The first priority of the National Trust’s acquisitions policy is the return to its houses of works of art and furnishings historically associated with them. There have been some notable triumphs in the past two years, described byand in this selection of recent gifts and purchases.
Tuesday, 7th August 2007
There was an encouraging rate of acquisitions by the National Trust in 2004-2006, and a memorable statistic in its effort to safeguard and enhance the vast and multifarious collections of works of art in its houses. In 2004, for the first time, the value of such acquisitions (£2.7m, excluding allocations via Acceptance in Lieu) outstripped the value of land purchases.
The Trust is ever conscious of the risks to its collections when donor families need to raise money by sales of indigenous contents to offset tax or to increase liquidity. In such cases, the Trust and the owners aim to find a mutually beneficial solution to ensure the retention of outstandingly important works of art. Sadly, there have been two significant losses. The first was the sale by the Curzon Family Trustees of the Robert Adam-designed secretaire/ bookcase from the private family wing at Kedleston, Derbyshire, where it had been since 1761. Thanks principally to the magnificent and rapid support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), the National Art Collections Fund (NACF) and an anonymous benefactor, the Trust was able to raise the wherewithal to bid at the Christie’s auction on 9 June 2005. In the event, the Trust was the underbidder when the bookcase was sold for £1.464 million to an anonymous buyer. The second was the sale from Castle Coole, Co. Fermanagh, at Christie’s on 1 December, of a superb equestrian bronze statuette of c. 1695 depicting Gran Principe Ferdinando de’ Medici, signed by Guiseppe Piamontini (1664-1742), and acquired by the 2nd Earl of Belmore in 1820 (see Apollo, ‘Collectors’ Focus’, March 2006). The 8th Earl of Belmore, who lives at Castle Coole, very kindly gave the Trust advance warning of his intention to sell, but reluctantly the Trust decided not to pursue the acquisition, both because of the high value, and because of the more pressing need for expensive building repairs at Castle Coole. The bronze realised £1.24 million.
In 2005, planned changes to the National Trust’s governance were implemented. The Trust’s Council has appointed a board of 12 trustees – including Mark Jones, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum – chaired by Sir William Proby, Chairman of the National Trust. They seek advice on curatorial issues from the Trust’s expert Arts Panel, chaired by Sir Hugh Roberts, Director of the Royal Collection. An internal Projects and Acquisitions Group reviews acquisitions of works of art on the recommendation of the Head Curator, greatly streamlining the Trust’s ability to act quickly.
Acquisition highlights since the last National Trust Apollo, in November 2004, have been as varied as ever. Space precludes proper mention of them all, and there were some coups not included below. The most significant for a small property was the appearance on 14 December 2004 (lot 327) in Anderson and Garland’s saleroom in Newcastle-upon-Tyne of a version of the standard portrait by James Ramsay (1786-1854) of the famous wood-engraver Thomas Bewick. This was bought for £1,764 (Mrs Sugden Bequest) to hang at Bewick’s birthplace, Cherryburn, Northumberland, where hitherto the Trust has only been able to display a youthful portrait of the artist loaned by a descendant.
Another was the appearance at Sotheby’s, Olympia, on April 2003 (lot 271), of a giltwood pier glass, which was bought for £5,928 with National Trust regional donations. This was a bargain. It had been sold in 1946 when the 3rd Lord Newton, who gave Lyme Park to the National Trust that year, vacated the house. Its provenance was confirmed by historic illustrations and inventories. Dated by Sotheby’s c. 1760, further research revealed that it was one of a group of rococo pieces commissioned by Peter Legh XIII in the 1740s. It has been replaced in its original position in the library. In 2005, for £20,000 (National Trust donations) the Trust made an additional purchase by private treaty from the Myddelton Family. This was a particularly splendid gasolier made by John Hardman & Co. of Birmingham and supplied to Chirk in 1846 at the instance of A.W.N. Pugin. Its acquisition preserves in situ a highly significant element of the Pugin ensemble of the Cromwell Hall.
