On my first visit to Manchester, after dozens of trips around England, I was eager to see some of the nearby Stately Homes. With two friends, we set off for Bramall Hall and were warmly rewarded with a spectacular house.
Bramall Hall in Stockport is a stunning example of the black-and-white style so admired in this region. Perhaps the look owes more to Victorian alterations and embellishments than to its Tudor origins, but why quibble? Portions of the house date to the medieval era, and others were renovated in the 1880's and subsequently brought up to date in some wings.
The tall Tudor Chimneys bear a resemblance to those at Hampton Court Palace. Below, the entrance in the rear.
The Great Hall has evolved from the original one room that housed all the family and servants at the beginning. Of special note are the windows, definitely a Victorian design, no doubt meant to improve on the small-paned Tudor precedents.
In the Banqueting Room, the Solar, and the Chapel, some of the original walls and wall paintings have survived.
The sign at right reads "Please do not touch the Wattle and Daub wall. It is extremely old and very fragile."
The Chapel is still in use. The Neville Room, below, was a Victorian remake of several smaller rooms for Mr. Neville to enjoy his hobbies and entertain his friends at billiards.
Below, the Paradise Room was designed for the previous family, the Davenports, who owned the property from the 1300's until the late 1800's. It is named for the embroidered bed hangings showing scenes of Eden, as completed by Dorothy, wife of William Davenport V. She also produced a family of eleven children in the late 16th century.
The Withdrawing Room occupies the upper portion of the Great Hall, dividing it into two levels in the 1570's. The ceiling is an excellent example of Elizabethan design; over the fireplace is the Royal Coat of Arms of Elizabeth I.
The Dining Room, below, has many Victorian features interpreting the Tudor originals.
We were unable to see one of the rooms -- as the sign below warned us!
I love the way in which the British always apologize for such "inconveniences." Below, views of the kitchen, laundry, and servants' rooms.
It can't be forgotten how much hard work had to be done to allow families to live in these great houses by both men and women in service. And finally, everyone's favorite spot: the Gift Shop!
In the Holland Park section of London, artist Frederick Leighton (1830-96) built his house and studio. Reflecting his interest in Oriental Art, Leighton had architect George Aitchison include an "Islamic" court.
On this visit the museum and studio, which usually exhibits works by Leighton himself, were set up to display works of fellow Victorian artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912). Both men were admired in their day for their classical/ romantic styles, mythological and historical subjects, works which fell out of favor later when the world discovered the Impressionists.
Above, The Finding of Moses, 1904. In recent years, there has been renewed interest in the academic painters of the Victorian era and recognition of their talents and creativity.
Above, Coign of Vantage, 1895. The exhibition, entitled At Home in Antiquity, was organized in A-T's native Netherlands.
Above, The Roses of Heliogabalus, 1888. This is a deceptively beautiful scene, with pink rose petals scattered over the foreground. Only when you know the story behind it, however, do you learn that the Emperor gathered these people and poured rose petals on them until they were smothered while he watched from above.
To conclude on a happier note, In My Studio, 1893, depicts a homey scene with the petals still attached to the blooms.
After I left Leighton House Museum, I hopped a train to Manchester where I re-joined Kristine and Sandra for further adventures...watch for Bramall Hall next.
As we left the palace, we couldn't resist having a bite to eat...accompanied by some rather aggressive pigeons fighting over a neighbor's crumbs.
As you can see, it was a glorious day, and we decided to roam the Gardens a bit, pausing to admire the statue of Queen Victoria sculpted by her daughter, Princess Louise.
We strolled the paths and enjoyed the views of this green island in the center of the city.
Eventually, we arrived at the Peter Pan sculpture...one of my favorite London statues. Author J.M.Barrie commissioned the statue from artist Sir George Frampton, placed here in 1912. Do you love it too?
Almost at Lancaster Gate, we found the Italian Garden, an ornamental water garden which supposedly was a gift from Prince Albert to his wife, Queen Victoria. And a very pretty sight it is!
The last view I will show is Trafalgar Square, always the center of a London visit. On the left is the Fourth Plinth, a site for changing contemporary sculptures, showing Really Good, a human hand in a thumbs up gesture, It has since been replaced by a recreation of an ancient sculpture from the Mosul Museum. The original was destroyed by ISIS in 2015.
In the center of the picture is the National Gallery and on the right is St. Martin in the Fields, built by James Gibbs in 1722.
Next on my agenda in London 2017 was Leighton House.
