Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chiswick Tour

On this day in 1748 the man of many talents, William Kent died.  Rising from humble beginnings, Kent began as an artist and would become a leading architect with landscape and furniture designer also on his resume.  Besides taking a strong role in updating Kensington Palace (which you can read all about in the fantastic The Courtiers) Kent also worked with fellow architect, Lord Burlington to revamp Chiswick House after a fire damaged the original country retreat.

Together the Earl and Kent created a much more fantastic home than the original Jacobean house that had been passed down into Lord Burlington's possession.  Inspired by his love-affair with Italy, the Earl figured his house burning down would be a good excuse to get his own villa.  How convenient, *fans self with air of suspicion.*  But with all suspicions aside, the result of the two architectural minds together is quite gorgeous.

The Upper Tribune aka Domed Hall aka Saloon was inspired by the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine, the building which used to house that famous colossal statue of Constantine.  The iconic dome is just as impressive from the inside as the outside.  Inlaid on the floor is an eight-pointed star of the Order of the Garter which Lord Burlington received from King George II. It was rumored he also secretly received the same honor from the exiled Stuarts.  The painting in the room of Charles II does not aid in dispelling this rumor.

Also inspired by ruins from the Roman Forum was the Gallery.  This series of rooms overlooked the gardens and were modeled after the Temple of Venus and Roma.

Like many stately homes, it is difficult to decide which is more impressive, the house or gardens which is the case with Chiswick as well.   Can you guess the theme they went with?  If you said ancient Roman and/or Greek you were right.  Kent had a real knack for creating the pastoral fantasy garden ideal for strolling in.  He based his designs off of artists like Poussin.

Instead of making the geometric gardens so common in European palaces, Kent and Burlington went for a natural romping ground where guests could discover enchanting aspects such as a cascade or hidden temple.  An artificial river was even put in so as to complete the two architects' fantastic vision.

No wonder Georgiana referred to Chiswick as her "earlthy paradise." 

1 comment:

  1. Such a beautiful place! I know where I want to travel after the HSC :)