Friday, February 17, 2012

Recent Redecoration at Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
This is a follow-up essay of sorts for The Devoted Classicist post John Fowler's Paint Scheme At Syon House, the palatial London estate of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland.  Their primary residence is Alnwick Castle, pronounced "ANN-ick", the second largest inhabited castle in England (after Windsor Castle).  Apologies come at the onset for the size of this post, especially for those without high-speed connections, but it was just impossible to leave out any more images that I have, so The Devoted Classicist begs your indulgence.
The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, Ralph and Jane Percy.
The current Duke of Northumberland inherited his title in 1995 when he was living with his wife and four children in a farm house on the estate.  The second son of the tenth duke, Ralph Percy, born 1956, became the twelth duke unexpectedly when his brother died of an accidental overdose.  (Once linked to Naomi Campbell's mother Valerie, he had a history of drug addiction according to the Daily Mail).
William Turner's Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, c1825-8, watercolour on paper.
National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.
Alnwick Castle has been home to the Percy family since 1309.  For more about the fascinating family history, the connection to the Smithsonian Museum, and the art from the house that has been sold in recent years, see The DiCamillo Companion.
The Madonna of the Pinks.
La Madonna dei Garofani, about 1506-7.
Photo from www.nationalgallery.org.uk
After his first visit to the castle, Sir Hugh Smithson, who had assumed the Percy name after his 1750 marriage and would become the first Duke in 1766, began a series of restorations and renovations.  This Gothic Revival construction, at the forefront of what would become a trend in England, continued through to the 1770s at great expense, beginning under the direction of Henry Keene, then James Paine, and later Robert Adam.  Extensive landscaping by 'Capability' Brown accompanied the work.

Plan of Alnwick Castle from "A Guide to Alnwick Castle 1856 by The late Rev. C H Hartshorne.  M.A. Rector of Holdenby"
Image from http://www.northofthelyne.co.uk/Alnwick.html
The fourth Duke, who succeeded to the title in 1847, hired architect Anthony Salvin to remove the Gothic in favor of a more medieval decor, but switched to a scheme in the manner of a 16th century Roman palace after meeting the archaeologist and classicist Luigi Canina and his assistant, Giovanni Montiroli.  The present Duke and Duchess have spent several years restoring this mid-19th century architectural and decorative scheme.
The Lower Guard Chamber.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The Lower Guard Chamber is at the entrance to the domestic apartments of the castle.  The room is decorated with the weapons of the Percy Tenantry Volunteers which was active from 1798 to 1814.
The Grand Staircase.
Photo courtesy of Alnwick Castle.
The Grand Staircase leads to the State Apartments.  The side walls are panelled in marble.
The Upper Guard Chamber at Alnwick Castle.
Photo courtesy of Alnwick Castle.

The Upper Guard Chamber.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.

The Upper Guard Chamber.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The Upper Guard Chamber shows the contrast of the Italian palazzo created within the shell of the medieval castle.  The marble mosaic floor was installed in 1864 by Luigi Malfatti to the design by Giovanni Montiroli.  The marble statues displayed in the niches are by Guiseppi Nucci and they represent Justice and Britannia.
The Dining Room.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The recent redecoration replaced the Dining Room wall hangings with a brilliant emerald green silk damask from Humphries Weaving Company.  The carpet is a new design by Bamford of Powys.  The chimneypiece was carved by Giovanni Taccalozzi.  Barely visible are the portraits over the fireplace of the first Duke and Duchess.  Also little is seen of the newly repainted carved frieze, but this and other decorative painting throughout the castle was done by Charles Hesp, who was trained under the legendary decorator John Fowler.
The Red Drawing Room as seen in 2009.
A new version of  Ambrosio Osmago's original silk from 1864 is shown being installed.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors Magazine.
The Red Drawing Room.
Photos from Country Life Magazine are available for sale at www.countrylifeimages.co.uk/
The Red Drawing Room features a Carrara marble chimneypiece carved by Giuseppe Nucci and painted decoration by Alessandro Montovani.  After two years of conservation work and display at both Versailles and the Victoria & Albert Museum, the famous pair of Cucci cabinets returned to the castle in the summer of 2011.  The cabinets were made for Louis XIV in the late 17th century by the Italian furniture maker Domenico Cucci to the designs by Charles Le Brun.  Delivered to the Palace of Versailles in 1683, each has a unique depiction -- one of a spaniel and one a monkey.
The Red Drawing Room.
Photo from www.alnwickcastle.com

One of the pair of Cucci cabinets in the Red Drawing Room.
Photo from www.journallive.co.uk

