Tuesday, 4 August 2020

A Tour of Chatsworth House - XIII

The ornamental parapet to the 1st Duke's Greenhouse

Leaving the Sculpture Gallery, at the end of my tour of the interior of Chatsworth House, the first thing that I did was sit down, have a cup of coffee and plan a route around the gardens, which I had never seen before. 

A general view along the east elevation of the North Wing

The house is set on bedrock of Ashover Grit, which forms relatively high ground above the floodplain of the River Derwent, and to the east, the land rises sharply across the Marsden Formation to form an escarpment of Chatsworth Grit. Here, large blocks of gritstone and loose material form a blanket of head on the now thickly wooded slopes. 

Having achieved my principal objective of taking photographs of decorative stones from the Chatsworth Estate, which I would use to illustrate a forthcoming talk at St. Peter’s church in Edensor, I had just over 3 hours before catching my back to Sheffield. 

Flora's Temple

Starting at Flora's Temple, I then had a very quick exploration of the area around the greenhouses, where the Cavendish serpent and a star laid out in cobbles formed the highlight of the modern greenhouse, built in 1970 to a design by G A H Pearce. 

The Cavendish serpent

William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire had a passion for building and, along with the rebuilding of the Elizabethan house in the late 1690’s, he designed a garden to match, with his greenhouse ornamented by 12 busts and a balustrade topped with large urns. 

A view towards the 1st Dukes's Greenhouse from the Rose Garden

The Rose Garden, formerly the French Garden, was originally laid out by the 6th Duke, after his accession in 1811, but was remodelled by the Duchess Mary, wife of the 10th Duke, in 1939 - including the tall yew hedges that border it. 

The Rose Garden

Originally ornamented with a statue of Flora, statues from the temple at Carnac and a white cistern from Carrara, most of the statuary and ornaments have been moved and all that remain are a couple of large figurative sculptures, carved in white marble. 

A sculpture in the Rose Garden

Tall gritstone columns, which came from the inner court of the house during its rebuilding, line the central path and the Derbyshire fossil marble fountain that once formed its centrepiece is now located in the Inner Court of the house. 

A view towards Edensor

I then headed up the hill to the Kitchen Garden, from which there are some great views looking over The Stables towards Edensor and the moorland beyond, where the Ashover Grit and Marsden Formation form the bedrock. 

A sundial

Along the way, I came across various miscellaneous sculpted stones – including an old chest tomb a sundial and a waymarker – and other fantastic views of the landscape.

A waymarker

Saturday, 1 August 2020

A Tour of Chatsworth House - XII

A general view of the Sculpture Gallery

The end of my tour of Chatsworth House finally came at the Sculpture Gallery, which William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire built to house a collection of modern sculpture that he had acquired over the years. 

A view north along the Sculpture Gallery

At this point, having encountered a wide variety of marbles and decorative stones during the 2 hours that I had been exploring it, I just “switched off” and then wandered around to marvel at the wide variety of colours and textures and take a set of general photographs

A view south along the Sculpture Gallery

I didn’t stop to closely examine any of the stones in various pedestals and plinths and, not having my headset on to guide me around the gallery, I don’t know much about the sculptures either - except that the 6th Duke formed a friendship with the Italian Neoclassical sculptor, Antonio Canova, and much of his work is seen here. 

Cipollino verde marble

Another artist the Duke admired was Bertel Thorvaldsen, who sculpted Venus with the apple - with a pedestal in cipollino verde marble - and the bas reliefs on the east wall of the gallery, among other work in the gallery. 

Various marbles

The sculptures are all of the purest white Italian marble, presumably from Carrara, but the plinths and pedestals and various other freestanding objects are made out of a wide variety of marbles that – with the Duke’s connections to dealers in rare stones in Rome - have probably been sourced from countries that were once within the boundaries of the Roman Empire. 

