Enlightened Princesses

Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte and the Shaping of the Modern World, Kensington Palace, until November 2017

Queen Caroline of Ansbach, Joseph Highmore c.1735,
Royal Collection Trust c Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

This fascinating exhibition has come to Kensington Palace from the Yale Center for British Art where it understandably attracted so much interest while there. It considers the part played by three German Protestant princesses at the court of the Hanoverian Kings who ruled 18th century Britain. A legacy that can still be seen in today’s monarchy.

Enlightened Princesses – Installation view
(c) Historic Royal Palaces

The three princesses concerned are Caroline, consort of George II; her daughter-in-law Augusta, who was married to Frederick Prince of Wales and Charlotte (Augusta’s daughter-in-law), consort of George III. In many senses they were the right women in the right place as Britain was embracing the ideas of the Enlightenment and the princesses’ intelligence and curiosity combined with their exalted status allowed them to foster and support the new ideas.

Queen Charlotte, Johann Joseph Zoffany 1771,
Royal Collection Trust c Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Scientists, authors and even musicians such as Handel were all drawn to their drawing rooms. They encouraged medical advances such as inoculation and were involved in the establishment of London’s Foundling Hospital. Plants and wildlife were another interest that all three shared and Kew Gardens is part of that legacy. They also supported British trade and manufacturing.

Enlightened Princesses – Installation view
(c) Historic Royal Palaces

The exhibition succeeds in bringing both their private and public world to life.  The Yale Center for British Art’s director Amy Meyers sums it up: “Caroline, Augusta, and Charlotte had sweeping intellectual, social, cultural, and political interests, which helped to shape the courts in which they lived, and encouraged the era’s greatest philosophers, scientists, artists, and architects to develop important ideas that would guide ensuing generations”.

The Flying Squirrel, Plate T-77, Mark Catesby
c The Royal Board of Trustees of Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

www.hrp.org.uk

Christening robe made for future George IV, ivory silk satin c. 1760
(c) Historic Royal Palaces

At home with the Gee Family

Lives, Loves and Loss: Traces at Fenton House, Fenton House and Garden, Hampstead Grove, London NW3, until 23rd December 2016

Lives Loves and Loss - Traces at Fenton House Photo by Sophia Schorr-Kon

Lives Loves and Loss – Traces at Fenton House
Photo by Sophia Schorr-Kon

Fenton House is a delightful 17th century brick merchant’s house with a walled garden that was left to the National Trust in 1952 by Lady Binning.  This month it has been transformed by Traces, a group of curators and makers, into a different multi-sensory world.

Lives Loves and Loss - Traces at Fenton House Photo by Sophia Schorr-Kon

Lives Loves and Loss – Traces at Fenton House
Photo by Sophia Schorr-Kon

They take us into the world of the Gee family in 1730. The family were important silk and linen merchants in London who resided at Fenton House at that time. The visitor equipped with a chamberstick (battery version) wanders through the abandoned rooms and learns, as the title suggests, about the goings on of their lives.  The rooms are specially lit to give an idea of how life was before gaslight or electricity. To help tell the story the work of eighty contemporary artists has been used and the good news is that these art works can be purchased.

Lives Loves and Loss - Traces at Fenton House Photo by Sophia Schorr-Kon

Lives Loves and Loss – Traces at Fenton House
Photo by Sophia Schorr-Kon

National Trust London’s Creative Director, Joseph Watson, comments: “Known for its rich history and inspiring collections the best of contemporary craft, design and art seemed the perfect way to tell this part of Fenton House’s story. Offering an escape from the bustle of Christmas, we are certain visitors will be amazed by the transformation that Traces have brought to this historic London home.”

