Candle-lit Theater

Posted in journal articles, on site by Editor on April 19, 2014

Michael Hawcroft’s article in the current issue of French Studies should be useful for anyone thinking about candles and early modern lighting conditions, particularly  in the theater. At a more immediately experiential level, The Globe’s new Wanamaker Playhouse (opened since January) serves as the ideal venue.


Les Farceurs italiens et français, ca. 1670
(Paris: Collections Comédie-Française)

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Michael Hawcroft, “New Light on Candles on the Seventeenth-Century French Stage,” French Studies 68 (2014): 180–92.

Abstract: Modern accounts of the seventeenth-century French stage have repeatedly asserted that plays were divided into short acts of some twenty to thirty minutes in performance because the candles that lit the theatres had to be snuffed at frequent intervals. This article claims that there is no evidence for this assertion and aims to evoke the technological constraints of candle usage at the time so as to suggest that candles could be managed in such a way that they did not actually dictate dramaturgical practice. The article considers seventeenth-century theoretical discussion of the division of plays into acts: such discussion never alludes to candles, but refers to historical precedent and spectator attention spans as perceived explanations for the phenomenon of act division. It aims to adduce compelling evidence against the traditional view and concludes that the snuffing of candles took advantage of the opportunity offered by act division, but was never its cause.

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The Wanamaker Playhouse as described by Andrew Dickson for The Guardian:

Andrew Dickson, “New Globe Playhouse Draws Us inside Shakespeare’s Inner Space,” The Guardian (7 January 2014).

Crafted from oak and lit by candles, the Globe’s new playhouse isn’t just a jewel box of a theatre—it’s also a time machine

The new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse—an offshoot of the modern Globe, named in memory of its founder—aims to bring the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries in from the cold, creating an indoor playhouse closely modelled on the one his company began to use in 1608, across the Thames at Blackfriars. Although it’s not the first time someone has attempted the feat—US scholars constructed a rival Blackfriars in the unlikely setting of a small city in Virginia 13 years ago—this will be the most authentic version yet, accurate (or as close as is possible) down to every hollow-bored oak pillar and trompe-l’oeil fresco. The whole project has cost £7.2m: one reason it’s taken the Globe nearly two decades to get around to building it. . . .

The first shock, after descending from the attic, is how tiny the auditorium feels: while the Globe can accommodate 1,500 people, with up to 700 jostling on foot, the Playhouse seats just 340. But this only makes it more intimate, says academic Farah Karim-Cooper, who chairs the research group that has steered the project. “The proximity is unbelievable,” she says. “You can get intimacy in the Globe—and when that happens it’s beautiful. But here, it’s really something.” . . .

But the greatest indoor breakthrough was something we now take for granted: control over light, impossible in the open air until the invention of gas lighting in the late 18th century. The Playhouse will be illuminated exclusively by candles, with artificial electronic daylight filtering through internal ‘windows’. The team hopes this will be the new space’s true revelation. The Jacobeans used candles made from animal fat, but the Globe have gone for pure beeswax, costing up to £500 per show. . .


Portraits and Other Pictures Return to Osterley

Posted in exhibitions, on site by Editor on March 5, 2014

From the UK’s National Trust:

Rare portraits and Other Works of Art Now on Display at Osterley Park and House in West London


William Dobson’s self-portrait on display at Osterley together with the portraits of Robert and Sarah Child and The Music Lesson by Sir Peter Lely. ©National Trust/Chris Lacey

Once described by Horace Walpole as the ‘palace of palaces’, Osterley Park and House’s spectacular interiors were created in the 18th century by the Child family, the owners of Child’s Bank. But for over sixty years their portraits have been absent. Now a major ten-year loan marks the return of the Child family to the house they so lovingly transformed with rare items of furniture and over twenty paintings including many portraits of family members. Among the most famous artworks to return is a self-portrait by William Dobson (1611–1646), court painter to King Charles I, which was bought by the family in the early 18th century and has not been on public display at Osterley  since 1949.