In making acquisitions, the Trust is indebted to the generosity of a host of private donors – particularly one munificent anonymous benefactor – and to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the NHMF, the NACF and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, which this year celebrates its 125th birthday. The Trust is dependent on gifts, legacies and bequests, particularly those earmarked specifically by donors for acquisitions. The Trust also benefits greatly from expert advice on potential purchases from museums, individuals and dealers, who generously provide this help without charge. Methods of acquisition range from purchases at auction and private-treaty sales to items accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance and capital gains tax that are allocated to the National Trust for display in its houses.
The Trust’s collecting policy remains straightforward: it aims to preserve or ‘repatriate’ indigenous contents. These often consist of loaned works of art that have never left the houses, but the Trust also keeps watch for the reappearance on the art market of objects once in its houses.
In compiling these notes, and in making the various acquisitions, we owe a debt of gratitude to many colleagues and supporters, both within and without the Trust, for supplying information or providing other help. David Adshead, Head Curator, assisted by Emile de Bruijn, co-ordinates acquisitions. Especial thanks are due to: The Marquess of Anglesey, Frances Bailey, Andrew Barber, Elizabeth Bibilo, Rufus Bird, Anthony du Boulay, Amanda Bradley, Jeremy Capadose, Paul Carr-Griffin, Roger Carr-Whitworth, Robert Copley, Sue Daly, Richard Dean, Hugh Dixon, Martin Drury, Christopher Foley, Jane Gallagher, Jeremy Garfield-Davies, Michael Gettleston, Sir Nicholas Goodison, St John Gore, John Hardy, Jonathan Harris, Elisabeth Hawkins, Lord and Lady Hesketh, Niall Hobhouse, Simon Jervis, Tim Knox, Chris Lacey, Martin Levy, Errol Manners, Angela Minshull, Gerry McQuillan, James Miller, John Morton Morris, Anthony Mould, Dottie Owens, Charles Pugh, Francis Russell, Lord Sackville, Rosalind Savill, Michael Simpson, Sarah Staniforth, Sir Edmund Verney, Tessa Wild and Lucy Wood.
64-piece Sèvres dessert service painted by Le Bel, Levé, Micaud, Noël, Tandart, J.-J. Pierre, and an unidentified painter, 1770
Porcelain, various sizes. Purchased at Christie’s, 27 June 2005, lot 110, for £57,600, with the aid of £47,600 from an anonymous donor and the residue from donations to the National Trust. Photo: Christie’s
This set is probably the one that was bought by the marchand-mercier Jean Dulac in 1770. It was listed in the 1864 Knole inventory, which dates the service 1769. It is the most complete survival of a service in this Sèvres décor (rubans bleu céleste), which was favoured by Mme du Barry. It will initially be displayed in the ballroom, where French porcelain, among many other treasures, has been on show since at least 1892.
Thanks to acquisitions in lieu of tax in the 1990s, the Trust already owns several important pieces of Sèvres from the collection of John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset (1745-99), a regular patron of the Sèvres porcelain factory, a man of sybaritic and sophisticated tastes in both women and art.
Dunham Massey, Cheshire
George Harry Grey, Lord Grey of Groby, and Sir Henry Mainwaring, 4th Bt. by Nathaniel Dance (1735-1811), 1760
Oil on canvas, 87 x 71.1 cm; sold Sotheby’s 30 June 2005 (lot 69). Bought from Richard Green Ltd for £326,600 with a grant of £102,600 from the trustees of the Whiteley Trust, £112,000 from the Dunham Massey Special Trust and the residue from National Trust donations. Photo: Sotheby’s
This was the most satisfying and considerable picture acquisition of the year, but it is regrettable that the Trust was not given the opportunity to buy the picture by private treaty, especially as a substantial amount of tax would thereby have been remitted, to the advantage of both the vendor and the Trust. The painting will hang in the Tea Room at Dunham Massey, which is filled with images and objects from Lord Grey and Sir Henry Mainwaring’s Grand Tour. It belonged to Grey and shows Sir Henry standing before him holding a cameo ring, in an overt statement, fit for public display, of a staunch relationship.
