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Getting Hands-On During National Volunteer Week

Volunteering at Harewood

There are over 200 active volunteers working in the Harewood House Trust, giving around 20,000 hours of free support each year to maintain and promote the House, the Gardens and the Bird Garden.

During National Volunteer Week at the beginning of June, members of the Harewood House Senior Management team turned their backs on their paperwork to get hands-on with the volunteers, and spent a half day working side by side in an area very different to their own.

Over ten members of staff took part, which included Trust Director Jane Marriott picking up a spade in the Walled Garden and putting in some of the groundwork ahead of the soon-to-open Seeds of Hope exhibition. Damian Clements, Head of Finance, cast aside his numbers to lead a new charge – that of the Shuttle bus that transports visitors around the Estate. And Trevor Nicholson, Head Gardener, buried his head in the Spanish Library, researching plants from 1918 together with weather conditions recorded in journals during that time, ahead of the new exhibition.

Many volunteers have been with the Trust for over ten years, with new volunteers joining all the time. They possess such a wealth of knowledge of the Collections, of stories relating to people and places and in addition to that, a real passion, dedication and commitment to their work.

The experience across National Volunteer Week was a huge success and the plan is to roll the opportunity out to further staff members across the Trust.

Volunteering at Harewood

Damian Clements, Head of Finance; “This was a great initiative. I had a fantastic experience with Skipper Tim. It was lovely to spend a couple of hours seeing what he gets up to on his rounds and there’s even more to it than I realised.”

Comment from Jules Caton, Interim Marketing Advisor; “I found it a real privilege to spend the time feeding chickens, meeting goats and collecting eggs and I very much enjoyed meeting the team who were working in the Walled Garden. This was a great experience.”

To keep up to date with news and behind the scenes from the Harewood House Trust, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Professor Ann Sumner on the Chippendale Diana and Minerva Commode

In her first blog as part of the Chippendale 300 series sponsored by Christie’s, Harewood’s Historic Collections Adviser Professor Ann Sumner shares her research on one of the most spectacular pieces of Thomas Chippendale furniture in the Harewood collection.

The Diana and Minerva Commode, 1773, usually on display in the State Bedroom, is currently displayed in the Ante Room as part of the exhibition Designer, Maker, Decorator.

The Diana and Minerva Commode is one of the most famous pieces of Thomas Chippendale furniture in the world. It is the finest of a distinguished group of marquetry furniture that was supplied to Edwin Lascelles in the 1770s for the interior of his new house at Harewood. A commode is the term used to describe an elaborate chest of drawers popularised in France, which in turn, became much desired in England too. This commode was designed as a tripartite breakfront dressing commode and is generally considered to be Chippendale’s finest Neo-Classical masterpiece, with its superb craftsmanship and the elegant lines of its distinctive rectilinear design, along with splayed sides and decorative motifs of swags of husks, repeated garlands of flowering acanthus leaves and radiating fans. The main feature is the central concave recess with superbly executed ‘trompe l’oeil’ marquetry, enabling a lady to sit in front of it and use the central compartmented drawer.

Detail showing the acanthus leaves design.

 

A status symbol

The Diana and Minerva commode was supplied for the State Dressing Room (now the Spanish Library) in November 1773 and the Harewood bill described it in much more detail than any other item for the room – ‘A very large rich Commode with exceeding fine Antique Ornaments curiously inlaid with various fine woods . . .  with Diana and Minerva and their Emblems Curiously inlaid & Engraved’. This would indicate that although it was not the most expensive item in the room, it was highly regarded by the maker who so carefully described it. Chippendale only detailed truly exceptional furniture in such terms and the use of ivory in particular was reserved for only his firm’s most sumptuous marquetry work. The cost of the commode was £86 and a protective leather cover was also supplied for a further £1 to prevent fading.

An extract from the original bill in which Chippendale describes the Diana and Minerva commode, 1773.

