Display | John Cornforth, A Passion for Houses

Posted in books, exhibitions, resources by Editor on February 16, 2016

Now on view at the Paul Mellon Centre:

John Cornforth, A Passion for Houses: Material on the
Georgian Town House from the Cornforth Library Donation

Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, 8 February — 27 May 2016

Curated by Charlotte Brunskill, Frankie Drummond Charig, Emma Floyd, and Jenny Hill

The second Drawing Room Display, curated by Research Collections staff, focuses on material donated to the Paul Mellon Centre from the Estate of John Cornforth. The display concentrates on the town house in the 18th century and will run from February until May 2016.


Bookplate for John Cornforth, designed by Reynolds Stone (1909–1979).

John Lawley Cornforth (1937–2004) was an architectural historian who wrote numerous articles for Country Life from 1961 to 1993 and worked for the National Trust for many years. His specialism was the 17th- and 18th-century country house, but he also wrote extensively on the town house and its interiors. John Cornforth’s personal working library was donated to the Paul Mellon Centre, through the auspices of the National Trust, in August 2004, shortly after his death. This collection, from which staff selected nearly 800 books and journals, increased the Centre’s already extensive holdings on the history of the town and country house and added considerably to the previously small collection on eighteenth-century decorative arts. He also donated to the Centre’s Photographic Archive the collection of photographs taken for his book, Early Georgian Interiors, published posthumously by Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre in 2004.

The display consists largely of materials donated from Cornforth’s collection but will also include a number of works about John Cornforth or written by him drawn from the rich holdings of the Centre’s library. The holdings relating to John Cornforth are just one of the many points of entry to study the town house of the 18th century in the Research Collections. The Centre’s Archive holds relevant material in, for example, the Oliver Millar Archive and the Brinsley Ford Archive on interiors and architects for this period.

This display is the second in a series featuring material drawn from the Paul Mellon Centre’s own Research Collections. Display and accompanying booklet produced by Charlotte Brunskill, Frankie Drummond Charig, Emma Floyd and Jenny Hill.

The 24-page booklet is available here»

Exhibition | Parties and Entertainment at Court

Posted in exhibitions by Caitlin Smits on February 16, 2016


Charles-Nicolas Cochin the Younger, Le bal des if (The Yew Tree Ball), etching. Masked ball held on the night of 25–26 February 1745 in the Great Gallery at Versailles, to celebrate the marriage of Louis Dauphin of France (father of Louis XVI) and Maria Theresa, Infanta of Spain (Wikimedia Commons).

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Opening this fall at Versailles:

Parties and Entertainment at Court / Fêtes et divertissements à la Cour
Château de Versailles, November 2016 — March 2017

As the political monarch he was, King Louis XIV took “grand entertainment” to the height of its magnificence, making Versailles a venue for celebrations and shows that were ever more grandiose, extraordinary and fantastical. With his eye for human psychology, he understood that the political framework he had forged demanded this “society of pleasures, which gives the people of the Court an honest sort of familiarity with (the sovereign), and touches and delights them more than can be said.” Everyday life at the French Court needed many forms of entertainment. The extraordinary character of royal events was intended to astonish the Court, the kingdom and Europe. Each of his successors, in accordance with their tastes and changes in fashion, preserved this tradition of splendour and creativity in entertainment. The exhibition aims to present the extraordinary variety of entertainment put on at the Court of Versailles, including hunting, shows, comedies, operas, concerts and individual music playing, walks, outdoor games and sport, other games, fires and illuminations, over a fairly long period stretching from Louis XIV to the Revolution. The approach is not designed to be an exhaustive one, but one that shares the feelings of the times through a choice of major works with plenty to delight the eyes and imagination. The curators have relied on scientific expertise in each of these domains.

Exhibition | Versailles and American Independence

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on February 16, 2016


Auguste Couder, Siege of Yorktown: General Rochambeau and General Washington Give Last Orders before an Attack, October 1781, oil on canvas, 1836 (Versailles, via Wikimedia Commons)

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This summer at Versailles:

Versailles and American Independence / Versailles et l’Indépendance américaine
Château de Versailles, 5 July — 2 October 2016

This exhibition aims to reveal the importance of Franco-American relations at the end of the French Ancien Régime. By assisting the rebels, King Louis XVI showed he was in favour of new ideas, and for nearly a decade the Palace of Versailles, the centre of French government and authority, was a key location for independence and its promotion. The political and military alliance between France and the United States had a lasting effect on artistic principles; there was no such thing as major or minor art, as the infatuation with America found a unique place in everyday objects at Court and in popular American, English and French posters.

Note (added 13 July 2016) — A more complete posting for the exhibition is available here.

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