A detail of the Cucci cabinet featuring the monkey depicted in marble mosaic.
Photo from www.journallive.co.uk
The double height Library holds thousands of books and is used as a Sitting Room.  The extensive historical records of the Percy family estates are privately owned and maintained by their Collections and Archive department.
The Library at Alnwick Castle.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The Library at Alnwick Castle.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The giltwood armchairs were made by Morel & Hughes for the now-demolished London residence, Northumberland House.
The China Gallery at Alnwick Castle.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
A detail of the Hanbury Williams dining service by Meissen, c1745.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The service corridor created for the State rooms during the Salvin renovation was redecorated as the China Gallery in 2006 to display the collection of Meissen, Chelsea, and Paris porcelain.  The detail photo shows part of the Hanbury Williams dining service by Meissen, circa 1745, depicting wild animals, including a version of Durer's rhinoceros.  The Devoted Classicist could not figure out the purpose of the dowels extending from the walls although it was suspected that they had something to do with protecting the porcelain.  As it was thought that my devoted readers would be curious as well, a few inquiries were sent out to see if an explanation could be found. 
Photo of the China Gallery from Country Life Magazine.
Prints of photos from the magazine may be purchased at www.countrylifeimages.co.uk/
A special thanks goes to Stanton Thomas, the Curator of European and Decorative Arts at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art who has been mentioned several times previously in this blog, for providing the answer.  The dowels provided support for protective Plexiglass covers that had been removed for The World of Interiors photo.
The Private Dining Room at Alnwick Castle.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The Private Dining Room features a Guiseppe Nucci chimneypiece.  The recent redecoration of the castle was done in consultation with Robert Kime as well as Lucy Manners.
The Bowood Room.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The Bowood Room with a painted George III bed features Robert Kime's fabric 'Jardinieres Cotton'.  Robert Kime was instrumental in having the furnishings about to be auctioned by the former Duke returned to the house.
The Grand Cascade in the garden of Alnwick Castle.
Photo from www.alnwickcastle.com
Jane Percy, the current Duchess, set out in 1996 to create a new public garden on the grounds of the castle.  The garden belongs to an independent charity, The Alnwick Garden Trust and reportedly cost 42 million by 2003.  The Duke donated the 42 acre site and GBP 9 million.  The design was developed by the Belgian landscape design firm Wirtz International with the first phase opening in October, 2001.  The centerpiece is the Grand Cascade.
A partial view of the Treehouse in the garden of Alnwick Castle.
Photo from www.alnwickcastle.com
In 2005, a gigantic Treehouse was completed by Napper Architects that includes a restaurant, retail store, and play area. 

The Poison Garden, opened in 2005 as well, requires a guide who warns visitors not to touch or even smell the plants.  Along with plants that would be expected today -- cannabis, opium poppies, magic mushrooms, and coca -- and those lethal by tradition -- nightshade, hemlock, and mandrake -- there are those one might find in any garden -- laburnum, wild clematis, azalea, and floxglove. 

The gates to the Poison Garden at Alnwick Castle.
Photo from www.alnwickcastle.com
Alnwick Castle was used as the school 'Hogwarts' in the first two Harry Potter films, and that has contributed to an increase in visitation.  In addition, the castle was used in many other films such as "Robin Hood Prince of Thieves" and many television shows.  But the latest thing to bring Alnwick Castle into the news is the dating of the eldest son and the sister of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.
George Percy and Pippa Middleton.
Image by Dave Benetti, US WEEKLY.
More information about Alnwick Castle can be learned from their website, www.alnwickcastle.com and from an article in Country Life Magazine, "The Lion of the North".   Subscriptions to The World of Interiors magazine may be ordered here.

14 comments:

  1. Hi there, I've been a long time poster but sadly only (rather foolishly) realized my browser was not allowing any of my comments to be saved. At any rate, I adore your blog. And this post, like many others, was wonderfully informative. Thank you!

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  2. Thanks, Ann, I'm glad your comment made it through. It would take a whole book to tell the story of Alnwick Castle, but I hope this entices readers to explore the house further.

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  3. It's interesting to see Turner's watercolour of Alnwick. Although quite late on in his career it is much more realistic than his more famous works. He did of course have a very wide range of styles, so perhaps he was under instruction to produce something that was recognisable. I think the cascade was opened by the Prince of Wales. He and the duchess are friends and share a passion for gardening.

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  4. What a wonderful tour dahhling of such a magnificent castle! So many beatufiul details & items to see...

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  5. Columnist, I agree with your assessment on the Turner watercolour and that is why I wanted to include it. The garden casade is, no doubt, much more impressive in person, with all that moving water. And yes, Prince Charles did preside at the opening. An avid gardener myself, his garden at Highgrove is one I would really like to visit.

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  6. HRH, there are indeed lots of treasures. Although I tend to prefer the French styles after Louis XIV, the Cucci cabinets are truly fantastic and really look great after this restoration.

    Terry, this one, especially, really benefits from a floor plan, doesn't it?

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  7. Not really important I guess, but! His Grace, the Duke of Northumberland looks a bit like my cousin George. Probably no relation, but some find it funny.

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  8. That is a remarkable coincidence, MLHB. If he were to visit Alnwick Castle, all sorts of scenarios in the manner of the British TV comedy "Keeping Up Appearances" could be imagined.

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  9. Magnificent Post! Your blog is one of the best I subscribe to. You have impeccable taste my friend!

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  10. Thanks, Meranda. If your version via subscription does not include all the features of the standard web version, I hope you will check in the home site from time to time to see YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE that gives thumbnail images and links to (usually) related previous posts.

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  11. Fantastic post again, John. You never fail to write my favorite of the week.
    Best,
    Liz

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  12. Thank you very much for your photo credits. My new book, Alnwick Castle is out in June.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alnwick-Castle-Home-Duchess-Northumberland/dp/0711232377

    Best
    James McD

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  13. James, your photos are remarkable so I particularly look forward to the publication of your new book. Your addressing the behind-the-scenes stories as well as showing private rooms will be two much-welcome features. And a presentation of the garden will certainly be a popular selling point, too. This has been a popular post, so your addition of information on your book is most appreciated.

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