Diana Bliss Annies Apron Lives Loves and Loss - Traces at Fenton House Photo by Sophia Schorr-Kon

Diana Bliss Annies Apron Lives Loves and Loss – Traces at Fenton House
Photo by Sophia Schorr-Kon

 

Opening Hours
Saturday 3rd – Sunday 4th, 11am – 5pm (last admission at 4.30pm)
Thursday 8th, Thursday 15th, 5.30pm – 8.30pm (last admission at 8pm)
Saturday 10th – Sunday 11th, 11am – 5pm (last admission at 4.30pm)
Saturday 17th – Friday 23rd, 11am – 5pm (last admission at 4.30pm)
All tickets must be booked in advance, including for National Trust members, from http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fenton-house-and-garden, 0344 249 1895
Admission National Trust members – free
Adult day – £10
Child day – £5
Adult evening (includes complimentary drink) – £15
Please note that the evening openings are not suitable for children under the age of 18. Ticket price applies to all, including National Trust members, for evening admission.
Lives Loves and Loss - Traces at Fenton House Photo by Sophia Schorr-Kon

Lives Loves and Loss – Traces at Fenton House
Photo by Sophia Schorr-Kon

 

@NTLovesLondon, @NTFentonHouse, @traceslondon

BOOK REVIEW: Great Houses, Modern Aristocrats

Great Houses, Modern Aristocrats

Written by James Reginato, Foreword by Viscount Linley, Photographed by Jonathan Becker
Publisher: Rizzoli
£40.00
ISBN: 978-0-8478-4898-0

greathousesmodernaristocrats_cover

The doors of some of the beautiful great homes of the UK and Ireland are opened in this book which celebrates both their history and the lives of the present day occupiers.  It celebrates great houses such as Blenheim Palace, Broughton Castle, Haddon Hall and smaller ones such as the Old Vicarage in Edensor which was the final home of the late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire.  We even visit the late 3rd Baron Glenconner’s homes on Mustique and St. Lucia and the Earl of Durham in Tuscany. The book is beautifully illustrated with some interiors revealed for the first time.  An absolute must have for those interested in history, interior design and people.

 

http://www.rizzoliusa.com

 

MEET THE CRAFTSMEN

I thought I would share this press release with you:

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MEET THE CRAFTSMEN WHO RESTORED SPENCER HOUSE

27 St James’s Place, London SW1

Sunday 16th October 2016, 10.30am-5.30pm

 

This special Craftsmen Day gives visitors an opportunity to meet conservators, decorators and designers employed during one of the most remarkable restoration projects of the last century.

 On site to explain and demonstrate the techniques and materials will be:

  • Ben Bacon who carved copies of the original suites of furniture designed by Vardy and Stuart.
  • Alan Dodd the artist who recreated the trompe l’oeil effect on the staircase balustrade.
  • Peter Hare & Paul Humphreys of Hare & Humphreys responsible for architectural gilding of the fine rooms and restoration of the decorative plasterwork.
  • David Mlinaric who oversaw for the interior decoration of the State Rooms.
  • Dick Reid who carried out architectural carving, including the doorcases, and the elaborate marble copies of original chimney pieces.
  • Peter Schade who, with Ben Bacon, carved the large frames for the Cipriani and Hamilton paintings in the Great Room, copied from original Stuart frames at Althorp.
  • Peter Thuring, who gilded the copies of the original furniture, and conserved and reupholstered Stuart’s original suite of furniture in the Painted Room, on loan from the V&A.
  • David Wilkinson of Wilkinson plc who produced five Adam-style glass chandeliers.

 

Sunday 16th Oct, 10.30am-5.30pm (last entry 4.30pm)
Advance booking recommended, online at www.spencerhouse.co.uk or  020 7067 1958
Adults £14, concessions £12

300 Years!

‘Capability’ Brown – a new bulb

Narcissus 'Capability Brown' credit: Ron Scamp

Narcissus ‘Capability Brown’
credit: Ron Scamp

Well today is the 300th anniversary of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s baptism in St Wilfrid’s Church in Kirkharle, Northumberland and is also the date for officially marking this important tercentenary.  What better way than to unveil a new bulb named by the RHS as Narcissus ‘Capability Brown’.

It is particularly appropriate as Brown is known to have used a double jonquil, Narcissus ‘Telamonius Plenus Van Sion’ in his designs. The 300th Anniversary Festival’s director Ceryl Evans sums it up by saying: ‘Our hope is that many of Capability Brown attributed sites will be interested in planting this beautiful spring bulb, as a seasonal reminder every year of the remarkable Capability Brown Festival introducing Brown’s amazing legacy landscapes to a much wider audience’.

I heartily concur.

