As part of our continuing partnership with Historic Houses for the Collections Award, from 11-13 July we are privileged to be hosting 'Country House Treasures', a loan exhibition of furniture, works of art and curiosities from some of Britain’s most loved country houses. The artefacts have become a part of our national heritage; each has a story to tell.
As part of the exhibition we have a public vote for the ‘Best in Show’ award - YOUR chance to choose your favourite! If you are unable to attend the exhibition, do not worry, there is now a virtual tour to enable you to cast your vote. Voting closes on Sunday 31 July.
Read on to take your virtual tour of the exhibition, learn more about the different objects, and finally cast your vote!
AN IMPORTANT AND RARE PAIR OF CHARLES II VASES AND COVERS
LONDON, CIRCA 1683
Maker’s mark and silversmith attributed to William Fowle
Height: 14 in, 35.5 cm
For reference for the attribution please see Silversmiths in Elizabethan and Stuart London, Their Lives & Their Marks by David M Mitchell p. 572
For a biography of William Fowle please see the same reference: William Fowle (free 1681, died 1684), His hallmark can also be found on a toilet service on 1683 formerly in the Al Tajir Collection.
William Fowle was apprenticed to Arthur Manwaring who is well known for working in this repoussé style, so popular after the return of Charles II from hiding in Holland.
Charles II was keen to reinstate the splendour of the nation after his coronation in 1660 and many of the early commissions adopted the Dutch taste of chrysanthemums, tulips, and festoons of fruit in the ornamentation.
On loan from: Sir Humphry Wakefield, Bt., at Chillingham Castle
A FINE PAIR OF GEORGE I CARVED GILTWOOD AND GESSO GIRANDOLE WALL LIGHTS
surmounted by the carved and gilded crest (formerly painted) of William Beckford of Fonthill Abbey, the arched and bevelled mirror plate surrounded with faceted mirror glass borders.
William Beckford at Fonthill Abbey
Holyrood House, Edinburgh. Private apartments of the 15th Duke of Hamilton and Brandon. Presumably the dowery of Beckford’s daughter, subsequently Duchess of Hamilton.
Fonthill Abbey—also known as Beckford’s Folly—was a large Gothic Revival country house built between 1796 and 1813, at the direction of William Beckford and architect James Wyatt. It was built near the site of the Palladian house, which had been constructed by his father William Beckford. This, in turn, had replaced the Elizabethan house that Beckford The Elder had purchased in 1744 and which had been destroyed by fire in 1755. Beckford’s 500 labourers worked in day and night shifts. He bribed 450 more from the building of the new royal apartments at Windsor Castle by increasing an ale ration to speed things up. He also commandeered all the local wagons for transportation of building materials. To compensate, Beckford delivered free coal and blankets to the poor in cold weather. The abbey’s main tower
collapsed several times, lastly in 1825 damaging the western wing. The entire abbey was later almost completely demolished.
On loan from: Sir Humphry Wakefield, Bt., at Chillingham Castle
A PAIR OF TUDOR BELLOWS, CIRCA 1550
Walnut, brass and leather, 71.1 cm x 25cm
Pastons of Oxnead Hall; in the private museum of Daniel Boulter (1740–1802) of Yarmouth by 1793; acquired by Thomas Lister Parker (1779–1858) of Browsholme sometime after 1802; by descent to the Parkers of Browsholme.
Drawn by Reverend William Allen, these bellows are accurately depicted in plate LIII of Henry Shaw’s Specimens of Ancient Furniture (London, 1836) as “At Browsholme Hall, Yorkshire”, together with another pair from the collection of “M. Lauvageot”. The latter should be Sauvageot—Alexandre-Charles Sauvageot (1781–1869), the pioneering French collector of the decorative arts. His bellows are now in the Louvre (fig. 89.1, engraving of the bellows). The first book on this subject, Shaw’s Specimens was dedicated to Thomas Lister Parker (1779–1858), antiquary and collector, who had in 1824 sold Browsholme, his ancestral home, to a cousin, Thomas Parker of Alkincoats. The bellows are also just visible in a plate entitled “Interior view of the Hall at Browsholme, Drawn & etched by J. C. Buckler Jany. 1814”, in the Description of Browsholme Hall (London, 1815), published under Thomas Lister Parker’s aegis.
