Thursday, May 22, 2014

Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza at Daylesford

Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza
on the grounds of his Gloucestershire estate,
Daylesford.  The house was remodeled in the late
18th century by Samuel Pepys Cockerell for
 Warren Hastings with gardens by John Davenport.
Photo by Christopher Simon Sykes via Corbis.
After the 1978 death of the 2nd Viscount Rothermere, Daylesford was sold to Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza.  Known as "Heini" to his close friends, the baron was a Dutch-born Swiss citizen with a Hungarian title having his principle residence Monaco for tax reasons.  He also declared a second residency in the United Kingdom, but spent much of his time in later years in Spain.

Another view of the fantastic Orangery
at Daylesford as it appeared in the early 1980s.
Photo by Christopher Simon Sykes for HG.
The baron was born to a steel and armaments empire that also included oil, natural gas, and shipping.  On his father's death, he inherited hundreds of 14th to 19th century paintings by European masters.  (Many had been bought from American millionaires feeling the hardships of the Great Depression and inheritance taxes).  The baron added a 20th century collection of his own which included some paintings from relatives' collections and some new works. 

A view of the west elevation of Daylesford
in the early 1980s during the ownership of the baron.
Photo by Christopher Simon Sykes for HG.
In 1985, the baron married his fifth wife in a ceremony at his country estate, Daylesford.  He was 64 and she was 41, the "Miss Spain" of 1961.  The bride, Carmen Cervera, known as "Tita" to her friends, had previously been married to the actor Lex Barker of the "Tarzan" films.  Among the attendees were the Duchess of Marlborough, Henry Ford 2nd, and the Duke of Badajoz, brother-in-law to King Juan Carlos of Spain.  The new baroness did not care for Daylesford, however, and it was sold.

The Saloon at Daylesford as decorated by
Mongiardino for Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Photo by Christopher Simon Sykes for HG.
Much of the baron's art collection was housed at Villa Favorita on Lake Lugano, Switzerland.  The villa had been purchased by his father in 1932 when their future in Germany appeared without promise.  After the Lugano City Council essentially rejected plans in 1988 by renown British architect James Stirling to enlarge the villa to better show the collection, his wife persuaded him to relocate 715 works which made up the core of the collection to Spain.

'Portrait of Ann Brown in the Role of Miranda'
by Johann Zoffany, circa 1770, once hung in
the Saloon of Daylesford during the Thyssen-Bornemisza era.
Image via Wikipedia.
The Portrait of David Lyon,
as seen in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum,
had previously hung in the niche in the Saloon
of Daylesford.
The former Villahermosa Palace in Madrid was renovated to the approval of the baroness and opened as the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in 1992.  The collection, which includes silver, gold, and tapestries in addition to paintings, was initially on loan, then transferred to the Spanish Government the following year.  The Thyssen-Bornemiszas maintained residences in London, Paris, Marbella, the Balearic Islands, Jamaica, and Switzerland, but spent much of the time on an estate in La Moraleja, a fashionable suburb of Madrid.  The villa there was furnished with American paintings and the furniture from Daylesford.  The English country house had been lavishly decorated by Renzo Mongiardino, sweeping away the previous schemes by John Fowler for Viscount Rothermere seen in previous posts here and here. 


The Saloon at Daylesford as decorated by
Mongiardino for Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Image from clipping in private collection.
It is always of interest to The Devoted Classicist to see how two great decorators each do a different take on the same house, in this case, for different owners.  Renzo Mongiardino was trained as an architect but his early successes were set designs for the stage and films.  For interior design, he used the visual tricks of the stage crafts;  Mongiardino employed a team of skilled carpenters, decorative painters, drapers, and upholsterers to create a mood, the overall effect being more important than the provenance of specific pieces. 
Details of the walls in the Saloon at Daylesford
as decorated by Mongiardino for Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Image from clippings in private collection.
The stucco decoration on the walls of the Saloon was created by five people working for two months, casting and attaching the stars, painting and glazing the walls, then adding stenciled decoration.  The shafts of the existing columns were painted to resemble porphyry. 

