wanton display: noble disregard

The noble houses of eighteenth-century England…

Diverse as were the economic enterprises and huge as the domestic staaffs came to be, yet these things do not explain entirely why men built such vast palaces. The need to maintain their social and political status by the prestige won through ostentation lies nearer to the truth. This certainly is why many a nobleman built beyond his means- as the Suffolks beggared themselves in creating the monstrous pile of Audley End. Yet there was a more subtle factor involved. The British aristocracy, like the Kwakiutl Indians of the West Coast of Canada, found their egos, the whole idea of themselves as a class and as persons, involved in wanton display: the greater the man, the more absolute his disregard for thrift.

—State bed, ca. 1732, William Kent at Houghton Hall,Norfolk—Read More:http://pinterest.com/austenonly/state-beds/

Whims, moods, any mania, whatever the cost, could be indulged without guilt, without remorse, without any sense of betrayal of the standards of a class, even if it ended in bankruptcy and ruin. And it was the combination of these factors- political, social, economic, and one might also say anthropological- which led to the profuse extravagance of aristocratic life over three centuries of English history. Yet it gave to Britain an exceptional artistic heritage.

—Sandby’s humorous depiction of a fair combines close observation with imaginative touches. Edinburgh’s magnificent skyline, dominated by the castle, is recorded fairly accurately as viewed from Bruntsfield Links. On the left, Sanby included the Wrights House, an imposing fourteenth century baronial manor, demolished in 1800. The fair is, however, an imaginative reconstruction, probably based on the city’s annual All Hallow’s fair. Sandby delighted in sketching people as well as places and the scene is full of characters and lively incident. The number of red coats confirms the army’s strong presence but also adds a colourful note to the composition. –Read More:http://www.nationalgalleries.org/collection/artists-a-z/S/4818/artist_name/Paul%20Sandby/record_id/8900#.UKT2UoZf27o

As one walks through the great rooms of state one can sense some of the symbolism of these vast houses. Such rooms, of course, were not lived in; they were rooms for reception either on formal or semi-formal occasions, rooms to be strolled through to the more intimate private apartments where daily life was lived. In the seventeenth century this was usually the bedroom (frequently the bed was fenced off by a rail), but by the eighteenth century smaller, cosier sitting rooms, cabinets, or boudoirs became at first the fashion, then the rage. The great state rooms usually consisted of a vast hall ( one of the most spectacular is at Holkham, derived by William Kent from designs by Palladio), one or two salons and drawing rooms ( those at Wilton, the famous “double-cube” room, and at Petworth, remarkable for its Grinling Gibbons carvings, are exceptional), a state dining room and at least one state bedroom, used only by visitors of extraordinary distinction. ( to be continued)…

—Inside the Double Cube Room at Wilton House, near Salisbury—Read More:http://archimaps.tumblr.com/post/22899808618/inside-the-double-cube-room-at-wilton-house-near


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