In his text describing the bellows in Specimens, Parker’s friend Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick (1783–1848), another antiquary and collector, rightly disputed “a tradition that they had been left by Henry the Sixth, with his boot, spurs glove and an archer’s brace, at Bolton Hall in Yorkshire”, and observed “were it not for the leaf just above the nozzle I would not have ventured to assign a date so early as Elizabeth”. Their subject, identified by Rush Meyrick as “the fox preaching to the assembled animals”, is a variation on the familiar medieval scene of the fox preaching to the geese, carved on many misericords. The acanthus leaf at the bottom indeed suggests a post-medieval date, though not necessarily as late as Rush Meyrick’s Elizabeth. Sixteenth-century France seems the most probable origin.
The reason for their inclusion in the present volume lies in an entry on p. 53 of the “Parts of Dresses, Utensils and Miscellaneous” section of Daniel Boulter’s priced catalogue of his Museum Boulterianum (London, 1793 or 4): “46 Very curious ancient Pair of Bellows ornamented on the Top with a variety of Figures in Alto-relievo, representing a Fox in the Habit of a Dominican Friar preaching to the Animals, & c. from the Earl of Yarmouth’s Collection, 5l. 5s.’ Boulter (1740–1802), a Quaker dealer in jewellery, silver etc., opened his private museum in Yarmouth in 1778. It was dispersed after his death in 1802, at precisely the time when Thomas Lister Parker, who had inherited Browsholme on his father’s death in 1797, was actively collecting antiquities, and could well afford the five guineas specified in Boulter’s catalogue. This is not profligate with provenances; indeed there are very few. Moreover Boulter’s museum also included brass arms of Sir William Paston and of Yarmouth, probably enamelled (p. 48, nos. 6 and 7), two representations of Sir William Paston’s 1608 memorial inscription in St Nicholas, North Walsham (p. 83, no. 76, and p. 100, no. 265) and a print of “Gulielmus Paston, by Faithorne’ (p. 90, no. 137). Boulter’s father, another Daniel (d. 1775), lived in North Walsham, and probably knew Oxnead even before its increasing decay after the death of the second Earl of Yarmouth in 1732. Both father and son must certainly have known the grammar school in North Walsham, founded by Sir William Paston in 1606. In sum, the Yarmouth provenance seems fully credible.
The Oxnead inventories of 1683 to 1703 list many bellows, but none are described in detail, and their contexts suggest functional objects rather than idiosyncratically carved specimens. Luxury bellows were produced in the late seventeenth century, both silver mounted and with marquetry, as exemplified by examples at Ham House, Windsor Castle, and the Ashmolean Museum, but the Browsholme pair are much earlier in style and must surely have formed part of the “world of curiosityes” which Thomas Knyvett described at Oxnead in 1639.
Description and note compiled by Simon Swynfen Jervis.
On loan from: The Parker family, Browsholme Hall, Yorkshire
A SMALL TARTAN CHILD’S JACKET
Made from the family Murray tartan (ancient)
Made for the children of George, 6th Duke of Atholl during George IV’s visit to Edinburgh in 1822.
George IV’s exceptional trip to Scotland was the first by a reigning monarch since the days of Charles II. A royal visit was a splendid novelty. Heralds, uniforms, banquets, a ‘Gathering of Clans’ for the King’s benefit, with acres and acres of tartan- the was an outbreak of what modern historians have labelled ‘Highlandism’.
At the very point at which actual Gaelic culture was being destroyed by clearances and emigration, dressing in tartan and wearing the kilt has become all the rage with the upper classes- the Atholl’s were no exception, dressing the entire family in the new fashion for the grand parties and receptions they would have attended for the occasion.
On loan from: From the collection at Blair Castle, Perthshire
A BOULDER OPAL, QUILPE, QUILPE SHIRE, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA
This gem-quality Opal (WCMC 480) is the finest of nine specimens in the Williams Caerhays Mineral Collection.
It formed in rocks of weathered Ironstone matrix boulders, hence the name.
This Opal was first discovered on a cattle station south of Quilpe in 1872.
It portrays spectacular flashes of electric blue, teal and green.