The family portraits

Francis Child III — He succeeded to Osterley in 1756 and began transforming the house with the help of fashionable architect Robert Adam.
Robert Child — Francis’ brother, he inherited Osterley Park and House in 1763 and continued to employ Adam who worked at Osterley until 1781.
Sarah Jodrell — Robert’s wife and a woman of many accomplishments which included her exquisite embroidery, examples of which can be seen at Osterley Park and House.

Alan Ramsay (1713-84) portrait of Francis Child III (1735-63). ©National Trust/John Hammond

Alan Ramsay, Portrait of Francis Child III (1735-63). ©National Trust/John Hammond

Sarah Anne Child — Robert and Sarah’s beloved daughter and a talented musician, whose harpsichord is still on display in the house. She was disinherited from her father’s fortune for eloping to Gretna Green to marry the Earl of Westmorland.

Claire Reed, Osterley’s House and Collections Manager explains: “This is an exciting moment as it really feels as though the family are returning to Osterley. We have beautiful interiors and fascinating objects at the house but until now visitors couldn’t see the faces behind the names of those who made this such a wonderful place.”

Other art works include The Music Lesson by Sir Peter Lely and a large painting of Temple Bar, a detailed London scene depicting the area close to the location of Child’s Bank. Rare pieces of lacquer furniture and other treasured family objects will also be on display, telling stories of the fashions and tastes for collecting in the 18th century.

Osterley Park and House was first opened to the public by the 9th Earl of Jersey in 1939 following a steady stream of requests to see inside the house. It was then transferred to us in 1949. This ten-year loan has been made by the trustee of the Earldom of Jersey Trust, following consultation and backing from the 10th Earl of Jersey.

Also see the posting at Emile de Bruijn’s Treasure Hunt (27 February 2014)»

Exhibition | Medicine and the Eighteenth Century

Posted in exhibitions, on site by Editor on January 8, 2014

As noted by Hélène Bremer, from the Château de Seneffe:

Le XVIIIe et la Médecine
Château de Seneffe, Hainaut, Belgium, 5 October 2013 — 21 April 2014

bannerhumeur (1)L’exposition « Le XVIIIe et la Médecine » sort des sentiers battus par son contenu et son approche scientifique. Elle présente le thème de la médecine non pas uniquement du point de vue purement médical mais bien dans le contexte de la vie de l’époque. En tant que témoins privilégiés- et avec l’apport des instruments scientifiques, d’objets mis en relation avec les thématiques abordées, d’extraits littéraires,…-nous racontons l’existence d’une société en pleine évolution sociologique.

Découvrir ce que signifie la médecine au XVIIIe siècle c’est lever le voile sur différentes pratiques peu conventionnelles, c’est aborder le corps et l’esprit sous différents angles, c’est observer les avancées en la matière qui vont bousculer les tabous et révolutionner les façons de penser et de voir d’une façon plus rationnelle. C’est comme un kaléidoscope de découvertes inattendues et surprenantes. Le XVIIIe avait à cœur de replacer l’homme, en tant qu’être humain, au centre de la société. Les individus sont alors en quête de bien être, comme aujourd’hui. Et depuis, tout continue.


Château de Seneffe
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons, May 2007)

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According to Wikipedia:

In 1758 the ‘Seigneurie de Seneffe’ was bought by Joseph Depestre, a Walloon merchant who earned a fortune by selling goods to the Imperial Austrian troops stationed in the Austrian Netherlands. Depestre’s new status as a wealthy and influential individual was also confirmed by the acquisition of noble titles such as ‘Seigneur de Seneffe’ (Lord of Seneffe) and ‘Count of Turnhout’. The new castle designed by Laurent-Benoît Dewez had to match with Depestre’s new noble status. It was erected between 1763 and 1768 in a novel neoclassical style. When Joseph Depestre died in 1774 the decoration of the château and the embellishment of the park were continued by his widow and his eldest son Joseph II Depestre. . .

