Display | ‘The Inspection of the Curious’: The Country-House Guidebook

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on September 17, 2016


Garden Front of Blenheim Palace, from Colen Campbell, Vitruvius Britannicus or the British Architect, the Plans, Elevations, and Sections of the Regular Buildings, both Publick and Private, in Great Britain . . . , 3 vols. (London: 1715–25), volume 1. For the display at The Mellon Centre, Campbell’s work is represented by a 1967 edition of the book; the image included above comes from Wikimedia Commons.

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Now on view at the Paul Mellon Centre:

‘The Inspection of the Curious’: The Country-House Guidebook, c. 1750–1990
Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, 5 September 2016 – 6 January 2017

Curated by Jessica Feather and Collections Staff

The fourth Drawing Room Display, curated by Jessica Feather (Brian Allen Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre) and Collections staff, takes material from the Centre’s considerable holdings of Country House guidebooks to focus on three early adopters of the guidebook: Knole (Kent), Blenheim Palace (Oxfordshire), and Burghley (Lincolnshire/Northamptonshire).

The British country-house guidebook is a very specific genre of travel guide, with particular characteristics which have, arguably, remained relatively unchanged from beginnings in the mid-eighteenth century until the present day. Generally small in size, lightweight and inexpensive, they were intended to be portable in order to be carried round the house whilst visiting. The history of the country-house guidebook relates closely to the practice of visiting country houses.

It is a genre which only developed seriously in the later eighteenth century, some years after houses such as Chatsworth, Blenheim, and Burghley opened their doors. A subsequent rise in mass tourism by the mid-nineteenth century, and the appropriation of country houses as part of the national heritage, led to the production of an increased number of guidebooks before the decline in interest in visiting country houses from the 1880s onwards due to economic pressures and anti-aristocratic feeling. This saw a decline in visitor numbers and significant reduction in the number of new guidebooks produced and new editions of older ones. A revival in visiting country houses after the Second World War has been paralleled by the frequent publication of guidebooks in new editions at least up until the 1990s.

Examining the guidebooks of three great houses—Knole, Blenheim, and Burghley—not only allows us to consider the history of this genre, but also brings the historical narratives of these houses into the foreground.

The Paul Mellon Centre has been collecting country-house material and publications over a number of years both by purchase and donations, including material from the collections of Sir Howard Colvin and John Cornforth. For more information on the Library and Collections please click here.

The ‘Inspection of the Curious’ display coincides with the Art in the British Country House: Collecting and Display research project and the Art in the British Country House: Collecting and Display conference which takes place October 7.

Jessica Feather’s 21-page accompanying booklet is available digitally here»

Note (added 20 September 2016) — The original version of this posting mistakenly listed the opening date as 8 February 2017.




New Book | Technology in the Country House

Posted in books by Editor on September 17, 2016

Distributed by The University of Chicago Press:

Marilyn Palmer and Ian West, Technology in the Country House (London: Historic England Publishing, 2016), 272 pages, ISBN: 978-1848022805, $120.

HE Technology in the Country House_FC.inddThe country house has long been an important part of British cultural heritage, beloved not just for its beautiful architecture, furniture, and paintings, but also a means to reconnect with the past and the ways in which families and their households once lived. With Technology in the Country House, Marilyn Palmer and Ian West explore how new technologies began to change country houses and the lives of the families within them beginning in the nineteenth century. A wave of improvements promised better water supplies, flushing toilets, central heating, and communication by bells and then telephones. Country houses, however, were often too far from urban centers to take advantage of centralized resources and so were obliged to set up their own systems if they wanted any of these services to improve the comfort of daily living. Some landowners chose to do this, while others did not, and this book examines the motivations for their decisions.

Marilyn Palmer is emeritus professor of archaeology and president of the Association for Industrial Archaeology. She is the author or editor of many books, including, most recently, Industrial Archaeology: A Handbook. Ian West is an archaeologist and engineer.


