Monday, June 28, 2010

Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill at the Victoria and Albert Museum, review

Published: 2:37PM GMT 08 March 2010

Previous of Images Next Portrait of Horace Walpole by Joshua Reynolds, Ragley Hall Portrait of Horace Walpole by Joshua Reynolds, Ragley Hall Strawberry Hill by Johann Muntz Strawberry Hill by Johann Muntz

There is no sadder e.g. of what can be lost when a pick up is diluted than the sale of the essence of Strawberry Hill, the flattering "gothick" residence on the banks of the Thames at Twickenham combined by Horace Walpole in the mid-18th century.

Though the residence still exists, and in truth after endless replacement will be open to the open subsequent September, the dispersion of what was inside it in 1843 contingency be counted as an irretrievable loss to this countrys informative heritage. For the 4,000 particular lots of furniture, paintings, curiosities, and objets dart in the sale were closely firm up with the temperament of the connoisseur and connoisseur who paid for or commissioned them, displayed them, non-stop his residence to the open and privately showed his pick up to visitors on guided tours.

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Strawberry Hill was a Schatzkammer, or cupboard of curiosities, with a story at the behind of each design and each object. At the V&As Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill, 280 paintings, functions on paper, objects, curios, coins and medals, and porcelain with a provenance that can be traced behind to the residence appear to cover each wall and fill each accessible surface. And when I contend it is a delight of character over substance, I meant it as high regard for the curator Michael Snodin and the muster designers Bloc communicate ideally the might of a man whose feat was to spin pciking up in to a form of self-expression.

Born in 1717, Horace was the youngest kid of Sir Robert Walpole, the statesman of might who became Britains initial budding minister, the builder of one of the grandest nation houses in England, and the majority critical art gourmet of his age. If Sir Robert was a bulldog, his son was a butterfly.

As though to satire the loftiness of his fathers seat, Houghton Hall in Norfolk, in 1747 Horace acquired a suburban villa eleven miles from London that he called "a small play-thing-house that I got out of Mrs Chenevixs [toy] shop" and "the prettiest stone you ever saw". Houghton is a antique palace. Strawberry Hill is a jerry-built residence and an relief genealogical raise that is, in parts, literally done of papier mâch. And instead of Houghtons Palladian mass and symmetry, Horaces wayward and asymmetrical mixture of turrets and crenellations was a "paper house" that he likely would be blown afar 10 years after he was dead.

There he was wrong. Though Strawberry Hill has been both dignified and despised over the years, everybody agrees that it kick-started the medieval revival.

And once he had done up Strawberry Hill as a kind of medieval folly, Walpole filled it with objects and functions of art that reflected his personality. The residence was congested with small-scale objects, mostly of antiquarian interest, or paid for for possibly their chronological associations or for reasons of perspective or friendship. This meant that the peculiarity of his acquisitions sundry extravagantly from a glorious fit of Renaissance panzer division that Walpole poorly believed to have been ragged by Francis I, and a late-12th-century ivory brush he thought (again wrongly) once belonged to Queen Bertha, to the hair of Mary Tudor in a bullion locket, and the red hat of Cardinal Wolsey. One of the strangest objects in the show is an obsidian front that Walpole believed to be a counterpart belonging to the Elizabethan sorcerer Dr Dee, but was unequivocally done by Aztec craftsmen.

Walpoles sly quick mind is additionally reflected in his collection. After saying this show I shall regularly design him nod a celebration of French tourists got up in a span of festooned 17th-century gloves with an fabrication edging cravat forged in limewood by Grinling Gibbons around his throat. The undetermined foreigners could usually pretence that this was the normal clothes of English nation gentlemen.

Though there are a couple of critical paintings on perspective (for e.g. a great stand in mural by the Elizabethan residence painter Hans Eworth), and a little pretentious ones by Allan Ramsay and Joshua Reynolds, the not the particular functions of art but the approach they are integrated in to a musical arrangement in each room that is so unforgettable. Throughout the show, dozens of � la mode watercolours show the interiors of the residence during Walpoles lifetime, so that we can take a practical debate of the building.

I contingency confess that when I initial listened about this show I thought the thought of bringing together roughly 300 manifold objects, most of that had no cultured interest, was never going to work. In fact, the designers have brilliantly evoked the ambience of the house, by formulating a claustrophobic rabbit warren of at irregular intervals made spaces. Initially the monochromatic designation astounded me. But afterwards I realised that that, too, steadily mimicked Walpoles musical intrigue at Strawberry Hill. For the organisation Ive regularly had with the medieval character and colour either the delicate colour pinkish of a Regency villa or a brilliantly phony Pugin roof is a after development. Walpoles ambience ran towards the brown-grey tones that helped him to emanate what he referred to by the made-up word "gloomth", definition the soft light and enveloping shade you find in medieval churches.

Walpole wrote his best-selling novel the Castle of Otranto at Strawberry Hill in 1765, so as well as the medieval reconstruction in design the residence set in sight the total genre of medieval novella that would embody Frankenstein and Northanger Abbey. At a widen it could even be hold obliged for the Hammer House of Horror films.

But, as this muster demonstrates, there was zero even somewhat frightful about Strawberry Hill, where Walpoles hold was regularly light, somewhat self-mocking, and dictated to entertain. I couldnt have favourite it more.

Until Jul 4