Kenwood House Restored

Posted in on site by Editor on December 16, 2013

From The Guardian:

Nicholas Lezard, “Kenwood House Restored,” The Guardian (13 December 2013).

The refurbishment of Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath is complete and its treasures are once again on show to the public. Nicholas Lezard in praise of a stately pile we all own.

kenwood-south-frontKenwood House, a classically styled Georgian villa perched on top of a hill on the northern edge of Hampstead Heath, commanding a spectacular view over the City of London, might have ceased to be in the early years of the 20th century. In the place of the top-of-the-milk-coloured pile, freely available to all to wander through, there’d be the kind of proto-McMansions you see on the opposite side of Hampstead Lane, no access to the grounds, and the open space of Hampstead Heath would be many acres smaller. . . .

It is hard, from a contemporary view of the super-rich, for us to understand what could possibly have motivated the Earl of Iveagh, Edward Cecil Guinness, great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, to buy the house from the Earl of Mansfield, fill it with one of the most valuable art collections in the country, and then leave it for the free use of the public after his death. But then philanthropy had always been a Guinness tradition. . .

And philanthropy is an integral part of Kenwood’s tradition: the first Earl of Mansfield, Kenwood’s first significant owner, was responsible for a landmark judgment in 1772 that was a step towards the abolition of slavery; he also had a half-black great-niece, Dido Belle, whose freedom he carefully emphasised in his will. (You will see a reproduction of a portrait of her at Kenwood with her cousin, Elizabeth Murray, in which she smilingly touches her cheek just in case you had missed the fact of her skin colour.)

For the last year or so, though, Kenwood House has been closed and under scaffolding: its slates cracked, its facade peeling. It had to be patched up before things got any worse. But what is interesting is the way it has been done: the restoration meant chipping through the layers of paint and gilt accumulated over centuries, and bringing back the house as it would have looked to the first earl. The surprise begins before you even enter: the creamy facade is now a more austere sandstone (or, rather, sandstone effect).

The idea is to make visitors feel that they are entering a home, and not a property from which yards of velvet ropes politely, but unambiguously, exclude them. We are to experience the place as the gentlemen and women of the 18th century would have; which was one of the ideals expressed in Lord Iveagh’s bequest. . . .

The full review is available here»

Alastair Smart’s review for The Telegraph (28 November 2013) is available here»

Patrick Baty was among those who consulted for the project (back in 2010 his blog featured a posting on the paint color Invisible Green for the fencing).

The Library or ‘Great Room’ at Kenwood House was built and decorated to Robert Adam designs between 1767 and 1770 as part of the Scottish architect’s remodeling of the villa. The photo on the left shows a 1960s restoration scheme, recently proved to be inaccurate. The current restoration, pictured on the right, depends upon over 400 paint chip samples, a newly discovered inventory, and some of Adam’s original drawings. Photos from English Heritage.

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The press release (26 November 2013) provides details, and here, Susan Jenkins, Senior Curator at English Heritage, together with Jane Findlay, Kenwood’s Audience Development Manager, offers a video introduction:

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From English Heritage:

When Lord Iveagh bequeathed Kenwood and his incredible art collection to the nation in 1927, he did so with the intention that it should be open and free for the public to enjoy. Today English Heritage, with generous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a number of other donors, is furthering his legacy with a major programme of work—Caring for Kenwood. The work saw the house restored and re-presented to be enjoyed by generations to come.

On the new displays (with tense silently updated from future to present). . .

Eight rooms in Kenwood House are represented and reinterpreted. The rooms have been redecorated to focus on the two key areas of historic significance at Kenwood—the principal Adam Rooms and the Iveagh Bequest.