The piece takes its name from the two Roman goddesses represented in dark roundels facing each other on either side of a feminine concave central section. The first is Diana, the goddess of hunting, with her emblem of the crescent moon, bow and hunting dog, and the second is Minerva, the goddess of learning and the arts – often seen as a patron of the arts – with her helmet, spear and shield representing her interest in war. Both are appropriate for the patron Edwin Lascelles, with his patronage of the arts and enthusiasm for country pursuits. The roundels are surrounded by laurel wreaths.

Details of the two roundels containing the Roman goddesses, Diana, the goddess of hunting and Minerva, the goddess of learning and the arts.

The State Dressing Room in which this commode was situated is described as being ‘Thirty feet by twenty-four; the furniture green and gold’ with a ‘chimney-piece of white marble’ in the History of Leeds guidebook of 1797. This elegant commode would originally have been displayed to best advantage situated under a superb mirror on the pier between the two windows in this luxurious room, adjacent to the State Bedroom. The ‘very large pier Glass’ sited above the commode cost Edwin Lascelles £290. Today in the current exhibition, the mirrored display helps give an idea of how the commode would have looked with a mirror above it. The Chippendale firm further supplied two large ‘richly Carved’ sofas costing together £64, with green serge protective covers at £5 10s. There were also twelve ‘Carved Cabriole’ armchairs which matched those in the bedchamber ‘gilt in burnished Gold, Covered’, costing a further £120, with their covers at £6.6s. The walls were richly hung with green damask as in the State Bedroom, finished with an ‘Antique Border gilt in Burnished Gold’ and there was a ‘very Elegant Chimney glass’. Green was a popular colour in the 1770s and in this case, the damask had been purchased by Edwin directly, demonstrating how engaged he was in the decorating of his new home. This commode was conceived as a piece of ‘parade’ furniture, used as a symbol of status and wealth and was ‘paraded’ formally against the walls to both impress, reflect and harmonise with Robert Adam’s elaborate interior decorative scheme. Commodes quickly assumed the status of the most prestigious type of ornamental cabinet furniture. Although commissioned for the State Dressing Room, the commode is usually displayed in the State Bedroom against the green damask walls, following restoration of the room in 1999 – 2000.

Detail of the inside of the coved door.

 

Craftsmanship

The main carcass of the commode was made of mahogany (the most common cabinet wood used in the 18th century and favoured by Chippendale more than any other tropical wood), oak and pine. The thin veneer ground is golden satinwood from the West Indies, which would have been carefully hand-cut and inlaid with dyed exotic tropical hardwoods such as rosewood and tulipwood. The sheen of the satinwood, applied with the grain going in various directions, gives the piece a jewel-like quality, catching the light at differing angles. The pictorial roundels representing the goddesses are inlaid with expensive ebony and ivory. Some of the inlaid woods were stained a variety of colours, whilst others were finely engraved with details such as leaf veins or scorched on the edges by being dipped in hot sand to give a 3-D quality. Engraving is employed with cross-hatching applied to the precious ivory as well, to highlight facial features and areas of flesh for the goddesses. The coved door is also a unique feature in Chippendale’s work and achieved by steaming strips of mahogany to shape them, using a technique similar to barrel making. The concave sides accommodated the hanging of curtains since the commode was placed on the pier, between the windows where it was originally sited.

Detail of the central, finely executed coved door with trompe d’oeil marquetry.

The top of the commode illustrating the beautiful marquetry and the extended open compartmentalised drawer.