The Sleeping Endymion by Antonio Canova

The plinth to the Sleeping Endymion, by Antonio Canova, looks like the africano breccia marble that I had seen in the Great Dining Room and giallo antico from Tunisia is used in columns and pedestals and verde antico from Thessaly in Greece used in panels and plinths. 

Porfido verde antico

Referring to the Faustino Corsi Collection online, I could also determine that a green porphyry, porfido verde antico from Laconia in Greece, occurs as a sphere in the centre of a large tazza made of Belgian Rouge Royal marble. 

A Rouge Royal marble tazza

There are very many other marbles, granites, serpentinites and porphyries that I did not look at very closely, including geometric inlaid work to various plinths, and I would need to refer to documentation that may be held at Chatsworth before I could make comment on these.

Various marbles

When writing his extended entry for Chatsworth House in the Derbyshire volume of the Buildings of England, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner notes that “It was a regally expensive job throughout”.

Various marbles

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

A Tour of Chatsworth House - XI

A column of porta santa marble

By the time that I entered the Dome Room, on my tour of Chatsworth House to look at its decorative stones, I had encountered numerous examples of locally quarried stone that I could use to illustrate my forthcoming talk on “The Devonshire Marbles”, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the consecration of St. Peter’s church in Edensor

The Great Dining Room

Along the way, I had also seen a wide variety of marbles and granites, whose geological origin are in the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea and at one time were administered by the Roman Empire. During his travels to Italy, William Cavendish established links with Faustino Corsi and others who were able to source rare stones. 

A column of porta santa marble

When entering the Great Dining Room, a column of porta santa marble from Chios in Greece is the first thing that I saw, with Italian white marble to its plinth and grey veined marble as panelling – presumably both from the Apuan Alps

Hopton Wood limestone skirting

As with the State Rooms in the old house, the space is dominated by the dining table and its fine contents, but I soon found what I think to be a variety of Hopton Wood limestone in the very high skirting. Further along the west wall, a very simple white marble fireplace is surrounded by statues made by Richard Westmacott the younger, whose work I was familiar with at the Royal Exchange in London. 

A fireplace with statues by Richard Westmacott

Just as I was about to leave the Great Dining Room, I noticed a very fine table top made out of Swedish red porphyry and a variety of Blue John vases, with Ashford Black Marble plinths.

A Swedish red porphyry table top and Blue John vases
When finally leaving, I came across columns of africano breccia, which was widely used in Classical times – with its source now confirmed as ancient Teos, now Si─čacik, in the Izmir province of Turkey.

A column of africano breccia marble

Sunday, 26 July 2020

A Tour of Chatsworth House - X

Various marbles in the Dome Room

Continuing my tour of Chatsworth House, to look at its decorative stones, I then entered the Dome Room, which marks the start of the North Wing, built by Sir Jeffry Wyatville - 1820 to 1842. 

 A C19 cast of Mercury by Giambologna

The influence of William Cavendish’s trips to Italy, and his love of sculpture and stone, is immediately apparent in the C19 cast of Mercury by Giambologna, with a pedestal of yellow and pink marble that looks like the giallo antico marble seen in the North Corridor and Chapel Passage. Looking closely, the plinth is Derbyshire crinoidal marble from the Chatsworth Estate. 

Pavonazetto and 'oriental alabaster' columns

The large moulded door surrounds and wall panels are made with grey veined white marble from the Apuan Alps, and on each side of the room are a pair of supporting marble columns, which Pevsner identifies as “pavonazza and gialastro”. 

A detail of an 'oriental alabaster' column

Referring to The Geology of Chatsworth House, these are described as being pavonazetto, a brecciated marble from Turkey containing white clasts in a red-purple matrix and ‘oriental alabaster’, which is a banded calcite deposited in hot springs and probably Italian.

A detail of a pavonazetto marble column

On either side of the doorway to the Great Dining Room, there are large vases in rare peach coloured occhio di pavone bigio marble, a late Cretaceous shelly limestone from Turkey, which are set on grey granite pedestals of unknown provenance.