I have visited Kensington Palace many times over the year, sadly not to have tea with Princess Margaret, or hobnob with Diana and Charles, not even to baby-sit for the little Cambridges. The palace has changed a bit over the years, never quite settling on a "brand" for very long at a time. Of course, it has almost always shown the rooms built for King William and Queen Mary by Sir Christopher Wren, and the rooms in which Queen Victoria spent her childhood. It has served as a repository and exhibition space for historic costumes.
Kristine Hughes Patrone and I could not resist another visit to see how rooms had been recently refurbished and to see the Diana Wardrobe display. We walked up to the south side of Kensington Palace and found our way to the entrance, where we had to choose from several routes through the exhibition and state rooms.
Kensington Palace is the official London residence of numerous members of the royal family, such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Their apartments are strictly off limits for tourists. Below, Queen Anne, who ruled after her brother-in-law, King William III, died. I have always pitied the sad Queen who endured seventeen pregnancies but none of her children survived to the teen years.
Beginning in 1689, Kensington Palace was the home of five monarchs, William III and Mary II, Anne, George I, and George II. Below, pictures of the Queen's Apartments.
We next proceeded to a display Diana: Her Fashion Story. As Princess of Wales, Diana (1961-1997), captivated the world with her dedication to her sons, her causes, and her wardrobe.
Next, we visited Victoria Revealed. The future Queen grew up in Kensington Palace. Her father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strahearn fourth son of George III, died before she reached one year of age. Victoria's mother, the former Princess Victoire of Saxe Coburg, raised her under very strict conditions, greatly influenced by her adviser, Sir John Conroy, a man the future Queen despised. Once she succeeded to the throne upon the death of her uncle, King William IV, Victoria moved out of Kensington Palace and into Buckingham Palace, which has housed the British monarchs ever since.
Up to her succession to the throne at age 18, Victoria's activities were under constant surveillance. No wonder she couldn't wait to move into a "place of her own."
Another special exhibition honored the achievements of the "Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte and the Shaping of the Modern World." on view in summer 2017. All of them had accomplishments that benefited their husbands and sons in ruling and in the interests of the people. For example, Caroline encouraged artists and scholars such as Handel and Newton. Several were patrons of the royal gardens where so much botanical research was done and so many new species examined.
Above, l to r, Caroline of Ansbach, wife of George I and mother of George II; Augusta of Saxe-Coburg, wife of Frederick, Prince of Wales (son of George II) and mother of George III; Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz, wife of George III and mother of George IV and William IV)
Mrs. Mary Delaney (1700-1788) was given a house in Windsor by Queen Charlotte where she pursued her interests in botany and created the mosaicks (above, left), paper collages, for which she was so famous.
The King's Staircase, decorated by William Kent, for George I and completed in 1724, showing the Court in fanciful poses.
Near the conclusion of the paths through the palace is the King's Gallery, also decorated by artist/architect William Kent, a large elegant room in which to display the royal collections.
The final rooms showed more of the paintings collection and a selection of 18th century costumes, almost too many treasures to absorb. We'll go outside next.
Among the Gallery's most famous pictures is the pre-Raphaelite painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82) La Ghirlandata, 1873. It portrays model Alexa Wilding playing the harp and is known in translation as the Lady of the Wreath.
The huge painting (214 x 297 inches) that dominates the gallery is The Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gilbraltar, 1782 by John Singleton Copley (1738-1815). Completed in 1791 It commemorates the defeat of the Spanish naval armada. The treasured canvas hung in the old Guildhall Art Gallery until April, 1941, when it was moved for safekeeping, jut three weeks before the gallery was destroyed by aerial attack. A special wall in the new gallery had to be designed to display it. Copley was born in Boston, MA, and went to Europe to study in 1774. After establishing his reputation in London, he never returned to America; he is buried in Surrey.
Among the excellent Victorian paintings are many charming views of children. Above is The First Leap, Lord Alexander Russell on his pony Emerald, 1829, by Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873).
John Everett Millais (1829-1896) painted the two canvases of the little girl, entitled, left, My First Sermon, 1863, and right, My Second Sermon, 1864, Who says the Victorians had no sense of humor?
I recommend a visit to the Guildhall and the Guildhall Art Gallery, and don't miss the church nearby, St. Lawrence Jewry, the official church of the Lord Mayor of London and the City of London Corporation.
St. Lawrence Jewry was first built in 1136 in the old Jewish quarter of London. After the Great Fire of 1666, it was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren, and re-opened in 1677. Damaged again in World War II, it was restored once more.
Memorial window to Sir Christopher Wren in St. Lawrence Jewry. Below, the church's interior.