The exquisite marquetry top would have been reflected in the mirror above, highlighting the detailed craftsmanship. The inlay colour scheme was predominantly pink and green, but despite the protective covers, the commode has faded and originally the marquetry would have been much brighter. Overall, the high technical finish is outstanding, as is the rich ormolu decoration. It is not known if this decorative brasswork was actually made in the Chippendale workshop as possibly the casting and chasing may have been sub-contracted, although there was a forge in the premises at St Martin’s Lane which suggests that he may have employed a brazier himself. It is key to note, as has been pointed out recently by James Lomax, that the use of ormolu is restricted to the stiff leaf scrolled brackets in the entablature. Although the Diana and Minerva commode was a piece of ‘parade’ furniture, it has functional elements such as the top dressing drawer which still contains neatly fitted, lidded and boxed compartments with the original glass cosmetic bottles and comb trays, and would originally also have had a fitted mirror.

The level of craftsmanship throughout the State Dressing Room was superb, but the Diana and Minerva commode was the outstanding piece, with its eloquent marquetry designs, intricate ivory inlay and drawers that still whisper shut, demonstrating the technical brilliance of the workshop where it was produced. The classical theme of the commode reflected the image of Edwin’s home, where the ancient Roman ideal of cultivated leisure on a country estate would be enjoyed by all. In total, the cost of furnishing the State Dressing Room to this luxurious standard was over £1,000 and within this context, the Diana and Minerva commode seems particularly reasonably priced at £86. It is often compared with the Renishaw commode, originally designed by Chippendale for the Dining Room at Melbourne House in Piccadilly for Lord Melbourne, which was however never intended to be a dressing commode. There it was seen by Thomas Mouat on a tour with Chippendale’s financial partner, Thomas Haig. Mouat recalls that the commode cost £140, making it far more expensive than the Harewood Diana and Minerva commode. Of course, the price might have been exaggerated by Haig or it might have been more expensive because of the larger amount of ormolu decoration. It also differs from the Harewood commode in that holly is used as the principal veneer, which has faded. The Renishaw commode was acquired at auction in 1802 by Sir Sitwell Sitwell of Renishaw in Derbyshire, where it remains today, hence the name ‘Renishaw commode’.

As with other rooms in the house, the décor of the State Dressing Room was transformed quite quickly with the arrival of family portraits. The History of Leeds guidebook in 1797 describes the State Dressing Room, some 25 years after it was completed, as already having the famous portraits of Edwin Lascelles’ step-daughters hanging in it – ‘The pictures of the Countess of Harrington and Lady Worsley, by Sir Joshua Reynolds’ (p 102). Despite the fame and admiration for this commode today, it is not singled out in this guidebook or by early visitors to the house for particular attention or praise. The commode is part of a group of celebrated marquetry pieces at Harewood, all dating to the 1770s, including the marquetry satinwood fall-front secretaire, inset with oval medallions enclosing a classical urn and reclining figure, which can be viewed in the State Bedroom today and a magnificent semi-circular table made originally for the Yellow Drawing Room, which has emblematic heads inlaid with ebony and ivory also.

Sir Charles Barry’s alterations to the interior of Harewood produced a house well suited to the complex structure of aristocratic Victorian society and improved domestic organisation. The State Dressing Room became a breakfast room with the addition of bookshelves and was situated next to the Countess’ Sitting Room, overlooking the new parterre. With this change of function, the beautiful Diana and Minerva commode moved to the Countess’s Sitting Room, the original State Bedroom, where it remained for many years, even when this room was Princess Mary’s Sitting Room and it was used by her, as her son the 7th Earl of Harewood remembered. It has found a permanent home in the State Bedroom since the restoration of this room in 2000. For the exhibition ‘Designer, Maker, Decorator’, the commode is for the first time displayed using mirrors to show aspects of the commode to full advantage, just as the original pier mirror would have done in the State Dressing Room, enabling visitors to see the details of the design, quality of the materials used and outstanding craftsmanship in detail.

Rebecca Burton, Collections Assistant, giving visitors a rare opportunity to see the central compartmentalised drawer opened for them to view in the exhibition. See the Diana and Minerva Commode in the ‘Thomas Chippendale: Designer, Maker, Decorator’ exhibition at Harewood House until 2nd September, 2018.

