« PreviousContinue »
have already noticed as the most elaborate specimen of English architecture in this part of the Castle, communicates on the right with the
After the Castle had been rebuilt, it was the wish of the late Duchess, that the internal decorations of this room should be completed before those of the other principal The style determined upon was the gorgeous fashion of Louis Quatorze; and it fortunately happened that genuine specimens of this style could be obtained, by purchase, from a chateau of Madame de Maintenon. The arrangement and superintendence of the decorations were intrusted to Matthew Wyatt; who also painted the ceiling, and sculptured the statue of the Duchess, which we observe immediately on entering. It is a beautifully imagined and well proportioned room; the dimensions being 55 feet in length, 30 feet 6 inches in breadth, and 20 feet 10 inches in height.
The effect of the statue of the Duchess, on entering, is startling, almost painfully so; yet it would be difficult, if not impossible, to determine upon a more appropriate position. She is represented in simple drapery, with sandals, and placed before a magnificent pier glass in one of the panels of the whole height of the room. And we cannot help considering this statue to be an appropriate memorial, of a high order of excellence in conception and execution, of the cultivated taste which imagined and planned so many superb designs, and especially this splendid and magnificent saloon.
The ceiling is divided into one circular and three semicircular compartments, the former occupying the space
over the bay. In the compartment over the statue of the Duchess, Jupiter is represented with the eagle and thunderbolts, despatching Mercury on a mission. The head of Jupiter is an admirable likeness of the late Duke of York. Over the fire-place on the right hand, there is a group of heathen celestials:-Jupiter and Juno, in a reclining posture, with their mythological insignia (the eagle holding the thunderbolts, and the peacock in his pride); Mercury has his arm round Venus, who, with extended arms, is receiving a flying Cupid; behind her are two children, and Io, as a white cow, in a recumbent posture. The final catastrophe, consequent upon the jealousy of Juno, of the amours of Jupiter with Io, is represented in the circular compartment of the bay. Juno, in her chariot, attended by two peacocks, one in his pride, is giving directions to Iris, who is taking the eyes out of the head of Argus,— slain by Mercury, at the command of Jupiter, while watching Io,—and placing them in the peacock's tail. In the semicircular compartment over the fire-place on the left hand, are Jupiter with eagle and thunderbolts, Cupid and Venus. There is an appropriateness in these paintings, which does not always belong to similar representations. The family cognizance-the peacock in his pride—though forming a subordinate part in the mythological subjects of the principal compartments, is a sufficiently obvious feature to perpetuate the not unnatural complacency of the family in an heraldic bearing, which has always stood foremost in the estimation of the votaries of chivalry. It was a common circumstance for the adventurous knight, when on the eve of the performance of deeds of high emprise, to make his solemn vow before the peacock and the ladies. The peacock was also held in high estimation in the feasts of epicures. In ancient times, no great feast was complete, even in this country, without this bird, which was presented
by the sewer well cooked, but in all its gorgeous plumage. There is a beautiful monumental brass in the chancel of St. Margaret's Church, Lynn, which commemorates a burgess of that place, who, during his mayoralty, had the honour of entertaining his sovereign. Round the verge of the brass, memorials of the civic festivity of the period are represented, in which the peacock holds a conspicuous place. Some years ago, a zealous churchwarden was desirous of polishing this interesting relic; and vitriol was the means intended to be employed. Fortunately an intelligent gentleman of the town arrested the process of beautifying, by representing to the parties employed, that the polish could only be obtained by the erasure of the subjects engraved on the brass.
The intervals between the compartments of the ceiling are embellished with portraits of the Duke and the late Duchess, Sir Frederick Trench, Lord George and Lady Adeliza Manners, Lady Catharine Jermyn, the Marquis of Granby, and Lord John Manners, in medallions supported by cherubs, and encircled with flowers and fruit.
This peculiar style of decoration was most strenuously adopted in the reign of Charles II., when Verrio, whom Pope has condemned to an unenviable notoriety, by his pungent satire
"Where sprawl the saints of Verrio,"
was the principal painter. This person was employed by Charles II. at Windsor; by the Earl of Exeter, at Burleigh; at Chatsworth, by the Earl of Devonshire; and by William III. at Hampton Court. His most distinguished successors in this style of decoration were Laguerre and Sir James Thornhill. The taste for this species of painting has since much declined.
The Elizabeth Saloon is skirted by a strip of black
Above these, a gilded
The rest of the elevation
marble, on the top of which is a gilded moulding. The small panels above the skirting are formed of entrochi marble, within a gilded frame. moulding runs round the room. is covered with large panels, filled with blue satin damask in gilded frames, alternating with smaller panels, formed by elaborately carved and gilded mouldings on a French white ground. In each of the latter is a bracket chandelier of three lights. The cornice is a gorgeous display, but something too heavy in its proportions. The two chimneypieces are of Italian marble, elaborately carved in the Louis Quatorze style. The grates are magnificent structures of appropriate decorations, of which the peacock in his pride is a conspicuous portion. The cleaning and regilding alone of these ornamental affairs, are represented to have cost a sum, which I can scarcely venture to put upon paper. The furniture is carved and gilded in the same style, and covered with blue satin damask, embroidered with crimson flowers. This magnificent room is lighted in the evening by the bracket chandeliers abovementioned, a central chandelier pending from the ceiling, and by four carved and gilded candelabra, on black marble pedestals, and holding seven burners each. The brilliancy of the display is considerably enhanced by the gigantic pier-glass behind the statue of the duchess, and two others, of rather smaller proportions, one over each fire-place. I scarcely know whether my description will be intelligible to the reader; for, though my studies have been of that discursive kind as to have included some slight inquiry into most branches of knowledge, it has so happened that the elegancies of the upholsterer's art have not formed one of the subjects of inquiry.
There are in this saloon four cabinets of black marble, ebony and gilded carving, with shallow panels, decorated
with birds and fruit in Florentine mosaic. In the centre compartment of one, a group is carved, of the Queen of Sheba bringing gifts to Solomon. The contents of this cabinet are various :-articles of china; a view of Haddon, engraved on black marble; a trowel of silver-gilt, and pearl handle, having engraved upon it the arms and supporters of England, the coronet of a royal duke (the Duke of York), with the motto and date-" Deo soli gloria. MDCCC..." This trowel was used by the late Duchess in laying the foundation stone of York House; and by the late Duchess Dowager, as proxy for the Duke of York, in laying the
foundation stone of the Mausoleum.
In the centre compartment of a second cabinet, the Judgment of Solomon is represented. The interior is a repository for articles of china; a Turkish sword, with silver scabbard and handle; a scimitar, with silver scabbard, and handle of wood. There is also a cup of silver gilt, presented to the Duchess by some agricultural association, for stock raised on her grace's Belvoir farm.
In the centre compartment of the third cabinet, is an allegorical representation of Fortune as an old man, having his eyes bandaged, and sitting amidst bags of gold; to whom all the professions and trades appear to be offering homage. In this cabinet are preserved a gold cup, and that very interesting memorial of feudal times, the key of the Staunton Tower. It is of gold, and of most elegant workmanship. The wards are formed of the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew, united on a pedestal. The cap of dignity, crest, and ducal coronet, combine to form the handle. There are also various gold boxes, jewellery, medals, and miniatures.
The centre compartment of the fourth cabinet seems intended to represent power, wealth, and tyranny. In the interior, there is an exquisite carving in ivory, of Apollo