Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Travellers: Ditchley Carpet

The Saloon at Ditchley Park
in a watercolor by Alexandre Serebriakoff.
Image via The Ditchley Foundation.
In this day of throw-away culture, The Devoted Classicist appreciates each sighting of a treasured furnishing that has been reused in another setting, sometimes even with a new owner.  The non-sequential series of posts that records these appearances is titled The Travellers.

Ditchley Park.
Image via The Ditchley Foundation.
Author Martin Wood writes in NANCY LANCASTER, COUNTRY HOUSE STYLE that the Saloon, mostly used for tea when there was a house party, had a large Portuguese needlework rug made especially for the room.  Countess Munster (the former Peggy Ward before her 1929 marriage and later a partner when Nancy bought the decorating business started by Sibyl Colefax that they reformed as Sibyl Colefax Limited) had discovered a prison in northern Portugal that was capable of taking on such work and that is thought to be the source of this 19 x 13 feet 10 inches carpet. 

The relocation of the magnificent Venetian folding screen from the Hall of Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire, to the Drawing Room of Heron Bay, Barbados, was shown in the post here.  But the carpet from the Saloon of Ditchley travelled to another home of Ronald Tree as well.  After Nancy divorced Tree to marry Colonel Lancaster, she moved to his home, Kelmarsh, which the Trees had leased before buying Ditchley (and sold many of the furnishings to Lancaster).

A detail of a Sebriakoff watercolor of the
Library at Ditchley looking into the Saloon.
Image from Martin Wood's book
NANCY LANCASTER, COUNTRY HOUSE STYLE
Ronald Tree retained Ditchley for a short while after his marriage to his second wife Marietta until moving back to New York City, once home to each.  Although The Ditchley Foundation says it was Marietta Tree who commissioned Alexandre Serebriakoff to provide the lovely watercolor views of Ditchley, author Martin Wood writes that it was Ronald Tree who arranged for the series after he and Nancy divorced; it appears that a set was done for each Ronald and Nancy.  (The watercolor of the Library, shown in part above, signed and dated A. Serebriakoff Dytchley [sic] 1948 later sold at Sotheby's for $32,500).

Penelope Tree in her living room, N.Y.C. 1962
Photograph by Diane Arbus.
Image via private collection.
Ronald and Marietta Tree bought the 1907 Leland-Wesson (sisters Eufrasia Leland and Emma Wesson) double-width, Georgian style house at 123 (and 125) East 79th Street, New York City. (The original architects of the house were Foster, Gade & Graham; it is now the Brazilian Mission to the United Nations).  It was one of several properties in the immediate area that Vincent Astor had bought up in the 1920s and 1930s to prevent development for apartment buildings that would block the light for the south-facing garden of his own grand double-width townhouse on East 80th Street.  Friends of the Trees called the townhouse Little Ditchley because of the art and furnishings that had come from the Oxfordshire estate.  One of those items was the rug from the Saloon, visible in the Diane Arbus photo of the Tree's 13 year old daughter taken for a feature in Town & Country magazine.  (The photographer died in 1971 but a silver gelatin reprint authorized by the estate sold in a 2008 auction at Christie's for $15,000).  The rug apparently followed Marietta Tree's move to One Sutton Place South where she lived until her death, and sold at the Christie's 1992 sale of items from her estate, lot 133.

The rug in the loft of Niall Smith.
Photo by Jeffrey Hirsch for NYSD.
A 2008 feature on the Manhattan loft apartment of antiques dealer Niall Smith in New York Social Diary with photos by Jeffrey Hirsch and interview by Lesley Hauge and Sian Ballen revealed that the Ditchley rug had found an appreciated home yet again. 

Another view of the carpet from Ditchley.
Photo by Jeffrey Hirsch for NYSD.
The text of the NYSD article stated "Niall found the needlepoint rug at Doyle.  It had belonged to Nancy Lancaster who made it from the design of the front hall ceiling at Ditchley."  (Actually it was the rug in the Hall that had some of the same elements as the Hall ceiling but the Doyle lot may have been a resale from the 1992 auction).