A detail of an 'oriental alabaster' column

Friday, 24 July 2020

A Tour of Chatsworth House - IX

Various decorative stones used in a Victorian inlaid tabletop

A tour of Chatsworth House can turn into a bit of a maze, with routes and the position of exhibits sometimes changed, as I discovered when trying to find a magnificent Victorian inlaid table that I had seen in an article published by the Mercian Geologist back in 2008. 

A Victorian inlaid table

Eventually coming across this after taking a few photographs of the Oak Stairs, I recognised many decorative stones that I had previously seen at churches at Edensor, Stoney Middleton and Bolsover. Others, such as the green fluorite and barytes with galena, I had encountered at the Peak District Mining Museum in Matlock and in Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Various decorative stones

The Duke’s Red and ‘cockleshell marble’ are not very common, with the latter being unusual in that is an ironstone from the Coal Measures, which is packed full of non-marine lamellibranchs that are preserved in calcite. 

Various decorative stones

Ironstone is usually found above coal seams and sometimes occurs in concentrations that are viable for opencast mining. Going back to the times of Bess of Hardwick, the Cavendish family have since acquired vast areas of land that are very rich in hard rock and mineral resources, which William the 6th Duke of Devonshire used to great effect.

Various decorative stones

Saturday, 18 July 2020

A Tour of Chatsworth House - VIII

A malachite clock presented by Czar Nicholas I

On my tour of Chatsworth House, having had a good look at the reredos in the Chapel, I retraced my steps along Chapel Passage back to the Painted Hall and then walked up to the Great Stairs, which were built by William Talman from 1689 to 1690. 

A view up the Great Stairs

Pausing to take a single photograph of the view down into the Painted Hall, I then looked up to the top of the stairwell, where more fine stonework by Samuel Watson – carved in Ashover Grit - surrounds niches that are filled by Italian white marble statues by Caius Gabriel Cibber

A black and white marble basin

Stopping half way up the stairs, there is a basin made in black and white marble that has similar characteristics to the bianco e nero di Portoferraio and the giallo e nero di Carrara, which form part of the Faustino Corso Collection

An alabaster doorcase and carved niches with statuary

At the top of the stairs, I just took a couple of photographs of an ornate doorcase, which was also made by Cibber using alabaster from the family estate at Tutbury, and a window sill made of Derbyshire fossil marble with crinoids

A Derbyshire fossil marble window sill

The State Rooms are full of masterpieces, but not noting any interesting decorative stone used in the structure, I quickly walked through them to the South Sketch Gallery, where a pair of large glass cabinets contain the mineral collection of the Duchess Georgiana

A part of Duchess Georgiana's mineral collection

A special exhibition was being held at the time of my visit but, with general visitors not being allowed to take any photographs allowed; however, having explained to the guide that I had been invited to specifically photograph objects that I would use for my talk at St. Peter’s church in Edensor, I managed to take a furtive general view. 

The Oak Stairs

Continuing along the West Sketch Gallery and carrying on to the Oak Stairs, the large malachite clock that was presented to the 6th Duke by Czar Nicholas I - a good friend and fellow minerals enthusiast, forms the centrepiece of the landing. 

A malachite table presented by Czar Nicholas I

This distinctive green mineral has been applied as a veneer with long strips laid in a book matched pattern, which is normally seen on expanses of marble walling. This , and this technique is also used in a table at the top of the stairs, which was also given by Czar Nicholas I and the urn on the stairs. 

A square urn on the Oak Stairs

Behind the balustrade, on each side of the stairwell, there is also a row of three white marble busts, which have pedestals that may be made of ‘oriental alabaster’- a banded calcite deposited in hot springs that probably comes from Italy. 

White marble busts on pedestals of 'oriental alabaster'

Another table at the top of the stairs is made of what I think of as typical serpentinite used as a decorative stone - perhaps verde di Polcevera from Genoa. It has large dark green clasts in a lighter green serpentine and calcite matrix, with the whole rock traversed by calcite veins.

A serpentinite table