Monday, September 15, 2014

The Attingham Summer School – Exploring the English Country House


 Kelmscott Manor

            In July 2014 I attended the Attingham Summer School, an eighteen-day course which consisted of lectures and public and private visits to English country houses in Sussex, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and Gloucestershire. This program provided me with a unique opportunity to become acquainted with the architectural and social history of the historic house. It also gave me a chance to study its contents and design. Lastly, I was able to gain a greater understanding of how these estates are managed and interpreted with a particular focus on issues of conservation and preservation.

            As a decorative arts historian and silver specialist, I came into the Attingham program with a keen eye and ear for seeing works of silver and for hearing stories of their history and their role in the country house. To my great fortune, a pre-course visit took us to Apsley House in London, and a magnificent Portuguese silver-gilt centerpiece whet my appetite for what was to come in the weeks ahead (fig. 1).

Figure 1: Portuguese centerpiece, silver, designed by D.A. Sequeira, Lisbon,
presented to Duke of Wellington in 1816, Apsley House, London.

            Upon the official launch of the program, we visited Uppark in West Sussex where National Trust curator and silver expert, James Rothwell, proved that objects are not static adornments on display, but rather they are instilled with vibrant histories. The dining room served as the perfect setting to demonstrate the theatrical role that a piece of silver could play over the course of a meal. Salvers, a kind of tray used to carry drinks, were instrumental to a pleasurable affair. We envisioned footmen carrying wine glasses to the host and his guests, toasts being made, and glasses being hurriedly refilled.

            Additionally, Rothwell discussed the issues of repatriation as many objects have been dispersed or sold over the years. To the Trust’s good fortune, they have been able to return many family objects. In recent years, they were able to purchase a pair of silver tea canisters at a Sotheby’s auction in London (fig. 2). The canisters are engraved with the arms of Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh and his wife Sarah Lehtieullier, who lived at Uppark during the second half of the eighteenth century. The term ‘heirloom’ took on a more significant meaning as we continued our tour of the English countryside.

Figure 2: Pair of tea canisters, silver, engraved with the arms of Fetherstonhaugh impaling Lehtieullier, 1767, displayed in the Little Parlour, Uppark, West Sussex.

            Part of the Devonshire collection, a stately silver perfume burner took on a presence of its own in one of the bedchambers at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire (fig. 3). Perfume burners served as braziers in which scent pastilles or other aromatics were placed above a bed of burning charcoal. When in use, these vessels produced scented fumes that filled the air with the pleasant smell of roses, lavender, and other flowers and herbs. Embodied with the cultural values of past societies, the perfume burner expresses how people experienced their bodies and the environment around them. Perfume burners ranged from those vessels produced in bronze, brass, or copper to those in silver crafted as elaborate decorative works of art, as seen in the example at Chatsworth.

Figure 3: Perfume burner, possibly Phillip Rollos (fl. 1685-1710), circa 1690, silver, Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth House, Derbyshire.

            While silver certainly was on my radar, my mind was always open to new discoveries and ways of interpretation. Our group had discussed atmosphere on the first day, and Calke Abbey embodied this term (fig, 4). Owned by the Harpur family for nearly 300 years, it was passed to the Trust in 1985 under fragile conditions. Deliberately displayed under these circumstances, Calke Abbey is an example of the decline of a country house, but it nonetheless speaks of deep admiration (figs. 5 and 6). For me, it was a highlight of the course for its ability to inspire and to evoke issues regarding preservation and conservation.

Figure 4: Calke Abbey.

Figure 5: Interior view of Calke Abbey.

Figure 6: Interior view of Calke Abbey.

            Overall, the 2014 Attingham Summer School was about contextualization, lively lecturers, scholarly conversations, friendships, and idyllic landscapes. It also was a unique occasion to network with curators, conservators, and leading figures from such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Louvre, Getty, and Victoria & Albert. These connections, my newfound knowledge of the English country house, and my collection of memories have proved to be indispensable. Participating in this program would not have been possible without generous funding from the Chipstone Foundation, secured by Professor Ann Smart Martin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Royal Oak Foundation, and I am truly grateful for their support.