Another view of the Saloon at Daylesford
as decorated by Mongiardino for Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza,
showing the plaster relief decoration of the walls with stenciling.
Image from clippings in a private collection.
Mongiardino's decoration of Daylesford for the baron was recorded, in part, with a series of photos taken by Christopher Simon Sykes that appeared in the July, 1983, issue of House & Garden magazine.  Additional magazine photos are from clippings in a private collection with no identification as to the source.  Watercolor drawings and one photo are from the 1993 book that Mongiardino authored.

Elevations of the Long Gallery of Daylesford
as proposed by Renzo Mongiardino.
From ROOMSCAPES via
The Devoted Classicist Library.
Elevations of the Long Gallery of Daylesford
as proposed by Renzo Mongiardino.
From ROOMSCAPES via
The Devoted Classicist Library.
In ROOMSCAPES, THE DECORATIVE ARCHITECTURE OF RENZO MONGIARDINO, Mongiardino discusses his philosophy behind decorating the walls of the Long Gallery to compliment the Italian seventeenth-century paintings to be displayed.  He was concerned about the dramatic paintings, meant to be hung in shadows inside churches, only occasionally being illuminated by a ray of sun, and how they would appear in a completely new context in the cold light of England.  Mongiardino's story, and it is possible that at least part of the storyline was fiction, was that some long lengths of antique lampas, about sixty centimeters wide with a large design, were found in extremely pure red and brilliant yellow, made in Italy in the early 1600s.  But there was not enough of the antique fabric, so it was paired with alternating lengths of a new fabric custom made near Genoa in the same red and yellow, but with a small scale pattern.  (Although the text says that a wainscot was added to allow for the limited antique fabric, neither the watercolor presentations nor the photos show that feature).


A detail of the Long Gallery of Daylesford
with decoration by Mongiardino for Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Photo by Christopher Simon Sykes for HG.

Mongiardino was pleased with the results, the text revealed, because the paintings became unexpectedly antimated, "the large yellow-and-red damask transformed the dark areas from an opaque black into a deep darkness, full of reflections."  Other than a chandelier in the passage behind the screen of columns, there are no ceiling lights, only picture lights matching the coloring of the frames, mounted either at top or bottom of the paintings, plus the table lamps.

The Long Gallery at Daylesford
as decorated by Mongiardino for Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Photo from ROOMSCAPES.
Another art-filled room was the Garden Room about which little is known except what can be gathered from this composite image shown below. 

For the art lovers, a better view of "The Card Game"
by Balthus, 1948 to 1950.  Now in the
Museo Thyssen, Madrid, the source of this image.

A composite detail view of the Garden room with
a Balthus painting "The Card Game."
Image from clippings in a private collection.

 
An interesting feature of the Garden Room was the patterned wallpaper, or possibly a chintz, that covered the walls, making no shy step into the background while still complimenting the art.
A composite view of the Library at Daylesford
as decorated by Mongiardino for Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Image from clippings in a private collection.
The Library appears to have been relocated to a different space from what the Rothermeres had used and decorated as what has been described as an amethyst-colored room as the background for art.  A Picasso harlequin hangs against the chimneybreast upholstered, like the other wall surfaces in the room, in violet silk striped in blue and green, specially woven in Florence.  A frieze by Irene Carcano gives a degree of intimacy to the room, depicting neoclassical Pompeian scenes in the style of a Roman cameo.  Mongiardino added deep shelves to hold books, large portfolios, and record albums.  Sofas in 19th century Syrian velvet embroidered in white silk compliment the white marble chimneypiece and white architectural trim.

A composite view of the Cinema at Daylesford
as decorated by Mongiardino for Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Image from clippings in a private collection.
The Cinema Room designed by Mongiardino was decorated with a frieze with silhouettes of film-related representations.  The space was used by the Baron as a holding area for new purchases before finding a place at Daylesford, or becoming part of the picture gallery at Lugano or going on tour as part of the Baron's program of exhibiting his collection.  From left in the image above, the paintings include a 1934 Picasso next to Titian's "Danae;" an 1891 Boudin rests on the center chair; at right on the floor, "Rider on a White Horse" by Balthus, 1941.

A bedroom at Daylesford decorated by Mongiardo
shown as used by Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Photo by Christopher Simon Sykes for HG.
The bedroom used by the Baroness was decorated by Mongiardino in his interpretation of the quintessential 'undecorated' Country House Style.  What appears to be tea-dipped bed hangings combine with slipcovers and rugs on carpeting to add layers of what might appear to have been accumulated in the great house over generations.  A festoon blind is pulled up behind the gathered valance at the steps to the French doors that open onto a rooftop terrace.  The fabric covering the walls was especially designed by Renzo Mongiardino.

