Chatsworth Visit


At the end of October the studio was invited to Chatsworth, together with the team that created the Laurent Perrier Chatsworth show garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, to celebrate our shared success and the beginning of the garden's relocation to Chatsworth.

We had all been invited by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, who wanted to show their appreciation and thanks for the hard work put in by everyone from Laurent Perrier, Crocus, our studio and Chatsworth into the creation of the garden which won a gold medal and Best Show Garden. 

The highlight of the day was a guided tour around the house, and a running history of Chatsworth and the Dukes of Devonshire.

As you approach the house you are welcomed by a bevy of stone animals which line the tulip tree avenue, which was colouring beautifully in the autumn sunshine.

Opulent gilding on parts of the house almost hidden from view spoke of a history of conspicuous wealth and show.

Inside the ceiling of the Painted Hall is a cacophony of intertwined and writhing figures. Painted by Louis Laguerre in the 18th century they tell the story of the life of Julius Caesar. 

On the way to the chapel an installation by Edmund de Waal sits comfortably surrounded by paintings and sculpture fragments from every period of the house's history.

In the chapel exquisite wooden carvings (originally attributed to Grinling Gibbons, but now understood to be by Derbyshire craftsman Samuel Watson) were contrasted with a graphic sculpture by Damien Hirst. Titled 'St. Bartholemew: Exquisite Pain' the gilded bronze sculpture shows the flayed saint surrounded by the instruments of his torture.

The potential sobreness of the Library was diminished by intensely patterned carpet and furniture upholstered in a range of contrasting and clashing figured silks.

A number of illustrated books of horticultural interest had been displayed especially for us, including one featuring an illustration of Musa cavendishii,  the banana named by Paxton after the 6th Duke of Devonshire and which, since the mid 20th century, has been one of the most important traded cultivars internationally.  

Of the huge selection of  important artworks displayed at Chatsworth one of the most striking is the white marble sculpture by Raffaelle Monti of A Veiled Vestal Virgin. So fine is the carving and so believable the impression of the draped and gauzy veil that covers her face, that you almost expect her to start breathing.

Equally lifelike, and bringing a 17th century face right into the present day, is Frans Hals' Portrait of a Woman Standing, whose eyes contact with your own and really do seem to follow you around the room.

While in the Sculpture Gallery there was a charming contrast between grand classical sculpture and more intimate, domestic portraits.

On our way up to the belvedere on the roof we were shown a window made of Blue John, a mineral (fluorspar) found in England only in a small number of caves close to Chatsworth, it's rarity once making it extremely valuable for decorative architectural elements, sculptural vases and the like.

From the belvedere, which is in dire need of renovation after many years of neglect, we had the most impressive views over the Brownian landscape in which Chatsworth is set, and were told of how Capability Brown had demanded the removal of a worker's village to ensure that the view from the big house was unimpeded.

After a full and generous lunch in the Stables we were taken on a high speed tour of the grounds, starting with th estate's prize-winning grapevines, which produce more fruit thatn it seems possible for one household to consume.

The finishing touch was provided at the Cascade, where Head Gardener Steve Porter had arranged for the water supply to the cupola of the Cascade House to be turned on turning the whole roof of the Cascade House into a magical and amusing water feature.