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El Greco travels to Paris

ElGrecopainting_HarewoodHouse_CharlotteGrahamHarewood’s Renaissance masterpiece Allegory by Domenikos Theotokopoulos (known as El Greco, the Greek) will be leaving the House for a short while for a trip to Paris where it will be on show as part of a major retrospective of the artist’s work at the Grand Palais.

The exhibition will be on from 14th October 2019 until 10th February 2020 and will be the first major El Greco exhibition in France for many years. Some works will then tour to the Art Institute of Chicago but Allegory will come home to Harewood,  due back in time for opening in March 2020.

The painting, whose full title is full title An Allegory with a Woman lighting a Candle in the Company of an Ape and a Fool (‘Fábula’,) dates from around 1577. It was bought by Henry, Viscount Lascelles, (later 6th Earl of Harewood) in 1917 after he inherited a large amount of money from his great uncle, the 2nd Marquess of Clanricarde. As a young man Henry had developed an interest in Italian pictures, his inheritance allowed him to indulge his passion and amass the collection which is on display at Harewood today.

El Greco was born in Crete in 1541, trained as an artist in Venice and in the 1570s settled in Toledo, Spain, where he died in 1614. He often made several versions of his works; Harewood’s Allegory is one of three known versions and is the only one being lent to this exhibition. It is also the best preserved and the only one which is signed by the artist. El Greco had fallen out of favour somewhat as an artist when Henry purchased the painting, so it is an unusual work to find in a country house. The painting will feature in the exhibition catalogue and a new publication El Greco: Ambition and Defiance which is due to be published in 2020.

As part of the preparation for the exhibition, the painting will be undergoing minor conservation work including a surface clean and re-varnish, so it will return looking a little lighter and brighter than it does now.

Paula Martin, Collections Manager at Harewood said; “This is the first major retrospective of El Greco’s work to be shown in France so we’re delighted to be able to lend this iconic work. It’s the first time the painting has left Harewood in 15 years, and although it will be missed, it means that a whole new audience will be able to see and appreciate it.”

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Behind the Scenes with the Collections Care Team…

Chippendale Pier Table_Harewood House

Picture Credit Charlotte Graham for Harewood House Trust

The Collections Care Team at Harewood House Trust is truly a behind the scenes team, ensuring that the museum-accredited collection is maintained to the highest quality of standards, with conservation and preservation at the top of the list.

In a series of blogs, we go behind the scenes with the Collections Care Team, which comprises a team of three, including Jayne, Collections Care Officer, who has worked with the historic collection for 30 years, Rachel and Amy, Collections Care Assistants, who have worked at Harewood for four and two years respectively, to understand more about this vital part of the charity’s work.

What’s a typical day for you?

No two days are the same when caring for collections. Although we can often be seen checking around the House at the start of each day, making sure nothing has too much dust build-up (simple, but one of the most key elements of collection care and preventive conservation), our day does not end there. We then carry out a rolling programme of cleaning, maintenance, and monitoring across 31 storage areas and the 24 rooms open to the public. Our tasks range from carrying out light readings, checking insect traps, repairing library books, giltwood cleaning, winding clocks with our Conservation and Technical Officer, Roger, and auditing and updating records on our collections. Our collections range from the furniture, porcelain, and artwork that Harewood House is noted for, to textiles, taxidermy, archives, and the fixtures and fittings within these rooms, carpets, curtains, pelmets, windows, and floors. As you can see our small team of three has their work cut out!

What’s your favourite part of the job?

We are all interested in preventive conservation, so being able to work with such a varied collection and all the different materials that come with it is an amazing opportunity. We love the variety that comes with the job, and that one minute we can be on our hands and knees checking for pests on an Axminster carpet and the next helping re-hang a painting or move a Chippendale sofa, our role rarely gets stale.

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A new Channel 4 programme features the Princess Mary archive

The balcony at Buckingham Palace, Silver Jubilee 1936

The balcony at Buckingham Palace, Silver Jubilee 1936

The Princess Mary Archive, housed at Harewood House, features in a new three-part series on Channel 4 from Sunday 11 August.

A new series tells the story of the royal family over three turbulent decades from the 1920s to the end of World War Two, and draws extensively from a series of personal letters, diaries and photograph albums, many of which are held at Harewood House. The series looks at key moments in history from the end of the First World War onwards, including events around George V changing the royal family’s name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor and Princess Mary marrying Henry, Viscount Lascelles and future 6th Earl of Harewood.

This will be the first time that contents of The Princess Mary Archive have been so visibly and comprehensively explored for a documentary, following its long-term loan to Harewood House Trust in 2018. Totalling over 170 boxes, it includes her private correspondence, press cuttings and diaries, which relate to her wedding, family and public life. While this archive has been known and researched for displays at Harewood, Princess Mary’s vast personal correspondence is yet to be fully catalogued. The archive’s loan to the Trust, coupled with investment by the Trust in a new Collections database, will enable a programme for this cataloguing to be put in place over time.