Penrhyn Castle, Caernarvonshire
G.H. Dawkins-Pennant by Charles Basébé (active 1835-after 1879), after John Jackson (1778-1831), 1841
Watercolour on ivory, 10.7 x 7.8 cm. Acquired with a companion miniature by the same artist of the sitter’s father-in-law, Charles Hanbury-Tracy, 1st Baron Sudeley at Christie’s, 6 December 2005 (lots 177 and 176 respectively) for £720 and £1200, from NT donations. Photo: Christie’s
The Trust has steadily been acquiring the indigenous loaned contents of Penrhyn Castle, but neither it nor the donor family owns any miniatures. This lacuna is probably explained by the fact that when the 4th Lord Penrhyn transferred the castle to the Trust in 1949, bequeathing many of the contents to his niece, the late Lady Janet Douglas Pennant, the title passed to his first cousin once removed, who may have inherited intimate heirlooms of this kind.
It is therefore gratifying that this pair of miniatures has been acquired for Penrhyn. George Hay Dawkins-Pennant (1764-1840) not only built the extraordinary Norman-revival pile but also required his heir, the 1st Lord Penrhyn, to make a good collection of Old Masters to hang there. The bulk of this remains in situ, and it is excellent that these two charming miniature portraits have been bought for such a reasonable sum.
The Death of Cleopatra by Pierre Mignard (1612-95), c. 1635
Oil on canvas, 97.8 x 134 cm. Acquired in 2005 from the Knole Estate Trustees for £150,000, with funds provided by the Mrs D.R. Wray-Blis bequest. Photo: Christie’s
Pictures, drawings and other works of art were earmarked for sale by the Knole Trustees after the death of the 6th Lord Sackville in 2004. Lacking the resources to acquire them all, the National Trust opted for the porcelain described on page 50, a pair of state portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte by Allan Ramsay and his studio, and The Death of Cleopatra by Pierre Mignard. The fate of a newly identified Salmacis and Aphrodite by Lodovico Carracci (1555-1619) hangs in the balance. It is beyond the Trust’s resources, but having been at Knole since before 1706, it is an incunabulum of the British collecting of Italian baroque art, and it is hoped that a national collection may acquire it instead.
The Ramsays, acquired for £70,508 with donations to the National Trust, are doubtless those painted for the 3rd Duke of Dorset as ambassador to the court of France from 1783 to 1789. The George III has been on loan and the Queen Charlotte in store. They will now be restored to their historical positions in the Great Hall, replacing later state portraits by Reynolds (whose proper place is the first-floor ballroom). A major rehang is planned that will approximate much more closely to Knole’s 1799 and 1828 inventories, using other pictures acquired from store in the 1990s. This will involve rearrangements (and additions) of furniture and other works of art along historical lines.
The Death of Cleopatra, listed in the 1799 inventory, was engraved in 1815 as a work by Domenichino. Thanks to a photograph in the Witt Library, it was recognised by Jean-Claude Boyer, who included it in his 1989 Louvre exhibition on Mignard (for which it was restored). He describes the painting as a ‘key work’, dating from Mignard’s earliest years in Rome.
A pair of oval salvers by John Crouch & Thomas Hannam, London, 1787
Silver, diam 38.5 cm. Purchased at Sotheby’s, New York, 26 October 2005, for $10,800 with donations, including £2,000 raised at the property. Photo: Sotheby’s
The Lucys’ fine collection of silver included these salvers engraved with the arms of the Rev. John Hammond, who inherited Charlecote in 1786, assuming the name and arms of Lucy in 1787. They were perhaps given to him as a present to mark his marriage in 1788. Crouch and Hannam were specialist makers of salvers and trays.
