An Antiquarian's Tale, Issue 92

Clinton Howell Antiques - August 31, 2020 - Issue 92

An Appreciation of English Antique Furniture

A semi biographical journey of my life in the English Decorative Arts

Not all the houses I have visited are in England, Chirk and Powys Castles were in Wales. Culzean Castle, (pronounced cull-ane) is in Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland, just above the Lake District. If you are a Wordsworth lover and want to visit the Lake District, I urge you to go just a little further to visit this Robert Adam castle. (You can go even if you aren't a Wordsworth lover.) The immediate question that springs to mind is, Robert Adam built a castle!? Yes, and if you look at it, you will see that he essentially turreted (and crenellated the turrets) wherever one block of the building met another block of the building. It is not his best work, but it is interesting to see as it is so out of the ordinary. And to be fair, he was, as was often the case, remodeling an existing house.

I remember Culzean because it was the first time I came across the work of the London cabinetmaker, Charles Elliott, a pair of marquetry inlaid commodes (I think, as they might have been console tables). At the time I saw them, I was of the belief that it was Chippendale and Linnell who did all of Adam's work, but Adam spread his commissions quite widely. Elliott was a new name for me, but I soon learned that he was a known name and, in fact, worked for the Prince of Wales, something Chippendale never did. I also learned that  it was at Culzean where research was undertaken on the paints used in the grand salon, which I might add is round--not a typical Adam shape. The researchers found that Adam's pigments were considerably darker than thought, not the soft pastel shades you see in so many Adam revival houses both in Europe and America. It sheds a whole new light on Adam interiors, of which there are many. There is still a lot to learn. Culzean was also granted to Dwight Eisenhower as a residence for life and, apparently, visited four times, once while he was President. Oddly, this led to a gift of four million dollars for the refurbishment of the castle from an American who had never visited Culzean, but who was interested that Ike had spent time there. It is an out of the way visit and wholly unexpected from several points of view, but like all of the places I have visited, I always learn something. I must say I would love to visit again.

In re to the article I sent out last week about the history a piece of furniture can represent, I received the Furniture History Society Newsletter in the mail the other day and the photograph on the cover is of a piece made for George IV. The short article details not just the cabinet, but the reception the cabinet had by George IV, its recording in the Royal Accounts, the reason for its recent conservation, the condition it was in and a lengthy section on the maker and of his family. This is but a sampling of what I refer to as the broader history objects can represent. Anyone interested in learning about the Furniture History Society can easily look them up or get in touch with me. Good, but too few photos, of the interior.