As this cataloguing takes place, the Trust will look to provide access in line with its mission as an educational charity to maintain and develop Harewood, its collections and grounds for the public benefit. The centenary in 2022 of the marriage of HRH The Princess Mary to Henry, Viscount Lascelles will be just one platform for sharing new information as it is uncovered.

The Queen’s Lost Family airs on Channel 4 at 8pm for three weeks from 11 August.
28 September – 3 November 2019 b‘Highlights from a Royal archive’ at Harewood House

Features the recently conserved wedding train and slippers and a flower headdress, in addition to personal letters, diary entries and artefacts.

Working on large-scale filming…Downton Abbey

DowntonAbbey_FilmingCollageThe excitement and countdown to the Downton Abbey film has begun, with new trailers appearing regularly online ahead of the 13 September release date. This is a much-anticipated event on the film calendar and especially so for Harewood House, which was used as one of the filming locations and settings.

Filming took place in October 2018, when over 100 cast and crew set up in the House and grounds for just under a week. Whilst working on major film projects such as this is extremely exciting, this is also a big undertaking for somewhere like Harewood, a visitor attraction open daily to the public and also a national charity and museum, with a commitment to making its collection accessible and available to the general public.

To give an idea of what it’s like when filming is ongoing, for the few days that it took place, the car park was taken over by a Unit Base, which included trailers for hair and make-up, additional toilets and vans with props and equipment. Cranes and lighting rigs were established on the Terrace to beam large areas of light into the room and to make day into night and night into day. Inside the House, the Tech Village was mainly the Gallery and the directors’ area and screens were located here, in addition to kit, sound technicians, props managers, hair and make-up artists and a general area in which the cast could relax. One of the challenges with working on this scale is to ensure the protection of the artwork and furniture. The Gallery in particular has some of Harewood’s most treasured and valuable pieces, including the Renaissance art collection and some of Chippendale’s finest chairs, pier tables and mirrors. A member of the Collections team was on hand at all times, and there are additional considerations, such as ensuring mats protect equipment from the floor and retaining clear space around the collection pieces. But then add over 100 people into the equation…

One of the most interesting moments came when the Gallery was transformed into the scene of a Ball at Harewood. This necessitated soft lighting and also lighting that was higher within the room. Helium based lights were brought in, under the watchful eye of the Collections Care team. This was a striking image to see giant space-age-looking rectangular helium balloons floating within the classical context of the space.

Harewood House is no stranger to filming and has been used extensively and successfully over the years for many different filming projects, including for two seasons, ITV’s Victoria. Additional work to accommodate filming includes changing picture lights, removing paintings, winding down any clocks to avoid chiming (there are over 30 clocks in the House), removing carpets and porcelain to be stored safely and replaced with replicas and cataloguing the location of every single object which is moved to ensure its safety.

But the magic of TV and film can not be paralleled. Rooms and spaces are transformed, modern features disguised to create an even truer reflection of the period. Furniture is brought in and the ingenious work of the set designers alter the rooms with which we are all so familiar.
Harewood staff had the great fortune to meet members of the cast, including Maggie Smith, Phyllis Logan and Hugh Bonneville, who all showed appreciation for the stories of Harewood and made positive comments about the House and its setting.

We have been more than excited to see the current trailer, where the Gallery, Cinnamon Drawing Room and Terrace are featured. To coincide with the release of the film on 13 September, there will be a display of a selection of Princess Mary’s papers and a display of her wedding veil, slippers and tiara. We’re hoping Downton lovers will want to explore Harewood for themselves.

Ice, ice piggy…

Ice blocks in the Farm ExperienceThis week Bird Garden and Farm Manager Nick Dowling and his team created some special ice lollies…

As the nation is enjoying/managing unprecedented temperatures and with the heat as high as 34 degrees in Yorkshire this week, we’ve been taking measures to ensure the wellbeing of the animals in the Harewood Farm Experience.

Whilst the penguins at Harewood are not unaccustomed to warm temperatures, this is a Humboldt penguin colony, from the Atacama Desert in South America. The bird though did appreciate giant ice blocks of frozen sprats thrown into their pool, which cooled the pool down too.
Over to the pot-bellied pigs and the goats, a mixture of fruit and vegetables were frozen into ice blocks and then hung for the animals to approach and lick to cool down.

The blocks included grapes, corn, carrots and other fruit. The goats in particular approached these with great interest.

Nick said; “There’s plenty of shade here for the animals to rest and relax in, whilst the temperatures rise, but we wanted to give them an extra treat and an opportunity to try something new, hence the ice blocks. Whilst Trotters and Pudding (the pigs) were not initially sure about it, the goats seemed delighted, and we’ll just keep adding new blocks as the ice melts over the warm weather.”

Visitors can book onto a Keeper Experience at Harewood, feed the penguins and walk the alpacas…find out more online.