 

http://www.capabilitybrown.org

Three Cs – ‘Capability’, Coventry, Croome

‘Expect the Unexpected’, Croome Court, near High Green, Worcester, Worcestershire, WR8 9DW

The south front of the house seen across the lake at Croome Court Credit: Andrew Butler

The south front of the house seen across the lake at Croome Court
Credit: Andrew Butler

What a lovely co-incidence that in this ‘Capability’ Brown’s 300th Anniversary year I am fortunate enough to be able to write about Croome Court which as well as being Brown’s first major commission was a complete project due to the fact that he was asked in 1751 by the 6th Earl of Coventry to create a house and estate that would be the dernier cri.  The photographs show the resulting building and landscape. Although the outside design and some of the interiors are Brown’s work the Earl later commissioned Robert Adam to design some of the rooms – the Long Gallery, the Library and Tapestry Room.

The Original tapestry Room Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Original tapestry Room
Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Tapestry Room, now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, featured a specially commissioned set of Gobelins tapestries and seat covers. Coventry was one of the great 18th century English collectors of Vincennes and Sèvres porcelains and he asked Adam to design a tripod stand to hold a Sevres jug and basin whose colours reflected those of the room.

Artist Will Datson with ‘Chair Play’ and two of the original chairs Credit: Jack Nelson

Artist Will Datson with ‘Chair Play’ and two of the original chairs
Credit: Jack Nelson

In1948 the family disposed of the house and many of its contents were sold by auction and thus nowadays only about twenty percent of the collection remains.  There are plans to bring these pieces back to the house later this year. The National Trust bought the park in 1996 and started on its restoration and in 2007 the house was purchased by the Croome Heritage Trust and they have granted a long lease to the National Trust.

‘Chair Play’ in the Entrance Hall Credit: Jack Nelson

‘Chair Play’ in the Entrance Hall
Credit: Jack Nelson

Contemporary art installations have been placed in the house to evoke the idea of ‘expect the unexpected’ but are inspired by and use pieces that were originally in the house. Upon entering the building one sees the artist Will Datson’s original take on the idea of hall chairs through his 2.5 metre high installation. He says of it “It was my task to display the original hall chairs in a new way. We all see chairs every day, and usually ignore them, so I’ve attempted to create something out-of-the-ordinary, dramatic and playful, that’s hard to ignore.”

The ‘Golden Box’ in the Dining Room at Croome Credit: Jack Nelson

The ‘Golden Box’ in the Dining Room at Croome
Credit: Jack Nelson

In the dining room, whose plasterwork was painted by members of the Hare Krishna Movement who used the house as their headquarters (1979-84), visitors are confronted by a 2 metre high golden box which contains beautiful examples of Meissen, Worcester and Sèvres porcelains from Croome’s remarkable collection which have been installed by the noted artist Bouke de Vries to form a dazzling ceramics treasury. He simply sums it up saying “It’s been extraordinary to work on this project with the amazing team at Croome”.

Artist Bouke de Vries making the final finishing touches to the ‘Golden Box’ Credit: Jack Nelson

Artist Bouke de Vries making the final finishing touches to the ‘Golden Box’
Credit: Jack Nelson

In the Lord’s Dressing Room you will discover two 18th century Adam-style commodes made for the house by the celebrated firm of Mayhew & Ince who also supplied the seat furniture for the Tapestry Room.  It is worth remembering that the 6th Earl also bought French furniture for Croome in Paris from A la Couronne d’Or, the shop of the renowned marchand-mercier Simon-Philippe Poirier. There is also a portrait of Barbara St John, the Earl’s second wife.

Beautifully crafted 18th century Adamesque commodes with the portrait of Barbara St John in the background. Credit: Jack Nelson

Beautifully crafted 18th century Adamesque commodes with the portrait of Barbara St John in the background.
Credit: Jack Nelson

While Croome’s Tapestry Room is now bare of its glorious contents it inspired the idea of bringing Grayson Perry’s tapestries ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’ to Croome (until 11th September 2016). The six large-scale works, inspired by Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, tell the story of Tim Rakewell and many of the people and things depicted reflect events that Perry encountered in his life. A 1994 earthenware vase by Perry, entitled Spirit Jar is also on show.

