Archive for the ‘Woburn Abbey’ Category

Chinese style at Versailles and Woburn

June 6, 2014
View of the chinoiserie pavilion and carousel near the Petit Trianon at Versailles, by Claude-Louis Châtelet (1753-1795), black chalk, watercolour and gouache, 1786. ©Château de Versailles

View of the chinoiserie pavilion and carousel near the Petit Trianon at Versailles, by Claude-Louis Châtelet (1753-1795), black chalk, watercolour and gouache, 1786. ©Château de Versailles

In a comment on a previous post, François-Marc Chaballier kindly alerted us to a current exhibition entitled ‘China at Versailles’, about the diplomatic and cultural links between the French and Chinese courts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I immediately ordered the catalogue and am eagerly awaiting it.

Looking at the exhibition’s web pages I saw the above picture of a chinoiserie pavilion built near the Petit Trianon at Versailles for Queen Marie-Antoinette in about 1776.

The Chinese Dairy at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire. ©Woburn Abbey

The Chinese Dairy at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire. ©Woburn Abbey

The low, stretched-out silhouette of this pavilion reminded me of the so-called Chinese Dairy at Woburn Abbey, which was designed by Henry Holland for the 5th Duke of Bedford in 1787 and completed in 1794.

This application of the Chinese style to an ornamental dairy is unique in Britain. In France, however, the fashion for ornamental dairies (as described by Meredith Martin in her recent book Dairy Queens) coincided with a taste for garden pavilions in the Chinese style. The idealisation of milking, butter-making and country life in general chimed with the ‘physiocratic’ view of China as an admirably stable and productive agricultural society.

The chinoiserie pavilion cum dairy grotto in the garden of Claude Baudard de Saint James, from J.-C. Krafft, Plans, coupes, élévations des plus belles maisons et hotels construits à Paris et dans les environs (c. 1802).

The chinoiserie pavilion cum dairy grotto in the garden of Claude Baudard de Saint James, from J.-C. Krafft, Plans, coupes, élévations des plus belles maisons et hotels construits à Paris et dans les environs (c. 1802).

Marie-Antoinette had dairies included in her Hameau or ornamental village at Versailles in the mid-1780s. Her husband, Louis XVI, built another one for her at the Château de Rambouillet in 1787.

The link between China and dairies was made even more explicit in the garden structure built by François-Joseph Bélanger for Claude Baudard de Saint James at Neuilly-sur-Seine in the late 1780s: a chinoiserie pavilion with a dairy in a ‘grotto’ immediately below it.

Henry Holland is known to have visited Paris in 1787. It seems likely that he saw at least some of these pavilions and dairies and that they informed his design of the Chinese Dairy at Woburn – but this is just a hunch and needs more research.

Peeling back the years

January 23, 2014
Fragments of Chinese wallpaper recently discovered in the 4th Duke's Bedroom at Woburn Abbey. ©Woburn Abbey

Fragments of Chinese wallpaper recently discovered in the 4th Duke’s Bedroom at Woburn Abbey. ©Woburn Abbey

Exciting things are coming to light at Woburn Abbey, the seat of the Duke of Bedford – and in quite a literal sense. Historic interiors consultant Lucy Johnson has been discovering the remains of an early Chinese wallpaper in the 4th Duke’s Bedroom there, which had been hidden by later wallcoverings.

Section of the wallpaper in the Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Section of the wallpaper in the Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

What makes this discovery even more interesting is that these fragments seem to relate to a Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg Hall: the head of a bird visible on one of the sections of wallpaper in the 4th Duke’s Bedroom is identical to a bird that is part of the wallpaper scheme in the Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg Hall.

Part of a bird on the Chinese wallpaper recently discovered in the 4th Duke's bedroom at Woburn Abbey. ©Woburn Abbey

Part of a bird on the Chinese wallpaper recently discovered in the 4th Duke’s bedroom at Woburn Abbey. ©Woburn Abbey

Andrew Bush, the National Trust’s paper conservation adviser, has established that the Felbrigg wallpaper was printed in outline and then painted in by hand. It looks like the Woburn paper was produced in the same way, presumably by the same workshop.

Detail of a bird in the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg Hall. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

Detail of a bird in the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg Hall. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

Since we know that the Felbrigg scheme was put up in 1752, by a London paper hanger called John Scrutton, it would seem likely that the Woburn paper was put up in about the same period.

Detail of a peony in the Chinese wallpaper discovered at Woburn Abbey. ©Woburn Abbey

Detail of a peony in the Chinese wallpaper discovered at Woburn Abbey. ©Woburn Abbey

And indeed Lucy has found references in the Woburn archives to the decorating firm of Crompton and Spinnage having hung ‘India paper’ in ‘His Grace’s Bedroom’ in that very same year. This wallpaper must have represented the height of chinoiserie fashion in the early 1750s.

Detail of a peony in the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg Hall. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

Detail of a peony in the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg Hall. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

Lucy is preparing an exhibition about these and other discoveries at Woburn (opening on 11 April) which will highlight the links between the orientalist elements in the interiors and the Asian plants and chinoiserie garden features outside.