A branch of the Williams family ran a livestock station in Queensland in Victorian times and were responsible for providing the specimens currently in the Caerhays Castle Collection.
On loan from: The William Caerhays Mineral Collection, Caerhays Castle
A VEILED VESTAL VIRGIN,
AFTER RAFFAELLE MONTI (1818–1881)
This is a copy of the sculpture by Raffaelle Monti which was commissioned by the 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1846. It is unknown why or how a copy is now housed at Tissington Hall but it is likely that due to the proximity of the FitzHerbert and Cavendish families, and the impressive technique used to capture the image, that in the name of neighbourliness the 4th Baronet was allowed to have a copy made for Tissington.
Veiled figures, usually carved from marble and suggesting a face or body partly obscured behind fabric, had first become popular a hundred years earlier, in the 1700s. The effect is an illusion, of course, enabled by translucent marble and a sly composition. It was in some way a kind of parlor trick for late Baroque sculptors to show off their skill. But as illusions go, it’s mesmerizing, and sculptors competed to put all manner of subjects under “see-through” garments, from the Virgin Mary to Mary Magdalene.
In Ancient Rome, the Vestals were virgin priestesses whose lives were dedicated to the goddess Vesta. They were tasked to look after the sacred fire burning on her altar in the temple of Vesta, and were regarded as fundamental to the safety of Rome. The discovery of a “House of the Vestals” in Pompeii in the 18th century made Vestals a popular subject matter in art over the following 50 years.
On Loan from: Sir Richard FitzHerbert, 9th Baronet, Tissington Hall, Derbyshire
VATHEK BY WILLIAM BECKFORD
Owned by Susan, Duchess of Hamilton (William Beckford’s Daughter) Vathek, one of the earliest and most influential Gothic novels, combined the author’s imagery with Orientalism and Gothic fantasy fiction.
Lord Byron cited Vathek as a source for his poem The Giaour and Eblis, the architect of Vathek’s damnation, was modelled on Iblis or Azazil with Beckford use of the names being derived from John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667 and 1674).
William Beckford (1760-1844) sent his original French manuscript, written in 1782, to his friend, Rev. Samuel Henley (1740-1815). Beckford had intended to publish the French edition first and gave his approval for an English translation to be undertaken.
The first English edition was published anonymously by Joseph Johnson on June 7, 1786, under the title ‘An Arabian Tale’ and claimed in the preface to be Samuel Henley’s own work translated from an Arabic original, William Beckford was furious and due to his wife’s death in Switzerland in May,1786, he was still unaware of the published work’s existence by late August.
Beckford then hastily published French editions in Lausanne (December, 1786, dated 1787) and Paris (1787).
On Loan from: Beckford’s Tower – Bath Preservation Trust
STATUE OF BUDDHA, GILT BRONZE,
SEATED IN MEDITATION
CHINESE, 15TH CENTURY
The collections of Denys Eyre Bower, Chiddingstone Castle, object number 01.1549
This statue belonged to the last private owner of Chiddingstone Castle, Denys Eyre Bower (1905 – 1977). Over a lifetime, he formed the diverse and important collections on display at the Castle today – Buddhist, Stuart and Jacobite, Japanese, and Ancient Egyptian. The Buddhist collection originates from many countries and schools of Buddhism. Denys bought the objects at auction in England and displayed them in his ‘Buddhist Room’.
On Loan from: the Trustees of the Denys Eyre Bower Bequest, Chiddingstone Castle
CREST FOR BRIGADIER HENRY CECIL JOHN HUNT, BARON HUNT,
KG, CBE, DSO (22 JUNE 1910 – 7 NOVEMBER 1998)
On a wreath Argent and Azure, on two Mountain Peaks the dexter higher than the sinister a Chamois statant regardant.
John Hunt, a soldier and explorer, led the team that first conquered Mount Everest in the Himalayas in 1953, though he never went to the top of the mountain himself. Later he became the first Director of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.
On Loan from: Her Majesty’s College of Arms, currently at Layer Marney Tower
CREST FOR JAMES HAROLD WILSON, BARON WILSON OF RIEVAULX,
KG, OBE, PC, FRS, FSS (11 MARCH 1916 – 24 MAY 1995)
On a wreath Argent and Gules, upon a Rock, a Lighthouse in front thereof a Spade blade downwards and a Quill downwards in saltire all proper.
