Enfilade

On Site | The International Museum of the Reformation in Geneva

Posted in on site by Editor on June 9, 2014

exterieur-home

Geneva’s Maison Mallet (to the left), built between 1772 and 1725, houses the International Museum of the Reformation; it stands next to the thirteenth-century St. Pierre Cathedral, the front of which is dominated by a mid-eighteenth-century portico. The photo comes from the museum’s website.

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The Other Side of the Story: The International Museum of the Reformation in Geneva
By Tobias Locker

Art historians are—at least to generalize from my own experience—rarely surprised by museums. And yet, sometimes we visit an institution where subject, setting, and presentation complement each other so favorably that they transform the visit into an inspiring experience. I was recently surprised in such a way at Geneva’s International Museum of the Reformation. The visit expanded and enriched my view of the Reformation, which is sometimes cast as less important than Roman Catholicism for understanding the Baroque, even as it was the trigger for the Counter Reformation. The Museum tells the other side of the story, the one of an influential religious movement inspiring the arts and mentality of the early modern period.

The International Museum of the Reformation was inaugurated in 2005, next to St. Pierre Cathedral in the Maison Mallet, a hôtel particulier, modelled entre court et jardin and built between 1722 and 1725, after plans of the architect Jean-François Blondel (uncle and mentor of Jacques François Blondel, the architectural theorician and author of the famous multivolume works De la distribution des maisons de plaisance… and l’Architecture Française…). At its opening, the museum still had much in common with the original nineteenth-century project of presenting Geneva as the seat of the Calvinist Reformation. But today the focus is—as its name suggests—much wider, extending the narrative of historic Protestantism into the twenty-first century.

Besides offering a fine impression of a prestigious home of a wealthy eighteenth-century Genevan citizen, the museum’s presentation succeeds on multiple fronts. While relatively small, it gives a good idea of the different currents of the Reformation. On its ground floor figures like Martin Luther, John Calvin, the Huguenots, and John Knox are explained while the lower level addresses the development of reformed religions from the nineteenth century to the present in a global context.

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I was particularly impressed by installations allowing visitors to experience the rooms of the Maison Mallet while also employing a varied array of media to make the visit fresh and exciting. The Grand Salon, for example, presents chairs grouped around tables with imbedded screens. A film explaining the essential ideas of the Reformation alternates between these screens and two pier-glasses, which themselves turn into screens during parts of the presentation. I found the multimedia display entertaining and clever; the process of watching the film was made more active as the eye was forced to also experience the room, and, for me, the installation provides a rare case in which Philippe Starck’s translucent ‘Louis Ghost’ chairs serve as an appropriate solution, lightening the density of the room while still acknowledging the eighteenth-century setting.

I was also intrigued by the way the exhibition works well for very different intellectual levels. From a scholarly point of view, the information is satisfying, even as the presentations (in both French and English) are easy to understand. The film in the Grand Salon, for instance, is narrated from the point of view of a child, a ‘customer group’ that in my eyes often is not considered sufficiently. Likewise, some dioramas with cutout copies of engravings animated by the turn of a crank handle are positioned at the height of small children.

The efforts of the museum were rewarded in 2007 with the prestigious Museum Prize of the Council of Europe. The International Museum of the Reformation is well worth a visit, and the quick 45-minute walk-through you originally had in mind might extend into a longer visit. If you have energy and time left afterward, you could visit the adjoining St. Pierre Cathedral and the archaeological site under the present thirteenth-century structure, with ruins of earlier churches dating back to the fourth century (the site’s importance was recognized with a Europa Nostra Award in 2008).

Tobias Locker is an art historian and lecturer based in Barcelona/Spain. His research focuses on furniture and decorative arts of the eighteenth century in Europe.

Opening Dates for Frogmore House and Garden for 2014

Posted in on site by Editor on May 19, 2014

Press release (23 April 2014) from the Royal Collection Trust:

Frogmore. Photo by Gill Hicks from Wikimedia Commons, 2006.

Frogmore. Photo by Gill Hicks from Wikimedia Commons, 2006.

Frogmore House and Garden—the charming royal retreat set within Windsor Castle’s magnificent private Home Park—will open to the public on 3, 4 and 5 June, as part of the annual Charity Garden Open Days, and on 16, 17 and 18 August 2014.

Built in the 17th century, Frogmore became a royal residence in 1792 when George III purchased it for his wife, Queen Charlotte. Since then successive monarchs have enjoyed the tranquil surroundings and delightful interiors. Although it is no longer an occupied royal residence, it is frequently used today by the Royal Family for private entertaining.

The interior of Frogmore House bears testimony to the interests and talents of the generations of the royal family who have resided there. Queen Charlotte’s passion for botany is particularly evident. She commissioned Mary Moser, the renowned 18th-century flower painter, to decorate one of Frogmore’s principal rooms to resemble an arbour open to the skies. The result was said to be the Queen’s favourite room in the house. George III and Queen Charlotte’s third daughter, Princess Elizabeth, continued the floral theme and decorated The Cross Gallery, which spans the entire breadth of the building, with painted flower garlands.

Victoria, Duchess of Kent, lived at Frogmore for almost 20 years and works by the Duchess and her daughter, Queen Victoria, can be seen on display within the house. Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor during her long widowhood. Watercolours painted by her daughters, the Princesses Victoria and Louise, can also be seen at Frogmore.

The gardens at Frogmore House are one of its most enduring attractions. In 1867, Queen Victoria wrote “this dear lovely garden. . . all is peace and quiet and you only hear the hum of the bees, the singing of the birds.” First laid out for Queen Charlotte in the 1790s with 4,000 new shrubs and trees, it is based on a model ‘picturesque’ landscape. Garden features such as a Gothic Ruin, designed with the assistance of her daughter, Princess Elizabeth, were added shortly afterwards.

The design and planting scheme seen today incorporates additions made during Queen Victoria’s reign, and that of Queen Mary’s, who redesigned the gardens and introduced numerous flowering trees, shrubs and grasses, and some 200,000 bulbs. Numerous trees and shrubs, presented on the occasion of Her Majesty The Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, were subsequently added. Today, visitors can enjoy gentle garden walks and views of Queen Victoria’s Tea House, the white-marble Indian Kiosk, and the 18th-century lake.

Frogmore House and Garden are open on 3, 4 and 5 June in aid of the National Gardens Scheme, The Leprosy Mission and Parkinson’s UK respectively, and on 16, 17 and 18 August. Tickets and visitor information: www.royalcollection.org.uk.

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.

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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

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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.

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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).

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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:
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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)

E D I T O R I A L

• 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»

A R T I C L E S

• 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).

R E V I E W S

• 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

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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

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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.

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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.

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