Visitors looking at the Grayson Perry Tapestries Credit: Peter Young

Visitors looking at the Grayson Perry Tapestries
Credit: Peter Young

‘Capability’ Brown and the Earl had become friends and thirty years after he started his transformation at Croome he still visited there and indeed Croome was described as his ‘first and most favourite child’.

Visitors looking at the Grayson Perry Tapestries Credit: Peter Young

Visitors looking at the Grayson Perry Tapestries
Credit: Peter Young

In 1783 Brown died while on his way home from dining with the Earl at his London residence. The Earl had a monument erected in Brown’s memory and it bears the inscription:

To the Memory of Lancelot Brown

Who by the powers of his inimitable and creative genius formed this garden scene out of a morass.

The Coade stone monument to Lancalot "Capability" Brown by the lake at Croome Court.The memorial was erected in 1797 following the death of Brown in 1783.

The Coade stone monument to Lancalot “Capability” Brown by the lake at Croome Court.The memorial was erected in 1797 following the death of Brown in 1783.

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome

Inside the Golden Box is an amazing collection of porcelain Credit: Jack Nelson

Inside the Golden Box is an amazing collection of porcelain
Credit: Jack Nelson

For those of you interested in learning more about the 6th Earls collection Sèvres I recommend:

THE SIXTH EARL OF COVENTRY’S PURCHASES OF SÈVRES PORCELAIN IN PARIS AND LONDON IN THE 1760s by Rosalind Savill in the French Porcelain Society Journal, Volume V 2015

A further display of porcelain in the Dining Room Credit: Peter Young

A further display of porcelain in the Dining Room
Credit: Peter Young

 

Grayson Perry (b. 1960), The Upper Class at Bay, 2012 Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London and British Council. Gift of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery with the support of Channel 4 Television, the Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation with additional support from Alix Partners.

Grayson Perry (b. 1960), The Upper Class at Bay, 2012 Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London and British Council. Gift of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery with the support of Channel 4 Television, the Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation with additional support from Alix Partners.

 

Croome Court Credit: David Norton

Croome Court
Credit: David Norton

Sir Edward Heath – at home

Sir Edward Heath – at home in Salisbury

Arundells - Entrance Front

Arundells – Entrance Front

Standing in the wonderful environs of Salisbury’s Cathedral Close is Arundells a beautiful house of Georgian appearance which in part dates back to the mid-thirteenth century.  It was from 1985 to 2005 the home of the former politician and Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath and although he had a long political career the house is very much a personal home which reflects all facets of his life. It is important to remember as you go round it that it remains very much as it was when he lived there.

The Entrance Hall

The Entrance Hall

Immediately on arrival at the entrance hall you get the welcoming flavour of the house and an idea of how the strands of his interests are skilfully woven together. This he achieved with the help of the designer Derek Frost. Many of the paintings in the hall reflect his love of sailing through depictions and models of the five Morning Cloud yachts he sailed and interspersed among them are Napoleonic prisoner-of-war ship models made from bone and rigged with fine strands of hair.  The maritime-inspired combined clock and barometer was a gift from President Nixon.  There are also drawings by Sickert and Augustus and Gwen John.

Sir Edward seated at the piano in the Drawing Room

Sir Edward seated at the piano in the Drawing Room

A photograph of a young Sir Edward with Augustus John and Dorelia can be seen in the adjoining drawing room which is dominated by a Steinway grand piano which Sir Edward played and upon which are photographs of politicians and world leaders.  Among the many artworks in the room are paintings by L S Lowry, Ken Howard RA, Derek Hill and a painting of Heath’s home town ‘Broadstairs’ by Sir Robert Ponsonby-Staples which was a gift from Sir John Betjeman, given as Sir Edward had so often admired it when visiting Betjeman. Two pieces of sculpture one of Sir Winston and Lady Churchill by Oscar Nemon and a bust of Sir Edward by Martin Jennings are worthy of inspection as are the carved Chinese pieces on the mantelpiece and to its right the display of blue and white porcelain including a large pair of bottle vases which were a gift from Chairman Mao.

