artists of the day. The charming Belton Conversation Piece by Philippe Mercier was one of the first ‘conversation pieces’ to be painted in England.

Tyrconnel aslo supported the poets Alexander Pope and Richard Savage. The latter was even offered shelter in Tyrconnel’s London house, but he was eventually thrown out again because of his habitual insolence and drunkenness and because he had pawned some of Tyrconnel’s books.

The Library at Belton. The room was created by James Wyatt in 1778 and was only converted into a library in 1876, but it does contain some of Viscount Tyrconnel's books. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Tyrconnel collected books on science, history, travel, theology, literature and the classics. The books at Belton have just been fully catalogued and can be searched through the Copac database.

The acquisition of the Belton copy of Britannia was generously supported by the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and by the Friends of the National Libraries.

Povey’s pictures

June 21, 2010

Landscape with elegant figures walking along a country path, a distant view of a town (Delft?) beyond, by Willem van den Bundel, oil on panel. ©NTPL/John Hammond

This picture, and its pair below, are by Willem van den Bundel (c 1575-1655), a painter who moved from Flanders to Amsterdam, eventually settling in Delft. He was one of a number of Flemish artists who migrated north after the Spanish siege and subsequent fall of Antwerp in 1585, helping to create what became known as Holland’s Golden Age.

Landscape with figures passing a pond and resting traveller, a distant view of towns (Overschie and Rotterdam?) beyond, by Willem van den Bundel, oil on panel. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Van den Bundel seems to have learnt his craft from Gillis III van Coninxloo (1544-1607), who developed the depiction of wooded landscapes as a subject in its own right, an approach also seen in the paintings shown here.

Engraving of Dyrham Park by Johannes Kip (d.1722). ©NTPL

The National Trust purchased this pair of pictures at Sotheby’s in London in 2008 for Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire, with generous support from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. They had been sold in the big sale of 1954 when the Blathwayt family left Dyrham after two and a half centuries of occupation.

It is interesting to compare the above birds-eye-view of Dyrham, including the formal gardens and outbuildings, with the view of Newton House, of roughly the same date, shown in the previous post. In both places the baroque garden had to be inserted into a hilly site. 

Thomas Povey, by Michael Wright, c 1658, at Dyrham Park. ©NTPL

The pictures originally came from Thomas Povey (1618?-1700?), who moved in court circles and was a founder member of the Royal Society. He kept a splendidly furnished house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London, where the diarist Samuel Pepys admired his wine cellar and collection of Dutch pictures.

Ornamental fowl, attributed to Melchior de Hondecoeter, at Dyrham. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

In 1693 Povey sold a number of pictures as well as about 500 books to his nephew William Blathwayt (1649?-1717), a succesful civil servant. Blathwayt used the paintings to furnish his new country house, Dyrham Park.

A trompe l'oeil picture by Samuel van Hoogstraeten terminates the view through several doors at Dyrham. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Dutch pictures would have been regarded as advanced at the time, and they may also have signalled Blathwayt’s allegiance to the King William III, who had been invited to come over from Holland and oust the unpopular James II in 1688. Blathwayt had previously worked for James II, but his ability to speak Dutch and his general usefulness ensured him a place in the new administration.

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.