Saturday, 8 December 2012

MERRY CHRISTMAS 2012




Why not start this blog about the Weird and Wonderful World of Historic Interiors with this festive and seasonal display of royal christmas presents underneath a table top tree at Windsor castle in 1845.
The room is on the first floor on the south front, the castle's most iconic side, looking out over the famous long walk, and its walls are completely covered in loose blue draperies. At first, I assumed these to be some kind of occasional treatment, in order to set off the tree and the tables laden with presents, but the room was actually decorated like that almost 20 years earlier, at the time when King George IV was rebuilding so much of the castle, covering most of it with silks, velvet and gold in the process. 
The room was part of a small suite reserved for the daughter of Lady Conyngham, the King's mistress. The original accounts have been preserved and speak of  'a continued antique drapery, counterlined with wadding, ornamented with very rich blue and white silk fringe...the whole suspended from ... gilt rosettes'. I guess 'counterlined' is what we now call interlined, so they were proper curtains that hung around the entire room, only parting for and draping over the doors and the fireplace mirror. The same material was used for the window curtains, so at night a couple of candles must have rendered the effect of being completely cushioned in draped shiny blue silk truly magical. 
The extravagance of George IV's interiors never fails to amaze. For this and the next room, which were really of quite modest size and grandeur, and were presumably never seen by anyone important, over a thousand yards of silk was delivered in 1828.
I have no idea what the room looks like today, but to have this view and be able to read the bills for all the furnishing work next to it, is rare and wonderful.
Finally the image is interesting for its depiction of the tree. The custom of Christmas trees spread slowly through European noble families in the early nineteenth century and arrived in the British Royal family with Queen Charlotte, who was born a German princess. Queen Victoria had a tree in her room every Christmas as a young princess, but it was after she had married the German Prince Albert that the tradition spread outside court circles. At the time of this watercolour they had been married for 5 years and one can imagine them strolling through the Grand Corridor on Christmas day 1845 to arrive at this very scene.  


Happy New Year to All !



Watercolour by Joseph Nash, 1845 (in: For The King's Pleasure, Hugh Roberts, 2001, page 270)

6 comments:

  1. Looking forward to following your new blog! Happy New Year!

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  2. Happy New Year to you! I'm so glad to be catching your new blog at its start.

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  3. Delighted to have found you through a real fave....the devoted classicist
    can we PLEASE have some G.J-S Menagerie .

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  4. Wonderful - I have a new obsession!

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