The Adam rooms are represented to show as accurately as possibly the original interior scheme designed and intended by Robert Adam, and visitors will be encouraged to relax and enjoy the new interiors, take in the view and discover the stories of Kenwood through new interpretation devices and archival material. The rooms displaying the Iveagh Bequest are presented to suggest an 18th-century gentleman’s lifestyle—in keeping with Lord Iveagh’s original wishes.

The new interpretive scheme highlights Kenwood’s equally fascinating social and political history, with links to law reform, slavery, brewing and philanthropy told through the lives of the people who lived and worked at Kenwood. With family trails, an interactive dolls house, original letters and architectural designs to leaf through there’s lots of way you can uncover Kenwood’s stories.

To support the project:

Our commemorative mug features a charming illustration of Kenwood House and the Dairy by Emma Bridgewater’s husband, Matthew. It is made of cream-coloured earthenware in Stoke-on Trent, home to pottery manufacturing since the 17th century. Each mug is individually hand-decorated, making each one unique. It is a lovely mug to use, as well as a great way to remember and preserve this important London landmark. This mug has been made exclusively for English Heritage with 50% of sales going directly towards the Caring for Kenwood project. Made in England; hand-decorated; dishwasher and microwave safe; .3 litre/half-pint capacity; 9cm high, 8.5cm wide, £20.

The Burlington Magazine, December 2013

Posted in books, exhibitions, journal articles, on site by Editor on December 13, 2013

The (long) eighteenth century in The Burlington:

The Burlington Magazine 155 (December 2013)


• Richard Shone, “Home is Where the Art Is,” p. 807.

1329_201312Houses once occupied by distinguished residents are a special strand of the heritage industry that increasingly dominates a nation in thrall to all aspects of the past. We are constantly being exhorted to save and preserve this or that—a factory, a view, a manor house, a pier, a site of outstanding natural beauty, the historic habitat of wildlife, or, indeed, of the famous dead. Some of the shrines we visit are more larded with authenticity than others. Inevitably, the further back in time the illustrious lives were lived, the fewer objects there are likely to be which were familiar to the inhabitants. Was this her chair; was this really his easel? The aspic of preservation continually wobbles between the authentic and the fake. We do not always know—are not always told—whether something is ‘of the same period’ or ‘similar to’ or a ‘replica of’ what may or may not have been originally there, under the eye, the hand, the bottom or the feet of the presiding genius. Much depends on the piety of heirs and descendants, the
changing ownership of the house and the fluctuating stakes of fame. . . .

The latest appeal for an artist’s house has much to recommend it and should attract supporters beyond British shores. It concerns the restoration and preservation of J.M.W. Turner’s rural retreat at Twickenham, west London. This is an exceptional project and not simply a matter of tidying up and putting a blue plaque on the front. Turner designed this house himself, and plans for it abound in sketchbooks of c.1810–12, after he had purchased two plots of land near the Thames. The intention is to remove later additions (not serious) and reveal its compact interior, obviously influenced by his friend John Soane’s house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. For Turner, Sandycombe Lodge was for rest and recreation such as fishing (when he could ‘angle out the day’) and hosting friends on excursions for picnics, rather than for long residence and staying guests. Turner sold the house in 1826 and the adjoining meadow in 1848 (to the Windsor, Staines and South Western Railway). Under the auspices of the Turner’s House Trust, the appeal for £2 million is well underway, with support already assured from the Heritage Lottery Fund, among many other organisations and private donors, although further funding is still needed.2 It is expected that the public will be able to visit in 2016.

2. For an entertaining and informative account of the house, see C. Parry-Wingfield, with Foreword by A. Wilton: J.M.W. Turner. The Artist and his House at Twickenham, London 2012. Donations can be sent to the Trust at 11 Montpelier Row, Twickenham, tw1 2nq, or at www.turnerintwickenham.org.uk.

The full editorial is available here»


• Gauvin Alexander Bailey and Fernando Guzmán, “The Rococo Altarpiece of St Ignatius: Chile’s Grandest Colonial Retable Rediscovered,” pp. 815–20.