Famous for coining the phrase ‘a week is a long time in politics’ Harold Wilson entered the House of Commons at the end of WWII. A committed socialist, his reforms led to the abolition of the death penalty, the foundation of the Open University and the relaxation of the laws on homosexuality.
On Loan from: Her Majesty’s College of Arms, currently at Layer Marney Tower
ENGLISH SCHOOL (C.1730)
oil on canvas
145cm x 71cm
The date of this picture suggests that it depicts members of the Majendie family arriving at the castle by carriage.
On Loan from: The Lindsay Family, Hedingham Castle
REVEREND MATTHEW WILLIAM PETERS, R.A. (1742-1814)
PORTRAIT OF THE HON. WILLIAM COURTENAY, LATER 9TH EARL OF DEVON (1768-1835)
half-length, wearing blue Van Dyck costume
oil on canvas
30in X 25in.
William “Kitty” Courtenay, 9th Earl of Devon (c. 1768 – 26 May 1835), was the only son of William Courtenay, de jure 8th Earl of Devon, 2nd Viscount Courtenay and his wife Frances Clack. He attracted infamy for a homosexual affair with art collector William Beckford whom he met when he was ten years old. Beckford, 8 years his senior was a wealthy art collector and sugar plantation owner. In the autumn of 1784, a houseguest overheard an argument between the then 16-year-old Hon. (his title at that time) William Courtenay and the then 24-year-old Beckford over a note of Courtenay’s.
There is no record of what the note said, but the houseguest said that Beckford’s response on reading it was that he entered Courtenay’s room and “horsewhipped him, which created a noise, and the door being opened, Courtenay was discovered in his shirt, and Beckford in some posture or other — Strange story.” Beckford was subsequently hounded out of polite British society when his letters to Courtenay were intercepted by Courtenay’s uncle, Lord Loughborough, who then publicised the affair in the newspapers.
On Loan from: Earl and Countess of Devon-Powderham Collections
‘THE BOSWORTH HORN’
A carved cow horn (dated to between 1468 and 1668 via radio-carbon dating), with silver mounts (hallmarked London, 1808) and a brass mouthpiece (1808); with a representation of a king (Henry VII?) or a saint holding a palm-leaf, flanked by three male figures including a bishop; flanked by the coat-of-arms of Thomas Stanley, 2nd Earl of Derby (1484-1521) supported by a lion and another beast; and by the coat-of-arms (mutilated) of the Barons Strange [the 2nd Earl’s father Sir George Stanley KG (1460-1503), married in 1482, Joan, only daughter and heir of John l’Estrange, Baron Strange of Knockin, by Jacquetta, daughter Richard Woodville, Lord Rivers; she was the sister of Elizabeth Woodville, the Queen Consort of King Edward IV]; and a bull’s head with an earl’s gorget, crest of the Hastings family, the Earls of Huntingdon [the 2nd Earl of Derby married in 1506, Anne, the daughter of Edward, Lord Hastings of Ashby-de-la-Zouche, and the sister of George, 1st Earl of Huntingdon]; and with twisted rope decorative and floral motifs [pomegranates?]
Dimensions: 36 cm long; 9.5 cm high (at highest point) 7.7 cm (diam. of
larger end of horn); 2.2 cm (diam. of shorter end of horn); 2.4 cm (diam. of
Said in 1887 to have been ‘found on Bosworth Battle Field’; the Kett family, Witchingham, Norfolk; a Kett heiress, who married Charles Thomson Esq.; his daughter Georgiana married John, Viscount Canterbury; Henry, Viscount Canterbury – via his brother the Honble. John Manners Sutton - presented the horn to Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-93); when displayed in the 1st Drawing Room at Knowsley Hall in 1887; rediscovered at Knowsley Hall in 2019 [hitherto unpublished]
On Loan from: The Derby Collection, Knowsley Hall
Monday 11 - Wednesday 13 July 2022
10am - 5pm BST
16-17 Pall Mall, St James's, London SW1Y 5LU
With thanks to TM Lighting for lighting this exhibition.
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