Wednesday, 31 October 2012

An unusual thank you

We’re always grateful for the kind letters, emails, tweets and comments we receive from visitors and usually these relate to the great day they’ve had with us, but this week it was a thank you of a slightly different nature...

Yesterday we received some lovely cakes and a card from a member of the public, not praising an enjoyable day out, but for helping her when she suddenly became ill whilst driving and pulled into our Car Park.
‘To the ladies and gentlemen of Petworth House ticket office. Thank you all so much for your help and kindness last Sunday. I apologise for the disruption but am greatly appreciative of your assistance. I would also like to say an extra big thank you to your first aid officer (Geoff) for holding my hand throughout!’

We’re so proud of the quick action and first aid skills of our Visitor Reception team who looked after her and called an ambulance, whilst dealing with the large number of visitors we get on a weekend. We’re also proud that both our and the National Trust’s reputation meant she knew we’d be a safe place to stop for help.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Artist still in residence

Hi all, Samuel here. I promised you an update on our artist in residence, Wendy Norris who is currently copying a painting in the Marble Hall, and here it is… 

(you can find out all about the project and see the first pictures here)

Isn’t it coming along nicely? I did offer to help out and do a few strategically placed paw prints, but apparently that’s not quite the look Stowe School are after. I also suggested it could be improved with the addition of a handsome spaniel sitting next to George Grenville, but sadly my creative genius isn’t always appreciated.

You can see how the layers of paint have built up and are now far more like the original. It’s also a great chance to see how the original painting might have looked over 200 years ago, before the pigments had darkened and George Grenville started looking a bit grey and ghostly.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Servants' stories

In the second instalment of our ‘Servants’ stories’ series, we hear from Dorothy Digby whose father Fred Baigent was a scullery man at Petworth House in the 1930s.

‘Dad would peel all the staff potatoes and carrots. Another job of his was to make ice cream using a big wooden bucket with a handle. The chef would prepare the mixture, put it into a cylinder in the centre of the bucket and cram ice and saltpetre round it. He would then let it stand for three hours, turning the handle occasionally. After the ice cream had been made it would be covered with a stiff meringue… then Dad would bring in the salamander, a long iron pole with a metal square set diagonally on its head. He’d get the metal square hot in the fire and hold it over the meringue. It was desperately hot work for him but the result was –Baked Alaska!’

Making the ice cream would have looked something like this... cream being made in the Historic Kitchens last year as part of our monthly ‘What’s Cooking?’ event.  

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Artist in residence!

Hi all, Samuel here. I had a quick wander round the house this morning and on my travels I happened to spot something rather out of the ordinary happening in the Marble Hall. A fantastic artist  working on a painting of a painting! It all looked very curious so I headed straight up to the office to see Andy our House and Collections Manager and find out more…

Morning Andy, so what’s going on in the Marble Hall today?
Andy: Well today and for the rest of the 2012 season you’ll be able to see the artist Wendy Norris copying a portrait by the studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) from the Petworth collection.

What prompted the copy?
Andy: The subject is the Rt. Hon. George Grenville (1712-1770), represented in the robes of Chancellor of the Exchequer – he later became Prime Minister. The modern copy has been commissioned by Stowe School in Buckinghamshire, who are building a collection of portraits of figures associated with Viscount Cobham of Stowe. While Stowe House has been home to the School since 1923, its landscape is now maintained by the National Trust.

So why is the portrait of Grenville at Petworth in the first place?
Andy: In 1749, he married Elizabeth Wyndham, sister of the 2nd Earl of Egremont; the painting was commissioned by their brother, the Earl of Thomond, and was inherited by the 3rd Earl of Egremont. It can usually be found hanging in the North Gallery.

It’s certainly great to be able to see the original close up - when your legs are a short as mine most paintings are far too high. But why is Wendy not working in a studio?
Andy: We wanted to give visitors the opportunity to see how paintings were made in the 18th century – meticulously built up in layers. You can see at the moment the colours are much lighter than the original and this will change as more and more layers are added. The original has also suffered over time as Reynolds was notoriously carefree in his choice of materials, and here the red carmine pigment he often used to represent skin complexion has typically faded to leave Grenville with a ghostly pale face.

We’re looking forward to seeing how the painting changes over time and will blog regular updates on its progress, but don’t forget you can also pop in and see for yourself Monday - Wednesday.