Ham House, Richmond, Surrey
Writing table, c. 1770
Mahogany, lined with oak, 77 x 148 x 84 cm. Bought 8 February 2006 from Ronald Phillips Ltd, 26 Bruton Street, London W1 for £48,500, with £40,000 from an anonymous donor and the remainder from National Trust donations. Photo: Ronald Phillips Ltd
This plain, but elegantly proportioned, table with unusual ormolu handles is in remarkably original condition, apart from the replacement of the writing surface with 20th-century leather, but even that is appropriately well-used. The table stood in the library at Ham House until it was sold after 1952 to Ronald A. Lee Ltd, London. It was acquired by an American collector, whose heirs sold it to Ronald Phillips Ltd. The Trust is extremely grateful to Jeremy Garfield-Davies, a director of the firm, for bringing the table to its attention.
Presumably either commissioned or purchased by Lionel, 5th Earl of Dysart (1734-99), who inherited the title in 1770, the table, which has three drawers on both sides, is illustrated in the library in H.A. Tipping’s English Homes, Period IV, vol I, London, 1920 (left). The library was constructed 1672-74, under the direction of Henry Harlow (who made Ham’s superb marquetry floors), for John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale. The library was renowned, but the books had been sold by 1948, when Ham was given to the Trust. In 1994, the Norman Norris collection of books was bequeathed to the Trust and allocated to Ham. The 17th-century library shelves were reversibly added to by the furniture conservator John Hart, to accommodate it. Thus began the renaissance of the library – one of the most evocative 17th-century rooms – which is further enhanced by this elegant table.
Claydon House, Buckinghamshire
Gown, cap and slippers, possibly worn by Sir Francis Verney, c. 1610
Silk damask lined with silk shag, striped silk trimmed with gold braid, and other materials. Part of a collection of costume, arms, armour and militaria, c. 1610 to the mid-19th century, accepted in June 2004 by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax from the estate of Sir Ralph Verney, 5th Bt., thereby settling £615,930 of tax, and temporarily allocated to the National Trust for display at Claydon. Photo: Christie’s
The most important element of this remarkable collection of costume, arms and armour is a group of 17th-century costumes, which the Acceptance in Lieu Panel considered to be ‘of exceptional importance and…one of the finest collections of its kind in the UK. Not only [is] much of the material in a remarkable state of preservation but it [is] all related to a single family and could be reasonably attributed to single members’.
It includes a possibly Italian cream figured-silk suit made for Edmund Verney (1636-88). A bill dated 18 May 1660 proves that it was made for his wedding to Mary Abell, whose white satin bodice, c. 1660, bears her name. Edmund’s wedding suit is ‘without parallel as it [comprises] not only the doublet, breeches and cape but also the sword belt and gloves’. A doublet of black ribbed silk of c. 1625-35 was reputedly worn at the coronation of Charles I by Edmund’s grandfather, Sir Edmund Verney (1590-1642), ‘the Standard-Bearer’, Knight-Marshal, and the subject of a portrait by Van Dyck. After his heroic death at Edgehill, his severed hand was found still clasping the shaft of the royal standard. Another rare survival is his half-brother’s distinctly Middle-Eastern looking costume, illustrated here, a purple silk-damask gown lined with shag (silk plush simulating fur), a striped cap and slippers (c. 1610). Its owner was by family tradition Sir Francis Verney (1584-1616), the ‘Barbary Corsair’, who died at Messina after a life of piracy and wickedness.
Permanent allocation of the collection by the AIL panel to its historic setting at Claydon is dependent upon improvements by 2010 to the environmental conditions, display and interpretation of the Museum Room there. The Trust’s aim will be to do this without compromising the traditional character of the family museum.
Rufford Old Hall, Lancashire
Thomas and Martha Hesketh and their son Thomas from the studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt. (1646-1723), c. 1723
Oil on canvas, 127 x 177 cm. Acquired Sotheby’s, 17-19 May 2005 (lot 115) for £21,600 with a grant of £10,000 from the NACF. Photo: Sotheby’s
This is one of a number of pictures, works of art and memorabilia acquired at Sotheby’s sale at Easton Neston, Northamptonshire, 17-19 May 2005. Four portraits were acquired immediately before the sale by private treaty from the Trustees of the Will Trust of Frederick, 2nd Lord Hesketh, for £15,981. The grand total came to £142,275, with grants of £10,000 from the NACF, £6,355 from MLA/V&A, £10,000 from the Kensington and Chelsea National Trust Association and the residue from National Trust donations.