An examination of the Rococo altarpiece of St Ignatius in Santiago, Chile, and of the European influences on this great retablo.

• David Pullins, “Dating and Attributing the Earliest Portrait of Benjamin Franklin,” pp. 821–22.

A re-evaluation of a painting now found to be the earliest known portrait of Benjamin Franklin, added to an earlier figure of a man by Robert Feke (c.1746–48).


• Elizabeth Goldring, Review of Laura Houliston, ed., The Suffolk Collection: A Catalogue of Paintings (English Heritage, 2012), p. 835.

• Michael Rosenthal, Review of Leo Costello, J.M.W. Turner and the Subject of History (Ashgate, 2012), p. 836.

• Basile Baudez, Review of the exhibition Soufflot: Un architecte dans la lumière, pp. 850–51.

• Xavier F. Salomon, Review of the exhibition Il Gran Principe Ferdinando de’ Medici (1663–1713) collezionista e mecenate, pp. 851–53.

• Angela Delaforce, Review of the exhibition Da Patriarcal à Capela Real de São João Baptista, pp. 855–56.

• Jamie Mulherron, Review of the exhibition Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500–1800, pp. 856–58.

Kinross House Receives HHA Restoration Award for 2013

Posted in on site, the 18th century in the news by Editor on August 27, 2013


Sir William Bruce, Kinross House, Perth and Kinross, 1685

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Press release from the HHA:

The Historic Houses Association and Sotheby’s are delighted to announce that the 2013 Restoration Award has been awarded to Kinross House, Scotland’s first neo-classical Palladian mansion. Built in 1685 by Sir William Bruce, one of the foremost architects of the classical form, the historic house was in need of extensive restoration when its present owner, Mr Donald Fothergill, acquired the property in 2011. In a labour of love, Kinross House and Gardens have been saved from disrepair and meticulously restored to their former glory. Six other applicants from across the UK have been commended or shortlisted for this year’s Award (as listed below).

The entire roof, every single pipe, and every single wire in the 55 room property had to be replaced. Working with sensitivity and respect, and using traditional products and craftsmanship wherever possible, the restoration team remodelled every room drawing inspiration from the house’s own history, historic furniture and artworks. The project also enabled parts of the interior of the house to be completed for the very first time – such as the pediments above the door and the fireplaces in the Grand Salon – elements which Sir William Bruce had been unable to finish by the time of his fall from royal favour and financial ruin.

Dining room

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In line with Sir William Bruce’s vision for the house 350 years ago, the original seventeenth century garden designs have also been reinstalled – restoring the long lost historic views, geometries and horticultural plans which were so integral to Bruce’s neo-classical design. As well as functioning as a contemporary home, the house is now open to the public for the first time in its history, available for special events, weddings and tours.

“The major restoration programme which has been undertaken over the past two years at Kinross has saved and revitalised this hugely important house from deterioration and possible future loss. The scale of the renovation is magnificent, and the house can now be seen by more people than perhaps ever in its long history – it is terrific to see the house coming back to life and being filled once again. Active use of the house is already having a beneficial effect on employment and incomes in the surrounding area. I would also like to congratulate all those projects which the judges have commended as well as those on the shortlist”
– Richard Compton, President of the Historic Houses Association

“This is an heroic restoration of the grandest classical house in Scotland. To see an owner devote such love, care and attention to a house which will continue as a home, is a thorough vindication of the aims of the award “
– Harry Dalmeny, Chairman of Sotheby’s UK

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C O M M E N D E D  P R O P E R T I E S

Allerton Castle, Yorkshire
England’s most elegant and important Gothic revival stately home was previosuly owned by Prince Frederick (the Grand Old Duke of York), brother to King George IV. Dr Gerald Arthur Rolph has dedicated some 25 years to restoring this important Grade I listed house including recent major restoration following a fire in 2005 which destroyed one third of the castle.