The Domed Room at Daylesford
as decorated by Mongiardino for Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Photo by Christopher Simon Sykes for  HG.
Of all the rooms at Daylesford, the one that looks like it might have been a total fabrication by Mongiardino was the Domed Room.  However, sources say that it was one of the few unchanged rooms that were original to the house by architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell and Mongiardino only decorated it for the Baron.

The Domed Room at Daylesford
as decorated by Mongiardino for Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Photo by Christopher Simon Sykes for HG.
Another view of this room and a number of other rooms shot during the same time period can be viewed on the website of the clearing house for Christopher Simon Sykes photography, The Interior Archive.  (A link could not be activated, but go to their site and search "Daylesford").

In addition to ROOMSCAPES, an out-of-print book with only used copies available in hardback and new but more expensive copies in paperback, there is a more moderately priced option with Laure Verchere's 2013 book RENZO MONGIARDINO, RENAISSANCE MASTER OF STYLE.

The next post of The Devoted Classicist will present Daylesford under the ownership of its next/current owners, billionaire industrialist Sir Anthony Bamford and his wife Lady Carole.

9 comments:

  1. Exquisitely decorated! So interested in the wall coverings used to display the pictures; I think that is a Caravaggio in: ("A detail of the Long Gallery of Daylesford with decoration by Mongiardino for Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza"), with the bronze statuettes. How divine to see the pictures waiting for display resting on the floor of the cinema. I'm very unmoved by the current trend of resting pictures against walls, on shelves or chimneypieces, but this is sublime!

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    Replies
    1. Columnist, the painting of the musician group was done by the Caravaggesque artist Gentileschi. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. Oh yes, that Balthus is stunning, (as is Caravaggio's Cardsharps).

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  3. A distinct mood of unease came over me upon first seeing, (in that issue of HG 1983) what Mongiardino had done at Daylesford--- brilliant and original though it was. That reaction was inevitable I suppose, given my admiration for what John Fowler had accomplished on behalf of Lord Rothermere. It always struck me as the yardstick by which all other country house schemes of decoration would be measured. But each client has different needs and in the case of Baron T-B, Mongiardino had the task of providing a setting for darkish 17th century Italian paintings. As he tells us in his book Roomscapes, "those porcelain sorbet colours would not have been a good background even for the sweetest 18th century English painting" thereby implying that he couldn't see the point of Fowler's approach under any circumstances. So really it was a classic instance of conflicting sensibilities on the part of two very different, gifted designers. (And I suspect that for his part, John Fowler would have likely considered Mongiardino's work "boiled", i.e. overcooked and contrived.)

    The one aspect of John Fowler's work which was spared complete obliteration however, was his selective application of gilding on the architectural elements of the principal rooms.
    Mongiardino was an artist to his fingertips, but in the realm of architectural painting, John Fowler had no peers.

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    Replies
    1. Toby, as much as I admire Fowler's work, I loved Mongiardino's interpretation of Daylesford. But you are correct, as always, to note that the two schemes were for different owners with different needs. So I am happy that you, being what I consider an expert on Fowler, give your 'blessing' on the Mongiardino redecoration. Many thanks for all your contributions to The Devoted Classicist blog.

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  4. The other commenters have given due respect to both magnificent designers whose work on this historic property is and was sublime. The art was the first consideration, which I love.

    Xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

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    Replies
    1. The Rothermeres had an impressive art collection not seen here. But virtually none to compare to Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza's. could it? Today, so many feel that the rest of the room should be a neutral background for the art and is good to see examples where the decoration compliments the art without being subservient. Thank you for commenting, Karena.

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  5. In his book on Felix Kelly, Donald Bassett mentions the artist's work on the restoration of the "ruined Batty Langley style Orangery at Daylesford for Lord Rothermere in 1965."

    A more detailed footnote refers to the re-gothicizing of the derelict windows, as done from a sketch by Felix Kelly. "A careful little model of the Orangery built by Kelly himself was used by the artist as a bathroom cabinet in his flat at 49 Prince's Gate, London."

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    Replies
    1. Thank-you, Toby. I am a Felix Kelly fan.

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