With thanks to James Lomax for discussions about the Diana and Minerva commode. For a full comparison between the Diana and Minerva commode and the Renishaw commode see James Lomax The Panshanger Cabinets in Context, 21 July 2017, on the Firle website under House, Family and Collection articles.

Professor Ann Sumner, Historic Collections Adviser, April 2018

Look out for Ann’s next blog in May when she shares her interview with Dr Adam Bowett, Chairman of the Chippendale Society and more on her paper about what early visitors thought of the Chippendale interiors at Harewood when they first saw them in the late 18th century.

Kindly supported by

2018

A big thank you to all of our visitors and members who supported us in 2017!

We are very much looking forward to 2018 and this year, we will be doing things a little bit differently, with a changing theme for every season.

In the Spring, we will be celebrating the 300th anniversary of Chippendale’s birth. Through a series of exhibitions, events and activities, Designer, Maker, Decorator offers a new way of looking at Chippendale’s work and a story unique to Harewood. Chippendale was born just 7 miles down the road from Harewood in the town of Otley and in 1767, he received the largest commission of his career, to furnish the newly built Harewood House. The season will also include a contemporary response to Chippendale from artist Geraldine Pilgrim, with both internal and external installations.

Throughout the Summer, we will be working in creative partnership with Lord Whitney, looking at life at Harewood at the end of the First World War. Seeds of Hope will explore the life and experiences of the local community and the people who lived and worked at Harewood during this period. Featuring crops, livestock and exhibits that will take visitors back in time, we will create a picture of the Walled Garden as it was in 1918.

Towards the end of the year, our thoughts will turn to artisans, designers and the contemporary with exhibitions, installations and events that celebrate craft.

Throughout the year, we will also have an exciting range of external events taking place, from our ever-popular annual Great British Food Festival and Rolls Royce Rally, to Classic Ibiza – a new, family friendly addition to our events programme.

Look out for more details and a full programme coming shortly. We look forward to welcoming our visitors and members for this exciting year ahead when we re-open on Friday 23rd March.

The Antiques & Fine Art Fair

The Antiques & Fine Art Fair at Harewood returns to the spectacular surroundings of Harewood House at an earlier time of year, from Friday 12 to Sunday 14 May 2017. Organised by The Antiques Dealers Fair Limited, the fair is staged in a purpose-built marquee overlooking the stunning Capability Brown landscape towards the 18th century country house near Leeds in West Yorkshire, dubbed one of the great Treasure Houses of England.

The fair, supported by Knight Frank Harrogate, now in its 6th year, is a firm fixture in the diary for the discerning interior decorator or private buyer looking for distinctive, unusual and individual pieces for the home. There are around 30 exhibitors taking part, the majority being members of BADA or LAPADA, the leading UK dealers’ trade associations, and all abide by strict codes of practice.

One of the highlights of the fair is an important, possibly unique, pair of George III cast neo-classical silver vases made in London in 1792 by William Holmes, priced at £11,750 from Mary Cooke Antiques. This type of vase is extremely rare and the work of William Holmes is also scarce. These vases are particularly appropriate for Harewood, though not directly designed by Robert Adam, their form is strongly influenced by his design books and Adam worked extensively at Harewood during this period. From local silver dealer, Jack Shaw & Co of Ilkley is a Charles II lidded tankard, London 1682, POA. With London Silver Vaults dealer, Stephen Kalms Antiques also exhibiting, visitors will be spoilt for choice.

A visually interesting and decorative stand, always ablaze with light, is Fileman Antiques – one of the few specialist antique lighting and glass dealers – bringing a pair of cut glass and ormolu candelabra by F & C Osler, made around 1880, £3,200 and a pair of Regency cut glass drum base candlesticks, dated 1800, £5,000. Mark J West has a wide selection of antique and decorative glass including Art Deco vases, scent bottles and cocktail shakers. Glass has always been a highlight of fine dining and his stand has excellent examples of drinking glasses to suit all tastes. One particular decorative piece is a Biedermeier cup and saucer from Austria, c 1820, priced at £440. Carolyn Stoddart-Scott specialises in antique pottery, porcelain and decorative items with pieces by Sèvres, Worcester, Wedgwood and Coalport. For Harewood she is showing a set of six English pearlware plates decorated with peafowl, c 1800, POA.

