Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Azures and collars and chains - oh my!

If you look up above the chimney pieces in the Marble Hall, you will see a unicorn and a bull flanking the Somerset Crest. This decorative woodwork was carved by John Selden, and formed part of the original layout of the room - described  by the 6th Duke of Somerset’s accounts as ‘The Hall of State’. The Marble Hall itself was completed in 1692 and designed by Daniel Marot, an influential Huguenot designer who worked extensively for William III.

Selden spent much of his working career at Petworth. As well as producing the works in the Marble Hall he also carved the frame surrounding the Henry VIII portrait (after Holbein) in the Carved Room, 1689-90, where it stands alongside carvings by Gibbons and Ritson. It is thought that he worked elsewhere in the house, for example in the chapel, although accounts of this do not survive.

Rumour has it that Selden died while trying to save the Carved Room carvings when Petworth House caught on fire on the 31st December 1713. However, the dates for this do not coincide with the time of his burial, which makes it extremely unlikely to be fact!

Winter clean updates
This week we are in the Marble Hall – this, in terms of the winter clean, means we are out of the Square Dining Room! We have put the scaffolding up so that we can reach all the carved decoration which makes its way around the room, meaning that Michelle, Caroline and Judy were face-to-face with the resident bulls and unicorns, who are the heraldic supporters of the 6th Duke of Somerset.

The 6th Duke of Somerset's coat of arms, as featured in the carvings (see below!)

On the left a unicorn is gorged with a ducal collar azure, to which is affixed a chain. On the right a bull azure, maned, collared, chained, and hoofed
Click here for more information about the crest

Judy cleaning the South Wall decoration. We use a hogs-hair brush and vacuum to lift the dust and take it away from the carvings

Michelle dusting the carved work. A long brush and nozzle was needed to get behind the carvings

There's still lots of decorative work left to dust in the Marble Hall - we'll be busy over the next few weeks!

Conservation Assistant

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