Blenheim Palace Vistor Centre
July 2012 marked the opening of a new visitor’s centre at Blenheim – the largest development seen at the Palace for over 200 years. Located in the East Courtyard of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, the new centre has been expertly crafted to seamlessly integrate with its historic surroundings.

Bodnant, Furnace Farm
Unused for 40 years, Furnace Farm, based on the edge of the famous Garden at Bodnant, had deteriorated nearly beyond the realms of repair. Sensitively restored by owners Michael and Caroline McLaren, the farm has been respectfully converted into a Welsh food centre, wine shop and restaurant. Welsh materials and workmanship were used wherever possible.

Rise Hall, Yorkshire
After the Second World War, Rise Hall was used as a girl’s convent school, though 50 years on it had begun to creak under the strain of skeleton maintenance. The present owners, Graham Swift and Sarah Beeny, purchased the house 12 years ago, embarking on a restoration project to ensure a sustainable future for the property. One or two rooms have been left in their original state to demonstrate the exhausting lengths the owners have gone to in order to rescue this house.

S H O R T L I S T E D  P R O P E R T I E S

The Hyde, Tenbury Wells
This Grade II* medieval hall dating from around 1300 is one of the earliest hall houses in the country. Although it was extensively remodelled in the 1840s and again in the 20th century, the house began to reveal the secrets hiding behind its Victorian façade during recent restoration work. Saved from near total loss by owners Lord and Lady Clifton, the house has been sensitively restored using traditional techniques and materials, and displays many of the original features.

The Grove, Essex
The Grove, built in 1754, stands in the centre of a park and pleasure gardens designed by Humphry Repton, the last great English landscape designer of the eighteenth century. Its Coach House, designed to match the elegance of its surroundings, was built in 1840. Now transformed into residential accommodation, the Coach House has been into returned into an integral part of The Grove estate once more.

On Site | Bratislava, Slovakia

Posted in Member News, on site by Editor on August 8, 2013

Eighteenth-Century Encounters: Bratislava, Slovakia

By Michael Yonan


Panorama of Bratislava from the Castle
(Photo by Stano Novak, Wikimedia Commons, 2006)

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Bratislava? Is that in Russia?

It was a typical response to my telling friends that this year’s European peregrinations would take me to Vienna, Paris, and Bratislava. The first two need no introduction; Bratislava does. Despite being the capital and largest city of Slovakia and a cultural center in Central Europe, it is nowhere near as well known as Prague or Budapest, nearby cities with some shared history. Although Bratislava has developed in the two decades since Communism’s fall, it still feels somewhat neglected and lags behind its peers. And yet therein lies Bratislava’s considerable charm. During my week there, I was repeatedly impressed by the beauty of the old city and its many attractions for specialists of eighteenth-century art. I left convinced that it is the forgotten gem among European capitals.

Bratislava 1Today Bratislava is a Slovak city with an appropriately Slavic name. Its cultural history, however, is extraordinarily complex even for this region, and the city displays significant influence from its Czech, Austrian, and Hungarian neighbors. For much of its history, it was known principally by its German name, Pressburg, and it has been home to a sizeable German-speaking minority for centuries. A resident from 1777 to 1783, Franz Xaver Messerschmidt produced many of his ‘Character Heads’ while living there. Under Habsburg leadership, Bratislava was the administrative capital of Hungary, and major Hungarian noble clans – including the Esterházy, Pálffy, and the Erdődy families – built grandiose palaces. Maria Theresa was crowned King of Hungary there (that’s not a misprint: it was King of Hungary), afterward riding on horseback to a nearby hill, where with sword held aloft, she swore to defend the Hungarians against military invasion. She also renovated the local castle with rococo apartments, the most important eighteenth-century Habsburg decorative project outside of Austria. Unfortunately, the apartments burned in a fire at the castle in 1811; we know their appearance today from preparatory drawings. Unlike Budapest, which has a distinctly nineteenth-century look, central Bratislava feels firmly entrenched in earlier eras. Its winding streets, plentiful palaces, church after ornately-adorned church, and mysterious alleyways and staircases provide precisely the historical ambience many of us relish in Europe.

