Wednesday, August 21, 2013

For your library

Not a book for taking with one for a long soak in a bubble bath or, for that matter, for reading in bed unless your bed is equipped with a lectern, and the breakfast table would be a hazardous place if one, as one read, dipped soldiers in egg yolk, but, that said, a precious, fascinating, and in more ways than one, a weighty book it is.

It is not a decorating guide unless one longs for a sham Caroline interior – not that there's anything wrong with sham, because if one were to look through the book it would become clear that simulation in the form of French courtliness, painted marble and scagliola, was not to be be sniffed at the court of Charles II. Also not to be sniffed at, as it were, is a chamber pot engraved with the Dysart arms beneath an earl's coronet, which weighed in at 30 ounces of silver.

The Library

Nearly thirty years ago I visited Ham House – I'd taken a walk along the Thames and around a bend in the path loomed Ham, rain and low cloud lent it an atmosphere that drew me in drove me to the entrance where in my uncomfortably damp clothing I, entranced, walked around the house. Perhaps not a true memory, but not a light burned on a day that had quickly turned from light to dark, and each room appeared, as it were, from its own shadowy corners, and from the windows, gloom as dull as pewter, softly polished lacquer and gilt, drew out faded colors of textile and wood and the marvelous inlayed floors creaked as I, seemingly the only visitor, stepped on them. Details are few in my memory but atmosphere remains.

The North Drawing Room, watercolor by H W Brewer, c 1866.

Chimneypiece in the Queen's Closet, Baldassare Artima, 1673.
Fired and painted scagliola.

The Duchess's Private Closet

A Man Consumed by Flames, Isaac Oliver, c. 1610.
Watercolor on vellum. 3 x 2 3/4 inches.

Silver chamber pot, David Willaume, 1731-2. 
Engraved with the Dysart arms beneath an earl's coronet. 
4 7/8 x 10 x 7 1/4 inches. 

If you have not read this book and balk at the list price of $150 (it is a scholarly tome) then I suggest you read Peter Thornton's much more accessible Seventeenth Century Interior Decoration in England, France and Holland. Better yet, buy both. They'll look fabulous on the coffee table with a little seventeenth-century blue-and-white to the side or, heaven forbid, on top.

Photograph credits: 

A Man Consumed by Flames, The Duchess's Private Closet, The Library, National Trust Images/John Hammond

Silver chamber pot, National Trust Images/Christopher Warliegh-Lack

The Chimneypiece in the Queen's Closet, National Trust Images/Bill Batten

The Duchess's Private Closet, John Paul Photography-

1 comment:

  1. These are gorgeous. Dutch still life is some of my favorite artwork. I love that I could essentially inhabit a space like that.