The sale contained much that had traditionally been associated with the Hesketh family’s former Lancashire seats, the Old and New Halls at Rufford. The former was given to the National Trust in 1936 by Thomas, 1st Lord Hesketh, the latter was sold c. 1920, when the contents were transferred to Rufford or Easton Neston. The purchase comprised pictures (mainly family portraits), an 1860 watercolour of the Great Hall, a Dutch 17th-century walnut kast, silver, memorabilia, architectural views and documents. The Trust’s success at the auction has enabled historical improvements in the display of Rufford.
Particularly conspicuous in a 1929 photograph is the Landscape with a Still Life and the ‘Noli me Tangere’ by the Mechelen painter Gommaert van der Gracht (c. 1590-1639), hanging opposite the fireplace in the dining room. Replaced by a tapestry after its removal to Easton Neston, the picture’s recovery for Rufford is particularly timely, because the tapestry was a loan, which was about to be withdrawn. None of the Hesketh family portraits acquired in the sale, or by private treaty immediately beforehand, is of major importance, but they will people Rufford with characters previously known to visitors only from illustrations in the guidebook. Most interesting is the portrait of Thomas and Martha Hesketh and their son Thomas. Thomas married in early 1722, and there were five sons of the marriage, although only two survived infancy. He extended Rufford, and over-extended his purse, dying in considerable debt. The portrait bears a Kneller signature of authentic-looking form. Although clearly not by Kneller, who died only a month after the baby depicted was born, this is probably a posthumously completed work from his studio. It has responded particularly well to cleaning since the sale.
Ardress House, Co. Armagh
A Managaia basalt-bladed adze and a Maori quarter staff (taiaha)
The adze: wood and other materials, length 170 cm; the taiaha: wood, length 89 cm. Bought at Bonham’s, 20 July 2005 (lots 86 and 92) for £864 each, with donations to Ardress. Photo: National Trust
These pieces, of which the taiaha is illustrated here, form part of a dispersed collection assembled by George Ensor III (d. 1879), the owner of Ardress. He travelled extensively in the Antipodes and in Polynesia with Gordon Augustus Thompson, who bequeathed his own similar collection to the Ulster Museum, Belfast.
Secretaire cabinet designed by George Washington Jack (1855-1932), made between 1889 and 1906
Mahogany with marquetry of sycamore and other woods, 134 x 141 x 66 cm. Generously loaned to Ickworth, and accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust in 2005, settling £56,000 in tax. Photo: NTPL/Mark Fiennes
Designed by the American-born Jack for Morris & Co., the cabinet was sold in 1908 for 98 guineas to Theodora, wife of the 4th Marquess of Bristol (1863-1951). Alice Frances Theodora Wythes (1875-1957), who married in 1896, was a railway heiress whose fortune paid for the thorough restoration of Ickworth. The cabinet reflects her family’s sophisticated artistic tastes, embodied for example in their restoration and decoration of Copped Hall, Essex in the 1890s.
The architect A.C. Blomfield, who restored Ickworth for Lord and Lady Bristol (1908-11), described Jack’s cabinet as ‘a very beautiful instance of modern marquetry and indeed one of the finest pieces of furniture executed in England since the last century’. Few would disagree that it matches the superb quality of the finest 18th-century cabinetmakers and ébénistes. It reflects the influence on Morris & Co.’s production at this time of both Arts and Crafts and Georgian design. An identical cabinet is in the V&A.
Plas Newydd, Isle of Anglesey
The Rex Whistler collection
The Rex Whistler collection was loaned to Plas Newydd by the artist’s brother, the late Sir Laurence Whistler, CBE – glass-engraver, poet and author of a catalogue of Rex Whistler’s work – and acquired by the Trust after his death in 2000 for £43,507.50. The entire sum was defrayed from the Joan Winn Bequest (designated for use on Anglesey).