An excellent collection of sculpture, both antique and contemporary can be found with Garret & Hurst Sculpture including Vanité, c 1886, by Henri Levasseur (1853-1934), £8,895 and Warthog by Robert Glen, £10,200. Robert Glen was born in Kenya in 1940 and his true love of the African bush has led to him to live in a simple camp with a studio in Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park, where he can sculpt and sketch the wildlife at first hand. Odyssey offers Egyptian, Greek and other antiquities from the classical period spanning thousands of years of history. This is a fascinating stand to linger over and highlights of interest include an imposing Roman portrait head of a man in fine grain marble, dated c 1st-2nd century AD. The short wavy hairstyle is typical of that sported by members of the Imperial families or military commanders of the time although the identity of this man remains a mystery. It is priced at £3,250. From a different part of the world comes an eastern Greek banded lydion (perfume container), which dates to the mid 6th century BC and was probably used to contain baccaris, a perfume base oil for which Sardis in Lydia was noted in antiquity. This attractive example of a scarce type of Greek pottery has a price tag of £450.

Jewellery at the fair is a feast for the eyes and noteworthy pieces include a sapphire and diamond ring, c1950, priced in the region of £5,000 from Anderson Jones Ltd. Floral-themed jewellery includes an Austrian amethyst, nephrite and diamond brooch in the shape of wild violets, c1930, £2,400 and a Georgian two-colour gold pansy brooch, £3,300, both from Sue Brown. For the gentleman, Howell 1870 is bringing a selection of vintage watches including a man’s steel Jaquet Droz chronograph fitted with Valjoux calibre 7753 movement, c1960, £750. Other jewellers include Plaza and Shapiro & Co.

Specialists in oak and country furniture, Melody Antiques has an excellent selection to suit every taste from a cottage to a castle. Pictures to suit every taste and pocket can be found around the fair from J Dickinson Maps & Prints, Cambridge Fine Art and Ashleigh House Fine Art.

Antiques fair ticket holders (£5 each) gain complimentary access to Harewood’s grounds, gardens and Below Stairs, as well as free parking. For an additional £5 each, (saving £11.50 on an Adult Freedom ticket), fair visitors can upgrade to see the State Rooms and the current exhibition, Victoria – a costume exhibition is open from 24 March until 29 October. Harewood House was recently used as a major set for ITV’s Victoria series. Visit www.harewood.org for more information.

Launched last year at the Harewood fair, The Antiques Dealers Fair Limited has an ongoing association with the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust, the charitable arm of the Royal Warrant Holders Association that helps talented craftspeople pursue and hone their talents. QEST scholars will be in attendance across all four days of the fair, showcasing their skills and selling their work.

There is also the opportunity to seek advice and look at examples of work carried out by T L Phelps Fine Furniture Restoration. Tim Phelps has worked on restoration of Chippendale furniture at Harewood House. Advisors from Wilson Mitchell & Co. Ltd, a senior partner practice of St. James’s Place Wealth Management, will be happy to discuss investments with their clients and other interested visitors.

Light refreshments are available within the fair or more substantial catering is available at the Courtyard at Harewood.

Ingrid Nilson, director of The Antiques Dealers Fairs Limited says, “We look forward to returning to Yorkshire in May and to seeing many of our loyal visitors again.”

Your Photographs

Each year we are privileged to see your wonderful images of Harewood. From striking landscapes and penguins to quiet picnics and big events, your images are a part of Harewood’s history. If you would like to share your images with us our social media channels on Facebook and Twitter are perfect places.