Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Home Beautiful: The Music Room from Norfolk House, St James's Square, London, 1748-56

Click images to enlarge.
The Music Room of Norfolk House
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I always like to see entire rooms from houses preserved in museums. It’s also sort of jarring to see an interior from a private home set up in a public space. How does it get there? Why? Typically, this happens when a structure is torn down or renovated and part of the interior warrants salvation from a historical or artistic standpoint. As a person who feels that the majority of old buildings deserve to be saved (and someone who lives in a very old house), seeing these rooms find new life in museums is very pleasing to me.

Here, we see the paneling and ceiling from the Music Room of Norfolk House, the London town house of the Dukes of Norfolk which was demolished in 1938. The Music Room formed part of a group of state rooms on the mansion’s first floor. These rooms included three drawing rooms and a state bedchamber.
The ceiling panels are decorated with trophies representing the Arts, and the grand wall panels are adorned with musical trophies, surmounted by heads of Apollo, the ancient Greek god of music.

Norfolk House was built on St. James Square between 1748 and 1752 by Matthew Brettingham (1699-1769), a Palladian architect. The house was originally constructed for Edward Howard, 9th Duke of Norfolk (1686-1777).

According to the V&A, “Giovanni Battista Borra (1713-1770) designed the musical trophies: James Lovell (active 1752-1778) is thought to have executed those on the ceiling, as well as the chimney-piece, and Jean Antoine Cuenot (died 1763) is known to have carved those on the walls. The exuberant style of the Music Room would have catered for the francophile tastes of Duchess Mary.”

In 1938 the room was erected at the Victoria & Albert Museum without its window wall. The window wall, with its spectacular pier glasses between the windows, was recreated separately using surviving fragments and the evidence of old photographs. 

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