Next on my 2017 agenda for London was Kensington Palace.
It had been many years since I last visited the Guildhall of London, which is well worth a visit, by the way, at the left of the photo above. But my goal was the Art Gallery, completed in 1999, to replace buildings lost in the Blitz. While excavations were underway, the remains of a Roman Amphitheatre were discovered and that was my initial goal.
To enhance the very few actual remains (look to the right above at what is left of a wall), illuminated drawings illustrate the appearance from the time of the Romans in Londinium, which lasted four centuries.
Above and below, fragments of walls and entrances on the east side of the original amphitheatre.
Representation of gladitorial combat in the arena.
A skull found here with evidence of injuries consistent with those probably suffered by gladitorial combatants.
Maps show where the arena was located and the size of the city of Londinium...remember the Romans were in Britain for four centuries. From the villas unearthed in the south to Aqua Sulis (Bath) to Hadrian's Wall in the north, Britain has many sites excavated to show how the Romans lived, worshiped, and fought, and died.
And finally, follow the money. What was the price of enjoying the spectacle? These coins date from the 2nd century AD.
Look in next week to see some of the art from "upstairs."
The Courtauld will renovate the top floor of the gallery, beginning in autumn, 2018. They anticipate closing the gallery for about two years, though the other activities of the Institute will continue unabated. The location of the Royal Academy's exhibitions will be restored and updated. Below is how it looked in the late 18th century. Currently the room is divided by walls into smaller areas for exhibition.
Don't expect the Courtauld to return to the old method of hanging work from floor to ceiling however.
On lower floors, many of the rooms retain their original features from the days of the Royal Academy. The pictures above and below show the former Ante-Room and Library of the RA.
The photos below show the Ante Room shared by the Royal Academy and the Society of Antiqueries 200 years ago. The ceiling design by Biaggio Cipriani (1727-1785) portrays Apollo surrounded by the symbols of the Zodiac.
Below, a portrait of Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), c. 1812, by William Beechey (1753-1839) hung over one of a pair of D-shaped commodes of inlaid mahogany, 1788, by Samuel Cooper and John Savage for Gillows of Lancaster.
The portrait of Charles and Captain John Sealy, 1773, by Tilly Kettle (1735-86), was painted in Calcutta.
The room below was the Council and Assembly Room when the Royal Academy was housed here in Somerset House. The ceilings are copies of the original by Benjamin West (1738-1820) and Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807), now in Burlington House, Piccadilly, the present home of the RA. West, born in America, was the second president of the RA , and Kauffman was one of the two women founding members.
My two posts on the Courtauld Institute and Gallery barely give a hint of the riches to be found here -- not to mention a nice tea room and of course, the gift shop, where I cannot avoid a stop every time I visit. Get there soon or you will have to wait a while, unless they concoct a scheme to show some of the paintings elsewhere in this vast building while they return the upper floor to something like its former appearance.
The Courtauld Institute is located in Somerset House in The Strand, just a short walk east of Trafalgar Square. In these rooms during the Regency period, from 1780 to 1837, the Royal Academy of Art had their meeting and classrooms and held the annual competitive exhibition each summer.
Above, the Strand Facade of Somerset House, the entrance to the Courtauld Gallery. The Courtauld has occupied this location since 1989 and is undergoing renovation, expected to continue until 2020.
The famous circular staircase leading from the ground to the exhibition space at the top of the building. Today, there is an elevator, but in years past, the steep stairs led to some congestion, as satirized by Thomas Rowlandson in his caricature The Exhibition Stare Case, 1800, now in the collection of the British Museum.
Reader, I took the lift! The Courtauld Institute is known for its excellent collection, particularly its French impressionist and post-impressionist works, as well as its studies in art history, curatorial, and conservation programs. Founded in 1932 by Samuel Courtauld, textile magnate and philanthropist, the academic program is part of the University of London.
On the Ground Floor, stunning medieval works are displayed.
This is one of their most famous canvases, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere by Edouard Manet, 1881-82. Below, Renoir's La Loge, 1874. These photos look so crooked, I wonder if I was tipsy? Or just jet-lagged?
Among the embarrassment of riches here is Two Dancers on a Stage, 1874, by Degas, and Cezanne's Route Touranante, c. 1904.
And, of course, that most famous of all the VanGoghs:
Self Portrait with a Bandaged Ear, 1889.
In my next blog post, I will share with you plans for the Gallery's future, a few of the 18th-early 19th C. works, and the stunning decoration of many of the rooms. The Courtauld trains many curators, conservators and others who help us all enjoy art. Long may they reign!
