Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Home Beautiful: The Parlor from 11 Henrietta Street, 1727-32

Drawing Room from 11 Henrietta Street
James Gibbs, 1720
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here we have another interior which was salvaged from a grand English home and erected in the V&A.  This interior was built as the drawing room of No. 11 Henrietta Street.  It’s quite an interesting design.

Of the three doors opposite the windows, the central one is a false door which was designed solely to create a sense of symmetry.  The room’s frieze is adorned with mythological heads of Ceres (the goddess of the harvest) and Bacchus (the god of wine)--appropriate since the room was used for festive gatherings.  The house was built in the mid 1720s and this room is a great example of the sort of architect-designed reception rooms which dominated the town houses of this era.  Furthermore, it is the only surviving example of a town house interior designed by the architect James Gibbs.

Henrietta Street was named after Henrietta, wife of Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford, since the Marylebone estate where the house was built was acquired through this marriage. James Gibbs, the architect of the house, had also worked for the 2nd Earl's father, Robert Harley. According to the V&A, “Gibbs took leases out on four sites in Henrietta Street, nos. 5, 9, 10 and 11 and actually lived in no. 5 from 1731 until his death in 1754.”

The five inset paintings in the ceiling that we see from the V&A’s photos (taken as the room was  being re-assembled) have been attributed to Vincenzo Damini and the surrounding plasterwork was made by a team of Italian craftsmen. The door frames and over-mantel are carved in wood which has been painted a clean white. The door entablature, Gibbs admitted, was taken from the published designs of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580).

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