On Sunday last week I took one of my American friends (and fellow book group member) to Petworth House in West Sussex. I’d picked her up the day before from a Charlotte Bronte Conference at Chawton House Library near Alton in Hampshire; taken her back to Godalming where we walked with Oliver Pug to Munstead Wood (just a glimpse) and dropped her at her Ewhurst B&B after a pub supper nearby.
Chawton House Library
Petworth is truly a ‘House of Art’ (as John Constable described it in 1834). It’s owned by the National Trust and really needs several visits to do it justice. We had barely four hours but we still managed, without feeling under pressure, to wander round the house which is home to countless significant works of 18th century art, including 20 Turners; to eat a sausage and mash lunch in the cafe; to browse in the shop and to walk out to the lake and almost into the Capability Brown landscape. And Diana even spent time (and made a purchase) in the Petworth Antique Market (while I fetched the car) in the estate village.
With the vast array of art, and more, to see the National Trust have come up with an assortment of leaflets to help one choose a selection of the ‘best’. These include ‘Mr Turner at Petworth’ which highlights just 8 of his paintings. JMW Turner (1775-1851) was the most famous figure associated with the house. He was a regular guest of Lord Egremont, who bought 20 of his paintings. These now form the largest group of Turner oils outside Tate Britain. Please excuse my photos. My camera is not good inside and the lighting makes the pictures even worse but maybe you get the idea.
Turner’s Billiard Players in the Marble Hall at Petworth is part of The Tate Gallery’s Turner Bequest
The Marble Hall
Petworth Park by JMW Turner
Brighton From the Sea
The Petworth Park painting reflects the 3rd Lord Egremont’s keen interest in agriculture, rare breeds, fallow deer and the fact that he generously allowed free use of the park for sports and recreation.
The ‘Petworth Park’ and ‘Brighton from the Sea’ paintings above hang in the Carved Room which is full of ornate and intricate carvings mainly (but not all) the work of Grinling Gibbons. In this room, also, hangs a copy from Holbein’s studio of the portrait of Henry VIII, almost certainly commissioned by Edward Seymour (brother of Jane, Henry’s 3rd wife).
The Carved Room
Grinling Gibbons’ own Portrait in the Carved Room
Amazing Carving by Grinling Gibbons
The Carved Room is also the home of a series of paintings of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. The 3rd Lord Egremont also owned some very early editions of the plays.
The World-Class Objects included :
Sarcophagus-shaped Commode by André-Charles Boulle
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Manuscript (not the best pages!)
Thomas Chippendale Giltwood Sofa
Claude Passavant Exeter Carpet
There was still a mass of art on the walls of the Sculpture Gallery besides the sculptures themselves.
Believe me I have here only tipped the iceberg of Petworth and I look forward to many more visits in future.
Before I take you out onto the estate (next post) here is one of my favourite paintings The Card Players by Jan Matsys.
And when Diana saw the Turner’s ‘Hulks on the Tamar‘ she was reminded of the song ‘Fields of Athenry’. She serenaded me with a rendition once we were out in the estate. Here it is performed (topically) by The Dubliners.