Frick Announces Gift of Du Paquier Porcelain

Posted in museums by Editor on September 17, 2016


Du Paquier Porcelain Manufactory, Elephant Wine Dispenser, ca. 1740 (New York: The Frick Collection, gift of the Melinda and Paul Sullivan Collection, 2016; photo by Michael Bodycomb).

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Press release from The Frick, via Art Daily (16 September 2016). . .

The Frick Collection announced a gift from Paul Sullivan and Trustee Melinda Martin Sullivan of porcelain produced by the Du Paquier manufactory in Vienna. The Sullivans generously permitted the Frick to choose fourteen superb examples from their collection, considered to be the finest private collection in the world from this important early Western manufactory. The objects, dating from about 1720 to 1740, perfectly complement the museum’s porcelain holdings, which have grown since Henry Clay Frick’s day to represent in depth some of the best productions of this prized material. Mr. Frick focused his porcelain collecting on Sèvres, which accompanied beautifully the eighteenth-century French paintings and furniture he acquired. In 1966, his collection of Chinese porcelain was augmented by some two hundred pieces through the bequest of his son, Childs. The museum’s holdings were again extended by recent and promised gifts of Meissen porcelain from Henry Arnhold. Now, the Sullivan’s gift of Du Paquier porcelain adds to the Frick’s already strong assemblage, which illustrates the Western fascination with Eastern models and represents the brilliant and distinctive tradition of porcelain production in Europe. Starting September 28, these stunning works will be on view in the Frick’s Reception Hall, remaining there through March of 2017.

Europe had long sought to duplicate the composition and physical qualities of the ceramics it imported from China; the feat was achieved only in the first decade of the eighteenth century at the Royal Meissen Manufactory outside Dresden, Germany, before being replicated by the Du Paquier manufactory in Vienna, then by the Sèvres manufactory in France, and elsewhere. In 1718, Claudius Innocentius du Paquier, an agent in the Imperial Council of War at the Vienna court, was granted a twenty-five year charter by Emperor Charles VI to operate a porcelain factory in Vienna. Although the secret of making porcelain by combining local clays containing kaolin with ground alabaster was jealously guarded by the Meissen manufactory, Du Paquier used his diplomatic connections to lure several key figures from Germany to Austria. These included Christoph Conrad Hunger, a porcelain painter; Just Friedrich Tiemann, an expert in kiln construction; and Samuel Stöltzel, the Meissen kiln master, who brought with him the formula for porcelain paste. Named for its founder, the Du Paquier manufactory produced a range of tablewares, decorative vases, and smallscale sculpture that found great popularity with the Hapsburg court and the Austrian nobility.

An early work of about 1725 testifies to the Viennese factory’s pride in its achievement. A tulip vase, part of a set of vessels called a garniture, features a fanciful view of Vienna and its spiritual center, St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Circling the frame of this scene is a Latin inscription that translates: “The bowls that Vienna formerly shipped here under a thousand perils of the sea, she now produces for herself.” The legend clearly signals the Du Paquier manufactory’s debt to Asian ware, which the Emperor Charles VI’s Ostend East-India Company had imported to the city since 1722.

A number of Asian motifs cover a Du Paquier tureen and stand of 1730–35, a form common in both European ceramic and silver dinner services of this period. Chinese-inspired handles in the form of leaping fish enliven the vessel. Its cobalt blue underglaze decorated with gold patterns and cherry blossoms reflect color combinations influenced by Imari ware, which was imported to Europe from Japan during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Within the fan-shaped cartouches, scenes of Chinese figures and temples have been adopted from German engravings published about 1720 in Amsterdam. The variety of sources and inventive adaptations characterize Du Paquier’s spirited production.