Above, an evening view of the Palace of Westminster, or as it is familiarly known, the Houses of Parliament, seen from across the Thames in London. Below, a view of the cluster of buildings that comprised the Palace of Westminster before the great fire of 1834.
The fire began on October 16, 1834, and burned all night, observed by large crowds of spectators. Government officials, including the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, and even many artists watched as almost the entire complex was destroyed.
Among the spectators was Joseph Mallord William Turner, who later painted oil studies of the scene.
About all that was left was Westminster Hall and various objects saved from the fire by volunteers. Both Houses soon found temporary quarters, but clearly, a new structure would have to be established.
After a competition for design, construction began on a vast neo-Gothic building on the old site on the riverside. The winning architect was Charles Barry, later knighted, with Augustus Pugin, his assistant. By the time construction actually began in 1839, Queen Victoria was on the throne.
Before the fire, the House of Lords looked like this, as published in Ackermann's 1808 Microcosm of London
After the new building was complete, the House of Lords looked much as it does in the 21st Century.
In both Houses, we tourists were not allowed to sit on the benches or chairs. for these are reserved for the elected or appointed members. Fortunately, there were other "allowable" seats along the way. Below, for special occasions, such as the monarch's annual address, members of the Commons join the Lords in this chamber, as below pictured in 2015.
Here is the House of Commons in 1808, as drawn for the Microcosm of London.
The House of Commons today.
Prime Minister Theresa May addresses the House of Commons.
When the Houses are in session it is possible to obtain passes to the Visitor's Gallery to listen to debates, but often the remainder of the building may be closed to tourists.
As usual, the tour ended with a visit to the gift shop and tea room. Time for a cuppa.
More London exploits to come: Courtauld Gallery, the Guildhall, Kensington Palace, and Frederick Leighton;s House, to name a few.
You will note the scaffolding around the Elizabeth Tower (topped by the clock and bell, known as Big Ben). Repairs to the Houses of Parliament began in 2017 and will continue for decades. Plans currently call for both houses to meet in nearby buildings while their chambers are being renovated, beginning in the 2020's. Costs are estimated to be in the billions of pounds.
Outside, in Parliament Square, there is almost always a demonstration of some sort, this one being supporters of ending the Brexit process of leaving the EU.
We entered through Westminster Hall, the ancient remnant of the original Palace of Westminster. It was saved during the fire of 1834 which otherwise destroyed the Palace.
The Hall, dating from 1097, is famous for the hammer-beam ceiling, erected in the reign of Richard II, and the largest of its kind in England. Currently, it is filled with displays telling the story of Parliament and the building, perhaps to build public support for its preservation and repair.
This model of the current Palace of Westminster, (the official name, though most people refer to it simply as Parliament) shows Westminster Hall in the foreground, attached to the neo-Gothic building completed in the 1860's by architects Sir Charles Berry and Augustus Pugin. The House of Commons occupies the north (left) end and the House of Lords, the south right),
Some of the displays were related to the commemoration of the Votes for Women's 100th anniversary. A new window, designed by artist Mary Branson, was installed. It changes in effect with the movement of the sun, entitled New Dawn.
Once through the door below the stunning artwork, we could no longer use our cameras, so the following pictures will be taken from websites. The building has hundreds of rooms, many offices, but our tour was confined to the main reception rooms, halls, and chambers.
St. Stephen's Hall leads from Westminster Hall into the post-fire building. Filled with mosaics, paintings, stained-glass windows, and statuary, it is a feast for the eyes and a compendium of British history. The Hall was damaged by bombing in World War II.
The Central Lobby is open for meetings of MPs with their constituents, also full of historical artwork.
In the Royal Gallery toward the House of Lords, two huge murals dominate the room. Both by artist Daniel Maclise (1806-1870), they were executed in the technique known as Water-Glass painting, which unfortunately has not aged well, letting the colors fade somewhat. One portrays the Death Of Nelson, the loss of the Admiral in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Facing across the Gallery is The Meeting of Wellington and Blucher after the Battle of Waterloo, completed in 1861.
In preparation for this mural, Maclise drew a full-size cartoon, which had been in storage at the Royal Academy. For the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Waterloo in 1815, the cartoon was conserved and exhibited at the RA in Burlington House.
Also near the House of Lords Chambers is the Robing Room where the monarch prepares to address both houses in her annual speech, usually in full regalia, as in this photo from 2016.
More information on the history of Parliament will be posted soon!
Victoria Hinshaw, Author