Bratislava 2

Mirbach Palace, Bratislava

As an example of its eighteenth-century architecture, there is the beautiful Mirbach Palace, located in the city center at Františkánske námestie 11.  Its current name comes from a twentieth-century owner, but the building dates from 1768–1770, when the prosperous local brewer Michal Spech built for his family an impressive palatial residence that easily competes with the noble architecture nearby. The architect’s identity is unknown. What I love about this building is the beautiful rococo ornamentation incorporated onto its façade. These forms are lifted directly from prints, particularly by Cuvilliés, but they have a prominence here not always seen on eighteenth-century façades. And, interestingly, the rococo forms are kept rather abstract, with no special iconographical additions that would alert passersby to the inhabitants’ business or pedigree. Its beauty is all the more evocative by being located on a narrow cobblestoned street, a typical streetscape of central Bratislava.

Bratislava 3

Detail from Mirbach Palace, Bratislava

Inside the Mirbach Palace is the Bratislava City Art Museum, which holds a sizeable collection and mounts rotating exhibitions. Not far away is the Slovak National Gallery, Slovakia’s most important art institution. Here one can enjoy a comprehensive collection of eighteenth-century works by artists including Franz Palko, Franz Anton Maulbertsch, and Johann Michael Rottmayr.

While I’m plugging Bratislava, let me add in closing that the Slovaks give the Czechs some serious competition in the realm of beer (as explored by Mark Pickering earlier this year for The Guardian). With brewing skills of this caliber, it’s no surprise that Michal Spech could afford to build a gorgeous rococo abode.

All photos except the first, panoramic view are by the author.

Judge Rules Benjamin West Altarpiece Can Go to Boston

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on July 21, 2013

From The Art Newspaper (11 July 2013) . . .

Anglican Court Says Benjamin West Altarpiece Can Go to Boston
City of London church to sell the masterpiece to fund repairs

By Martin Bailey

Thomas Malton (1748-1804), St Stephen Walbrook, London, watercolour over pencil, heightened with scratching out 26  x 18 inches (646 x 447 mm), Lowel Libson LTD (London).

Thomas Malton (1748-1804), St Stephen Walbrook, London, watercolour over pencil, heightened with scratching out, 26 x 18 inches (646 x 447 mm)
Lowell Libson LTD (London).
West’s Devout Men Taking Away the Body of St Stephen is visible at the altar.

A Church of England court has ruled that Benjamin West’s altarpiece, Devout Men Taking Away the Body of St Stephen, 1776, which was made for one of the most important churches in the City of London can be sold for display in the US. The $2.85m painting is being bought by an anonymous foundation, which is due to lend it to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (The Art Newspaper, April 2013, pp6–7 and June 2013, p3). West was born in America, but worked in England.

In his judgment, delivered on 10 July, Judge Nigel Seed, chancellor of the consistory court of the Diocese of London, ruled that St Stephen Walbrook should be allowed to sell the masterpiece. The painting had been removed from the church in around 1987, in what he described as “perceived illegal actions”, and has since been kept in storage. . .

The full article is available here»

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As a starting place in the scholarly literature:

Jerry D. Meyer, “Benjamin West’s St Stephen Altar-Piece: A Study
in Late Eighteenth-Century Protestant Church Patronage and English
History Painting,” The Burlington Magazine 118 (September 1976): 634-41.

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Posted in on site by Editor on July 20, 2013
siehe Dateiname  Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel, Germany
Photo, 2005, Wikimedia Commons

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From UNESCO (23 June 2013) . . .

Sites in Germany and Italy Bring to 19 the Number of Sites Added to the World Heritage List

Two new sites and one extension to a Polish site were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List on Sunday afternoon, bringing to 19 the total number of sites added to the List during the 37th session taking place in Phnom Penh.