Portocarrero ‘Girl in a Fantastic Costume Cuba’

Portocarrero
‘Girl in a Fantastic Costume Cuba’

Pictures in the corridor towards the dining room and library include two paintings by Sir Winston Churchill which he gave to Heath.  There is also a fine group of etchings by William Wyllie, two Singer Sargent’s and a painting by the Cuban artist Portocarrero which was a gift from Fidel Castro.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

The dining room is hung with pictures by John Piper, including two Sir Edward commissioned himself.  The table is set for lunch which was one of his favourite ways of entertaining – roast lamb followed by Stilton cheese, halibut and lemon pudding were among his favourites as were Brussels sprouts – and from the place cards on view when I was there one gets an idea of the wide range of people he invited which included Princess Margaret, Sting and Sir Harold Wilson.  Dame Maggie Smith, Terry Wogan and Yehudi Menuhin are among other well-known guests. There is also a large group of ceramic pieces on display including Tang pottery, Sevres, Chelsea and Worcester porcelain as well as some Copenhagen Flora Danica.

A view of some of the ceramics in the Dining Room

A view of some of the ceramics in the Dining Room

The Library overlooking the garden contains the high wing-back chair Sir Edward favoured and it was where he would entertain and chat to colleagues and friends from all political parties and walks of life. The walls are adorned with 18th and 19th century Japanese prints which perfectly suit the room. One of the major achievements of his political life was a growing rapport between the UK and China which is also reflected throughout the house but he also obviously had an interest in their arts and culture which is particularly apparent in the panels of specially commissioned wallpaper on the staircase which relates the popular Chinese legend of the Monkey King. They were a house-warming present from two of his former Private Secretaries.

The Library

The Library

Upstairs is Sir Edward’s study which was his private sanctum and where he worked at a Georgian writing desk which had previously belonged to David Lloyd-George. Heath’s army career is also recalled in another room with uniforms and other memorabilia on show from when he was with the Royal Artillery during the War and later on with the Honourable Artillery Company. His Garter Banner hangs on an upstairs corridor wall.

The Study

The Study

Downstairs just beyond the stair hall is a short corridor which is hung with political cartoons by leading cartoonists such as Giles, Jak, Low and Trog, many of which feature Sir Edward.  He enjoyed sharing them with his visitors although sometimes I imagine it may have been a wry chuckle.

Emmwood ©The Daily Mail

Emmwood
©The Daily Mail

Outside the beautiful garden, an intriguing combination of open spaces and secluded areas, is very much as created for Sir Edward.  It stretches down to the confluence of the Rivers Nadder and Avon and reveals a wonderful view across to the meadows. In one corner is the restored bow of Morning Cloud III which was sunk by a freak wave in September 1974, and whose two crew members Nigel Cummings and Christopher Chadd (Sir Edward’s godson) tragically lost their lives.

The view from the end of the garden

The view from the end of the garden

At the front of the house with its view into the Close and of the Cathedral is an exhibition space in a building which used to house Sir Edward’s archive.  At present (until mid-August) there is a display focusing on ‘World Leaders of the 1970s: A Decade of Turmoil’ which features President Nixon, Leonard Brezhnev, Chairman Mao Zedong, Willy Brandt, Indira Gandhi, President Pompidou, Kakuei Tanaka, Pierre Trudeau and Henry Kissinger.  Interestingly enough the latter will be giving a lecture in London in October as part of a series of celebrations organised by the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation to celebrate the centenary of Sir Edward’s birth (9th July, 2016). The following exhibition which runs until May 2017 is ‘Heath at 100: A Political Life in Cartoons’ which promises to be a fascinating way of remembering the major events of his time in politics.

Tang Dynasty Horse

Tang Dynasty Horse

My visit made a lasting impression and I would readily accept an offer to live there just as it is, because it’s a happy house of taste, comfort and history.  I can quite understand why Sir Edward fell in love with it at first sight and for us visitors today it is extremely fortunate that he was able to acquire the lease in 1992 and that he formed a charitable trust which allows us to share in the delights of Arundells and to remember Sir Edward, the man.

Sir Edward in the garden. The spire of Salisbury Cathedral can be seen in the background.

Sir Edward in the garden. The spire of Salisbury Cathedral can be seen in the background.

http://www.arundells.org

Hiroshi Yoshida The Inland Sea Series

Hiroshi Yoshida
The Inland Sea Series