Firescreen with embroidery design attributed to Mary Delany [then Mary Pendarves] c.1740
I write about all sorts of strange things on this blog but can’t think of much more obscure than this week’s starting point which is a Georgian firescreen which turns out not to be just a firescreen but part of a panel for a dress. If you’re wondering why then take a careful look at the workmanship. It was so fine that when the owner died her heirs took the dress apart, divided it up and framed the best sections.
But what’s that got to do with garden history? Quite simply the dress was designed by Mary Pendarves [later Mrs Delany], the heroine of a recent post about her botanical art in cut paper form, and the dress – strictly speaking a petticoat for a court mantua – shows that her botanical knowledge and craft skills were immense, so the dress has, according to garden historian Mark Laird, “the most accurate horticultural detailing of any work I’ve seen from this period.”
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Tagged auricula, botanical art, Chinoiserie, embroidery, fashion, flowers, geranium, honeysuckle, Mrs Delany, parterre, Roses, ruins, William Kent
I visited Houghton recently. It’s a vast early 18thc landscape park in rural west Norfolk surrounding a Grade 1 listed Palladian house built for Sir Robert Walpole, who was effectively Britain’s first Prime Minister. I’ve wanted to go there for a long time but a new temporary exhibition there finally convinced me to go now as a birthday treat.
Houghton Hall is the home of the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, the hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain of England and his family, but he doesn’t appear to be as traditional as his titles might suggest, and is developing Houghton into a lively centre for the contemporary arts, while maintaining and enhancing its extraordinary heritage including its gardens and parkland.
The West Front of Houghton, from Isaac Ware’s The Plans, Elevations and Sections, Chimney-pieces and Ceilings of Houghton in Norfolk , 1731
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Tagged avenues, baroque, Charles Bridgeman, Colen Campbell, Deer Park, Horace Walpole, Houghton, James Gibbs, Norfolk, parkland, parterre, Sassoon, temple, Walpole, wilderness, William Kent
The Pantheon at Stowe, late 1960s from Rena Gardiner by Julian Francis & Martin Andrews
In a recent post about Cotehele in Cornwall I included a couple of images of lino prints by Rena Gardiner, a Dorset-based artist and printmaker. I was so taken with them that I decided to find out more about her. Googling came up with very little apart from the fact that there was a recent biography and that she’d produced a lot of guidebooks for the National Trust in the 1970s and 1980s. So it was off to the British Library to look at them.
The biography is a beautiful produced book by Julian Francis and Martin Andrews, packed with images of her work but still containing very little in the way of biographical information. It appears Rena Gardiner was a quite private woman for whom work was the centre of her life.
In the words of one critic: “Combining the great tradition of British topographic artists with the rich era of autolithography of the 1940s and 1950s, she created her own very personal and individual visual style. An unsung heroine of printmaking, uninterested in publicity or fame, she created an artistic legacy that is instantly recognisable for its exuberant use of colour and texture.” Continue reading