Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Dining Room at No.3 The Close, Winchester, 1900

The Dining Room at No. 3, The Close, Winchester
Beatrice Olive Corfe, 1900
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Pride in our homes and places of business is not a new phenomenon. For centuries, individuals have worked to create decorating schemes which were not only fashionable, but also a means of conveying personal tastes and sensibilities. Today, when we decorate a home or office, we take photos and post them online for all to see. Before photography was widely available to most people, proud owners of newly appointed homes and businesses would often commission paintings to record their visual triumph. Very often, these paintings were rendered in watercolor.

This beautiful watercolor dates to 1900. This is one of four drawings recording the interiors of the house of Canon A.S. Valpy and his wife. Their home was a late 17th-century house in the Cathedral close (“close” at this time could refer to the land next to a cathedral or an estate near an abbey or cathedral) at Winchester.

Here, we see the dining room which is an early example of the then-growing taste for decorating with antiques which is still fashionable and elegant today. The Valpys have mixed Eighteenth-century style furniture with more contemporary design, such as the casual chairs under fabric covers, all displayed proudly on a splendid vividly-colored rug. The brilliant color scheme of the early Twentieth Century combined with the gentle lines of the Eighteenth Century furniture make for a unique and lavish interior which, frankly, would be as stylish now as it was over a century ago.

The artist was called Beatrice Olive Corfe. Sadly, we don’t know much about her except that she lived in Winchester when these watercolors were painted. Her name appears on a variety of architectural subjects.

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