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, Germany

Descending a long hill dominated by a giant statue of Hercules, the monumental water displays of Wilhelmshöhe were begun by Landgrave Carl of Hesse-Kassel in 1689 around an east-west axis and were developed further into the 19th century. Reservoirs and channels behind the Hercules Monument supply water to a complex system of hydro-pneumatic devices that supply the site’s large Baroque water theatre, grotto, fountains and 350-metre long Grand Cascade. Beyond this, channels and waterways wind across the axis, feeding a series of dramatic waterfalls and wild rapids, the geyser-like Grand Fountain which leaps 50m high, the lake and secluded ponds that enliven the Romantic garden created in the 18th century by Carl’s great-grandson, Elector Wilhelm I. The great size of the park and its waterworks along with the towering Hercules statue constitute an expression of the ideals of absolutist Monarchy while the ensemble is a remarkable testimony to the aesthetics of the Baroque and Romantic periods.

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Also from UNESCO:

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe (Photo by Jens Haines, 2012 from Wikimedia Commons)

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe
Photo by Jens Haines, 2012 from Wikimedia Commons

Inspired by the dramatic topography of its site, the Hercules monument and water features of the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe created by the Landgrave Carl from 1689 combine in an outstanding demonstration of man’s mastery over nature. The monumental display of rushing water from the Octagon crowned by the massive Hercules statue via the Vexing Grotto and Artichoke Basin with their hydro pneumatic acoustic effects, Felsensturz Waterfall and Giant’s Head Basin down the Baroque Cascade to Neptune’s Basin and on towards the crowning glory of the Grand Fountain, a 50-metre high geyser that was the tallest in the world when built in 1767, is focused along an east-west axis terminating in the centre of the city of Kassel. Complemented by the wild Romantic period waterfalls, rapids and cataracts created under Carl’s great-grandson the Elector Wilhelm I, as part of the 18th-century landscape in the lower part of the Bergpark, the whole composition is an outstanding demonstration of the technical and artistic mastery of water in a designed landscape. Together with the 11.5m high bronze Hercules statue towering above the park and visible from many kilometres, which represents an extraordinary sculptural achievement, they are testimony to the wealth and power of the 18th- & 19th-century European ruling class.

Criterion (iii): The towering statue of Hercules and the water displays of the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe are an exceptional symbol of the era of European Absolutism.

Criterion (iv): The water displays of Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe are an outstanding and unique example of monumental water structures. Cascades of similar size and artificial waterfalls of comparable height can be found nowhere else. The Hercules statue, towering over the 560 hectare park, is both technically and artistically the most sophisticated and colossal statue of the Early Modern era. The ensemble of water features with their monumental architectural settings is unparalleled in the garden art of the Baroque and Romantic periods. (more…)

Fire Severely Damages the Hôtel Lambert in Paris

Posted in on site by Editor on July 13, 2013

As reported by BBC News (10 July 2013) . . .


Hôtel Lambert, 2 rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Île, Paris
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons, 2010)

A fire has damaged the landmark 17th-century Hotel Lambert in Paris. Dozens of firefighters tackled the blaze, which broke out overnight on the roof of the riverside mansion in the centre of the French capital. The building was being renovated after its purchase by a Qatari prince in 2007. Located on the World Heritage-listed Seine embankment, the mansion was once home to the 18th-century philosopher Voltaire.

It took six hours for the fire brigade to put out the blaze, which started in an area below the rooftop which emergency services found difficult to access. A large portion of the roof has been destroyed. A spokesman for the fire service, Lieutenant Colonel Pascal Le Testu, said 650 square metres (7,000 sq ft) of the roof had gone, along with a section of a central staircase. Some of the brickwork on the front of the building has collapsed. Renowned fresco ceiling paintings by Charles Le Brun in the Gallery of Hercules were also “severely damaged by smoke and water”, Lt Col Testu said. . .

The full article is available here»


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