Chatsworth House

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Things to do


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August, 2016

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Chatsworth is wonderful and there is so much to see and admire in the house – much to much to go into one review. To make it manageable, I’ve split it into four separate parts. This just describes the State Apartments on the first floor, reached up the Great Stairs from the Painted Hall. At the top is a large landing. Under a window is a grey marble basin where dishes from the near by dining room were rinsed.

The Great Stair with its lovely gilt balustrade continues up. Several attempts at decoration were made for the first Duke. The ceiling was painted as well as paintings round the tops of the walls. There are statues set in alcoves and busts set on pedestals. The first Duke wasn’t happy with the result and had large grisaille panels painted on the walls.

A series of State Apartments leads off the first floor landing. These are on the south side of the house and look out over the canal lake and fountains. They were originally built in anticipation of a visit by William and Mary which never happened. They were designed for display rather than living in. Progress through the rooms depended on how important you were. The doors of each room are directly in line with each other, with a mirror on the end wall of the Great Chamber set in a mock doorway doubling the apparent length.

The first room is the GREAT CHAMBER. This was originally the State Dining Room, but is now a large empty room with a buffet at one end with a display of silver gilt and ceramics, intended to display the family wealth. The wax fruit and artificial flowers would originally have been fresh varieties grown in the Duke’s greenhouses.

The ceiling was painted at the end of the C17th by Verrio and depicts the Return of the Golden Age, celebrating the new reign of Protestant William and Mary. It show the Virtues conquering the Vices of ancient mythology. Walls are panelled and the carvings of game birds, fruit, flowers and foliage were carved by Samuel Watson who was responsible for the carvings in the chapel. The blue and white Delft vases in the fireplace were used to display single flowers from the greenhouses.

Off the Great Chamber is the Green Satin Room. This is a small room with no windows and green and grey striped wallpaper. It is now used to display paintings.

Only more important visitors would have been allowed to progress as far as the STATE DRAWING ROOM. The thrones were intended to be used by the monarch when they visited. The painted ceiling of the Assembly of the Gods is by Louis Laguerre, who was responsible for many of the painted ceilings at “Blenhein Palace.”: Round the walls are Mortlake tapestries dating from the mid C17th and show scenes from the life of Christ.

The decorative cabinets are made of Chinese Coromandel lacquer. This was originally used to line the walls of the State Dressing Room. It was replaced by oak panelling and some of the lacquer was used to make these pieces of furniture.

This leads into the STATE MUSIC ROOM. The name comes from the Trompe l’oeil violin painted on the panel behind the door on the wall facing the gardens.This would have been a withdrawing room for the King and Queen’s most favoured courtiers. Again they had their even more elaborate red upholstered thrones.

The ceiling again is by Laguerre and shows Phaeton begging Apollo to allow him to drive his chariot. The stamped and gilded leather wall covering was added by the sixth Duke after he saw something similar at the Chateau de Fontainbleau.

Much of the furniture is by Andre Charles Boule with his characteristic cut out designs in tortoiseshell, pewter and brass.

Beyond is the STATE BEDROOM, which was the most important room of the State Apartments and would have been used by the King. Although the State Apartments were designed in anticipation of a visit by William and Mary, they were not used until a visit by George V and Queen Mary in 1913. The first duke spent more on furnishing this room than any other room in the house. The original bed was the most expensive piece of furniture in the house. It was later taken to Hardwick House. The present bed belonged to George II and was claimed as perk by the fourth Duke in his role of Lord Chamberlain.

Again the room has a painted ceiling by Laguerre of Dawn (Aurora) chasing away Night (Diana). The walls are covered with tapestries and there are displays of blue and white porcelain. There is an exquisite silver gilt toilet service on the dressing table made in Paris in the late C17th.

Beyond is what was the STATE DRESSING ROOM or CLOSET. The silver chandelier is thought to have been a gift to the first Duke from William and Mary.

The walls were originally covered with Chinese Coromandel lacquer but have been replaced by wood panelling. There is a small chest made from the lacquer. Plates are displayed on the walls and small pieces of china on shelves above the fireplace.

Beyond is the OLD MASTERS DRAWING CABINET, another small room without any windows. On display are works by Old Masters which are susceptible to light and changes in temperature and humidity. The drawings are displayed for a short time and then go back into storage and different paintings are displayed. One wall is covered with studies of birds, animals and plants painted by Italian artists from the early C15th to early C17th.

This leads out into the south and west Sketch Galleries. These run along the inside walls overlooking the courtyard. They were added in the mid C19th making it easier to move around the house.

The SOUTH SKETCH GALLERY has green striped wall paper and green curtains with lots of tassels. There are family portraits on the walls. The large display cabinets contain geological specimens collected by the sixth Duke.

The WEST SKETCH GALLERY is similar and has doors leading into guest bedrooms.

If the rooms are not being use, the doors of the private sitting room, the SABINE ROOM, are left open. This again has a painted ceiling and walls, with comfortable chairs arranged around the fireplace.

The NORTH SKETCH GALLERY is very different. The walls along the window side have been covered with handmade ceramic panels with inset raised ceramic blocks. These are grouped to represent the personal DNA profile of the present Duke and Duchess, their son Lord Burlington and his wife. The fifth panel represents the DNA of ‘everyman’.

At the far end is the OAK STAIRS built in the early C19th to give access to the new wing. The walls are covered with family portraits and there is a lovely plaster cupola above.

There is more information and a lot more pictures “here.”:


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