The carpet from Ditchley in the loft of Niall Smith.
Photo by Jeffrey Hirsch for NYSD.
A caption of the NYSD article also revealed "a Biedermeier Recamier sits atop Niall's prized Nancy Lancaster needlepoint rug for which he paid 'four times the estimate'."  The Devoted Classicist finds it satisfying that well-made, well-designed neoclassical furnishings from the twentieth-century are still appreciated by discerning collectors today.

For more posts in The Travellers series, scroll down in the right hand margin of the regular web version of The Devoted Classicist to the heading LABELS and click on The Travellers.

14 comments:

  1. I too noticed this rug in the NYSD house tour so I'm glad you've tracked down its roots for us! It really is a fascinating thing, no? to watch the ownership of beautiful objects.

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    1. S., I saw the repeat of the Niall Smith article a few weeks ago and happened to mention it to a Devoted Reader who suggested this Travellers post. There are still some more essays to the Daylesford thread that I hope you all will enjoy reading as much as I have enjoyed putting them together.

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  2. Excellent, Mr Tackett, excellent! It is lovely to see such a rug surviving like this – in use and the basis for a beautiful room.

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    1. B., it was fun to follow it with such interesting images for documentation. Thank you for commenting.

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  3. Nancy Drew & Sherlock Holmes would surely have read with DELIGHT your postings of a Master Sleuth! Like the breadcrumbs scattered in the forest by Hansel, Beauty leads us on a journey to find that wrought by Visionaires and craftsmen long gone. Forgive me if this has posted prior...much trouble was had. I recall the apartment posted on NYSD and loved the Etruscan potteries mixed with Biedermeier...all in a loft so industrial...now the story is complete with the carpet's provenance.

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    1. T.S., Holmes had Watson and I have Toby Worthington and a slew of additional Devoted Readers to help. It is a group effort and all the contributions of information and comments are critical to the success. Thank you for your continued support.

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  4. Odd of the Ditchley Foundation to think that the Serebriakoff watercolors were commissioned by Marietta Tree, who'd be the last person on earth to make a gift of the full set to Nancy Tree Lancaster!

    Indeed there are two sets, with subtle variations in each, to make them more than mere rote copies. For example Mrs Lancaster's Serebriakoff of the orange saloon had a pair of very deep Charles of London armchairs slipcovered in a pale green. And in her blue bedroom the dressing table chairs are of two different styles (respectively) and the scrap baskets at the foot of the bed are treated with a variation on the design, among other things.

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    1. T.W., the master's eye! I love to study photographs and paintings for details, but I do not think I would have ever noticed the differences. Your comments are appreciated and many, many thanks for your on-going support for The Devoted Classicist.

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  5. One of your Devoted ReadersJune 15, 2014 at 8:05 PM

    Bravo! This is my favorite blog! My previous faves have apparently run low on their reserves because they just post an image or two with obtuse text and MAYBE a link to something more interesting than has just been presented. I expect to be educated or entertained. Your blog educates in an entertaining way! And this series of interlinking essays is genius! Fabulous Professor!

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    1. OoyDR, thank you for the compliment. I enjoy writing the blog and am gratified that so many enjoy reading it. There are several types of blogs, and this format suits me and my interests. (I will admit that each post takes a lot longer to create than most realize, so I sometimes see the attraction to just post a few images myself. But that's not what this blog is all about). I appreciate your comments.

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  6. John,
    I remember how vivid the colours were in the Portugese needlepoint rugs, especially the 19th century ones that Tice always used-
    Dean

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    1. Dean, of course the better new rugs can be made in any color desired, but many of the cheaper ones are being bleached to give a patina of sorts. To each his own. Thank you for commenting.

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  7. John, It pleases me so much to see cherished pieces reappear through the ages to new and treasured use!

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

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    1. K.A., I love it too. Thanks for commenting.

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