The Attingham Trust, http://www.attinghamtrust.org/

Ann Glasscock, Project Assistant, Chazen Museum of Art
PhD Student in Art History and Material Culture, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Monday, August 25, 2014

Fall 2014 Course Offerings:

Art History


Art History 300: Art and Archaeology of Ancient Greece (Aylward)
Explores the art and archaeology of ancient Greece from the Bronze Age through the Hellenistic period.

Art History 301: Greek Painting (Cahill)
Problems of techniques, style and iconography in wall and vase painting from Geometric to 403 B.C.
Pre-Reqs: So st & Art Hist 201 or 300 or cons inst

Art History 305: History of Islamic Art and Architecture (Pruitt)
This course surveys the architecture, landscape, book arts, and luxury objects produced in Islamic contexts from Spain to India from the 7th through the 21st centuries. Attention will be focused upon the relationships between Islamic visual idioms and localized religious, political, and socioeconomic circumstances. In particular, lectures and readings will examine the vital roles played by theology, royal patronage, ceremonies, gift exchange, trade, and workshop practices in the formulation of visual traditions.
Pre-Reqs: Sophomore standing

Art History 307: Early Chinese Art: From Antiquity to the Tenth Century (Li)
This course introduces art forms and concepts developed in China from antiquity to mid-10th century, covering jade carving, metalwork, sculpture, ceramics, calligraphy, painting woodblock printing, and architecture mostly created for religious or funerary purposes. Emerging aesthetic concepts also discussed.

Art History 379: Cities of Asia (Chopra)
Historical overview of the built environment of cities of Asia from antiquity to the present; architectural and urban legacy in its social and historical context; exploration of common themes that thread through the diverse geographical regions and cultures of Asia.

Art History 500: Modern South Asia: Spatial and Visual Cultures and Histories (Chopra)

Art History 601: Intro to Museum Studies I
History of museums and collecting; introduction to connoisseurship; studies and practices in art museum activities; experience in exhibition planning, research, cataloging, and installation.
Pre-Reqs: Sr or Grad st; cons inst; ltd enrollment

Art History 602: Intro to Museum Studies II
Continuation of 601
Pre-Reqs: Art Hist 601 & cons inst

Art History 650: Books: Print Culture of Europe and North America (Senchyne)
History of books and print culture in the West from ancient times to the present. Focus on the influence of reading and writing on social, cultural, and intellectual life. Methodologies, theories, and sources for study of book and print culture history.
Pre-Reqs: Junior standing; or Graduate student in SLIS

Art History 700: Art and Archaeology of Ancient Greece (Aylward)
Explores the art and archaeology of ancient Greece from the Bronze Age through the Hellenistic period.


Classics


Classics 300: Art and Archaeology of Ancient Greece (Aylward)
Explores the art and archaeology of ancient Greece from the Bronze Age through the Hellenistic period.

Classics 700: Art and Archaeology of Ancient Greece (Aylward)
Explores the art and archaeology of ancient Greece from the Bronze Age through the Hellenistic period.

Design Studies


Design Studies 501: History of Design I (Penick)


Design Studies 920: American Design in the Atomic Age (Penick)


Folklore


Folklore 530: Landscape Narratives (Gilmore)
The topic will vary with the instructor; may be repeated with different content.
Pre-Reqs: Jr st or cons inst

Geography


Geography 305: Introduction to the City (Moore)
Analysis of the distributions of cities, their functions, character and relationships with their surrounding regions, and the areal patterns within cities; the spatial variation of population, economic activity, and land uses.
Pre-Reqs: So st; qualified Fr admitted with cons inst

History of Science


History of Science 337: History of Technology (Schatzberg)
A survey of Western technology within its social and cultural context during the past 1000 years. Topics include technology in European expansion, the industrial revolution, and the rise of the United States as a technological superpower.
Pre-Reqs: Jr st or cons inst. Grads must enroll concurrently in Hist Sci 637

Landscape Architecture


Landscape Architecture 375: Landscape Writing, Landscape Narratives (Gilmore)