Thursday, 20 February 2014

Making the Kitchens Shine

In the Historic Kitchens we have over 1000 pieces of copper in a collection which forms our batterie de cuisine, the copper pieces range from large stove-top stock pots right down to patisserie and ice cream moulds. So when it comes around to cleaning them as part of the winter clean, we are incredibly grateful to our dedicated team of volunteers. By the time we are finished it will have taken 15 volunteers four days to dust, polish and wax their way through the collection!

Some of the pieces were cleaned in the middle of last year as part of Conservation in Action, but the majority of the larger pieces wait until this time of year before being cleaned.

Volunteers hard at work
You can see the pieces on the shelves at the back are nice and shiny having already been cleaned, whilst the volunteers make their way through the piles on the table.
Shiny copper!
Michelle and Jacky moving a large stove-top pot, ready to be cleaned.

Rows of copper being put back on the shelves once they have been cleaned - now all we need is a bit of sunshine for them to sparkle in!

Come and visit the Historic Kitchens when we reopen on March 15th to see our clean copper for yourselves, you can also discover more about the lives of the servants who worked here through our new exhibition in the Servant's Corridor.

Conservation Assistant

Monday, 3 February 2014

Petworth's beauties - off with their legs!

No, I’m not referring to Petworth’s staff and volunteers! I’m talking about the Beauty Room, named so since the early 18th century when the 6th Duke of Somerset dedicated the room to Queen Anne and the ladies of her court.

Completed some time between 1714 and 1720, the beauties were painted by Michael Dahl – with the exception of the Queen herself and the Duchess of Marlborough, who were painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller. It is believed the paintings were inspired by the ‘Hampton Court Beauties’ (c.1690) – a set of full-length portraits commissioned by Queen Mary from Kneller.

The design of the room was altered in around 1820 by the 3rd Earl of Egremont, who wanted to commemorate the battles of Waterloo and Victoria with paintings and a bust of the Duke of Wellington. When figuring out the best arrangement for these works of art, the following conversation was had:

“the most favourable [wall] was occupied by three large whole-length portraits, fixed in panels; upon which his lordship said, ‘Well, I will put them there, and your bust of the Duke in the centre’. Chantrey then observed that the three portraits must in that case be removed. ‘No’, said the Earl, ‘I have no place for them’. ‘What then is to be done?’  was the natural question: to which the Earl answered ‘I will cut off their legs, I do not want their petticoats; their heads shall be placed in three small panels above, and the battles with the marble bust of the Duke shall be placed below them’, and this was done.”.

Such claims, however, prove to be false. When the paintings were removed for conservation treatment in 1995, it was discovered they had been rolled up rather than ‘cut off'!

Cleaning the beauties during the winter clean is a simple task once the scaffolding is in place to reach them. The canvases are inspected under a raking light (shone at an angle) which reveals any imperfections or dust on the surface of the paintings. If necessary, the canvas will be lightly brushed with a very soft badger-hair brush into a vacuum cleaner. The beauties are in very simple frames, with the exception of Queen Anne, whose ornate frame requires gentle cleaning with a soft pony-hair brush so as to not wear away the gilding. This frame was originally intended for the copy of Holbein’s portrait of Henry VIII which stands in the Carved Room.
Margaret Sawyer, Countess of Pembroke (1542 - 1706)
By Michael Dahl

Lady Anne Capel, Countess of Carlisle (1674 - 1725)
By Michael Dahl
Jane Temple, Countess of Portland (1672 - 1751)
By Michael Dahl

Rachel Russell, Duchess of Devonshire (1674 - 1725)
By Michael Dahl

Lady Mary Somerset, Duchess of Ormonde (1665 - 1733)
By Michael Dahl

Juliana Alington, Viscountess Howe (1665 - 1747)
By Michael Dahl

Barbara Talbot, Viscountess Longueville (1665 - 1763)
By Michael Dahl

Sarah Jenning, Duchess of Marlborough (1660 - 1744)
By Sir Godfrey Kneller

Queen Anne (1665 - 1714)
By Sir Godfrey Kneller

When the house reopens to the public in March, do come and meet the beauties for yourself!

Sarah, Conservation Assistant 

Queen Anne was the last of the Stuart Monarchs and she ruled for 12 years and 5 months – 1702 until 1714.

Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723) was born in Lubeck, Germany, and came to London in 1674 where he became a leading portrait painter. He was joint Principal Painter to the King in 1688, taking on the position solely in 1691. He was knighted in 1692 and was the first painter in England to be made a baronet in 1715.

Michael Dahl (c. 1659-1743) was born in Stockholm, arriving in London in 1682 before completing a Grand Tour in 1685 and returning permanently to London in 1689.He is said to have a softer and warmer style than Kneller, but perhaps with less character.