As the renown of the Du Paquier manufactory spread, commissions came from capitals throughout Europe; the emperor and members of his court also sent these prized objects as diplomatic gifts to their counterparts in foreign lands. A magnificent tureen—one of more than forty from an extensive service created in 1735 for Czarina Anna Ivanovna—illustrates porcelain’s role in cementing political and dynastic ties. In 1726, Austria and Russia had signed a treaty of mutual defense against military threats from the Ottoman Empire and subsequently were allies during the War of Polish Succession (1733–35). It is likely that to strengthen this alliance, Charles VI sent Anna Ivanovna the Du Paquier service, most of which is still in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The Russian imperial arms are emblazoned in the center of the tureen’s lid, beneath the finial, a gilded statuette of a cross-legged, turbaned man. These two features perfectly illustrate Du Paquier’s brilliant integration of flat, painted decoration with three-dimensional applied forms. Circling the body of the tureen is a modeled garland held in the mouths of grotesque masks, its brightly painted flowers popping from the surface. In contrast, geometrical bands of a type called Laub- und Bandelwerk accent the bottom of the tureen and the lid. This decorative motif consisting of infinite variations based on patterns of trelliswork, angled strapwork, and stylized foliage became a virtual signature of the Viennese porcelain. Painted in a distinctive palette of iron-red with purple, blue, and green, the designs highlight the factory’s use of exuberant colors.

While sculptural forms like fish handles and seated-man finials are a hallmark of Du Paquier’s production, some works take these features to the highest level. One of the most charming is a tankard of 1735–40, the handle of which is in the shape of a cooper. Identified by the leather apron he wears under his coat, the craftsman specialized in making barrels like that which forms the shape he holds. Designed to contain beer, Du Paquier tankards often had lids, but the cooper’s hands grasp the rim, preventing a top from being added. The lively expression of the man, the bold pattern of flowers set off by bands of Laub-und Bandelwerk, and the tankard’s exceptionally large size make it a superb example of these drinking vessels.

Among the rarest of Du Paquier’s sculptural vessels is the elephant wine dispenser featured on the front of this release, one of three known to survive. A colorfully glazed version, in the Hermitage, is part of an elaborate centerpiece made about 1740 for Anna Ivanovna. That elephant stands above a rotating silver platter on which eight dancing figures hold cups ready to receive wine from the elephant’s trunk. The elephant is ridden by a figure of Bacchus, who can be lifted to fill the cavity with wine. The pure white surface of the Frick elephant allows the animal’s sculptural details to be clearly seen. Although it is possible that it was prepared as a spare in the event of breakage during firing, close observation reveals that the figure was once cold-painted (meaning paint was applied to the surface of the object, but it was not fired afterward). Elephants were favorites of the Czarina, who received one as a gift from Persian emissaries in 1736 and who featured a full-size model in a festival she staged on the frozen Neva River in 1740.

The elephant wine service was among the last of the great works produced by the Du Paquier manufactory. By 1744, its founder was overcome with debt and was forced to sell the factory to Empress Maria Theresa. Over its three-decade history, Du Paquier produced a body of work that was inventive and often whimsical, a truly distinctive voice in the evolution of European porcelain.

Comments Frick Director Ian Wardropper, “It gives me great pleasure to see these works come to the Frick. In 1993, while I was the Eloise W. Martin Curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, Melinda and her sister, Joyce Hill, offered to fund an acquisition in honor of their mother, Eloise. Several suggestions were made, one of which was a group of three exquisite pieces of Du Paquier porcelain that the department was very interested in acquiring. Melinda was smitten with these objects, and—after purchasing the group for the Art Institute—she and her husband, Paul, began to acquire their own Du Paquier works. As their collection grew, so too did their interest in the history of the manufactory and its production, which led them to underwrite the research for and publication of Fired by Passion, a definitive three-volume monograph released in 2009. To celebrate its publication, as the head of the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I initiated an exhibition drawn from the Sullivan’s and the Met’s collection (Imperial Privilege: Vienna Porcelain of Du Paquier, 1718–44). We are now honored to have this exceptional selection of porcelains enter The Frick Collection owing to the Sullivans’ extraordinary generosity.”


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