The collection consists of material by or associated with Rex Whistler, who was killed on 18 July 1944 during his first action in the Guards Armoured Division’s advance after D-Day. The Plas Newydd Whistler museum is the sole permanent display dedicated to the artist. Adjacent is Whistler’s masterpiece: the mural painting in the dining room, inspired by the sublime landscape of the Menai Strait, and containing his own self-portrait as a gardener (above). It was commissioned in 1937 by the 6th Marquess of Anglesey, father of Lady Caroline Paget (with whom Whistler fell in love) and of Henry, the present Marquess and distinguished military historian, who gave Plas Newydd and its principal contents to the Trust in 1976.
Among the highlights of the collection are costume designs for Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, original designs for illustrations for Simon Harcourt-Smith’s The Last of Uptake, published in 1942 (a story culminating in the tragic Uppark-like conflagration of a country house), 26 engravings (1929 and 1930) for an edition of Gulliver’s Travels, posters, designs for stage sets, an illustrated Guards training manual, childhood drawings and ephemera.
Whistler’s second most important country-house mural, reflecting even more tellingly his genius as an interior designer, is in the drawing room at Mottisfont Abbey, Hampshire, also owned by the National Trust. The acquisition of the Plas Newydd collection confirms the Trust’s holdings of Whistler’s work as the most comprehensive in existence.
Beningbrough Hall, North Yorkshire
The Entrance Front of Beningbrough by J. Bouttats and J. Chapman, 1751
Oil on canvas, 117.5 x 172.5 cm. Bought from Gurr Johns Ltd, 2005, with a grant of £60,000 from the NACF and the balancing funds from Mr I.F. Reddihough. Photo: NTPL/Matthew Hollow
It is always a priority for the Trust to acquire significant paintings of its houses. This rare view is so iconic that it has long been on the cover of Beningbrough’s guidebook, although it shows elements of the house that may never have existed, and its artists’ careers are shrouded in obscurity.
One enigma concerns their depiction of two service wings, for which there is no other evidence. Another is why the deer are mewed up in the forecourt, whose wall would normally have kept them, and other animals, out. The answer has recently been rediscovered in an 1897 article about the Bourchier family of Beningbrough’s York townhouse, where the painting was then hanging in the library. It depicts John Bourchier (1710-59), who commissioned it, returning from hunting: the deer were corralled to prevent the hounds being distracted in pursuit of their actual quarry.
Belton House, Northamptonshire
Salome with the Head of St John the Baptist attributed to Giovanni Andrea Sirani (1610-70)
Oil on canvas, 69.8 x 87 cm. Bought for £14,400 at Christie’s, 22 April 2005 (lot 115) with £13,400 from Belton special funds and £1,000 (Sugden Bequest). Photo: Christie’s
This is one of various versions of a composition that has at times been optimistically ascribed to Guido Reni, but is in fact by a close follower, possibly Giovanni Andrea Sirani (1610-70). It was acquired by Sir John Brownlow, 5th Bt., later Viscount Tyrconnel (1690-1754). Sadly, in 1984 it lost its Tyrconnel collection frame, and the Trust will have to reframe it for inclusion in the newly created Picture Cabinet at Belton. It is also raising funds for the painting’s restoration.
When Belton was given to the Trust in 1984 by the 7th Lord Brownlow, the NHMF provided a grant to secure major contents not included in the gift, the park, and to provide an endowment. Other contents were sold by Christie’s, when the Trust acquired as much as possible. Sales (mainly of pictures inherited from the famous 18th-century collector Sir Abraham Hume) had also taken place in 1923 and 1929. Occasionally therefore – as in the case of this picture – the opportunity arises to acquire something that has particular associations with the Brownlow family or Belton collection. This painting also has a connection with another Trust house, Erddig in Wales. Elizabeth Cust (1776-1858) compiled a catalogue of Belton’s pictures for her uncle by marriage, Philip I Yorke of Erddig, and painted a copy of this picture, still at Erddig, in which she substituted a basket of ring-collared doves for the severed head.
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