GardensKing Henry VIII’s well-thumbed gardening manual, a late 15th century copy of the Ruralia Commoda, and a 16th century portrait of Jacopo Cennini, factor and estate manager to the House of Medici – believed to be the earliest surviving portrait of a gardener – are among more than 150 objects on display at a new exhibition celebrating the art of gardens. Opening at The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace tomorrow, Painting Paradise: The Art of the Gardens features some of the earliest surviving records of gardens and plants in the Royal Collection including Jan Brueghel the Elder’s Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (1615), The Family of Henry VIII (c. 1545) featuring King Henry VIII’s Great Garden at Whitehall Palace – the first real garden recorded in British art, and A View of Hampton Court by Leonard Knyff (c. 1702-14) – described as the “greatest surviving Baroque painting of an English garden”. There are also works by Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Martin, Swiss artist Johan Jacob Schalch and Sir Edwin Landseer. The exhibition runs until 11th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk. PICTURE: Illustration from Henry VIII’s copy of the gardening manual, c. 1490-95. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015. 

Buckingham Palace, meanwhile, has announced its summer opening under the theme of A Royal Welcome. From 25th July to 27th September, displays in the State Rooms will recreate the settings for some of the many occasions in which the palace welcomes guests – from State Visits and garden parties to investitures and private audiences. The displays will show the behind-the-scenes preparations that go into a state visit and show the ballroom set up for a State Banquet. There will also be a display featuring the knighting stool and a knighting sword and, for the first time ever, visitors will enter the State Rooms through the Grand Entrance, used by those who come to the palace at the invitation of the Queen, including heads of state and prime ministers. The Australian State Coach, most recently used to carry the Duke of Edinburgh and the wife of the Mexican President, Señora Rivera, in March this year, will be displayed in the Grand Entrance portico. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk.

About 100 of the “most stunning photographs ever created” go on show in the Science Museum’s Media Space in South Kensington from tomorrow. Revelations explores the role of early scientific photography in inspiring later art photographers and will feature rare shots from the National Photography Collection including an original negative of X-Ray, 19th century photographs capturing electrical charge and William Henry Fox Talbot’s experiments with photomicrography. Displayed alongside are images by some of the 20th century’s pre-eminent art photographers such as Trevor Paglen, Idris Khan and Clare Strand. Runs until 13th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/revelations.

On Now: Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint. This exhibition at the Wallace Collection in Marylebone provides a new perspective on the portraits of Reynolds, one of the greatest artists of his day. Works on show including Nelly O’Brien, Mrs Abington as Miss Prue and Self Portrait Shading the Eyes as well as lesser known pictures and a rare history painting. The exhibition reveals discoveries made recently during a four year research project into the works of Reynolds now in the care of the collection. Runs until 7th June. Admission is free. For more, see www.wallacecollection.org.

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Banqueting-House

Still on designs for royal palaces and today we’re looking at two designs for the same palace. Both Inigo Jones (1573-1652) and Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) drew up designs for the remodelling and expansion of Whitehall Palace.

Inigo-Jones-proposalFirst up was the neo-classical architect Jones who drew up plans for a vast complex of buildings (pictured left) which would replace the Tudor palace King Henry VIII had created when he transformed the grand house formerly known as York Place into a residence suitable for a king (York Place had previously been a residence of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and prior to that, the London residence of the Archbishops of York).

Jones’ complex – which apparently featured seven internal courts – covered much of what is now known as Whitehall as well as neighbouring St James’s Park with a magnificent River Thames frontage.

The first part of Jones’ grand scheme – the Banqueting House (see our earlier post here) – opened in 1622. It still survives today – pictured above – and gives a taste of the grandeur of his overall scheme.

Yet, despite the eagerness of King James I for the project, it failed to materialise. English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley told the BBC in 2012 that the hall represented only five per cent of what Jones had planned.

King James I died in 1625 and his son King Charles I was apparently keen to continue the project – so much so that Jones submitted new plans in 1638 – but he didn’t find the funds the project needed (and, of course, as we know, then became consumed by the events of the Civil War before being beheaded outside the Banqueting House in 1649).

Following the Restoration, in the 1660s King Charles II apparently had Sir Christopher Wren quietly draw up plans to redevelop the palace but these weren’t follow through on although during the reign of King James II he did work on several projects at the palace including a new range of royal riverside apartments, terrace (remains of which can still be seen) and a chapel.

In 1698, much of the bloated Whitehall Palace – then the largest palace in Europe with more than 1,500 rooms – burnt down although the Banqueting House, though damaged, survived basically intact (in fact there’s an interesting anecdote, its veracity questionable, which has it that on hearing of the fire Wren rushed to the site and had an adjacent building blown up to create a firebreak and ensure the Banqueting House was saved).

The then king, King William III, approached Wren and he again submitted plans for its rebuilding (prior to the fire, he had already worked on several aspects of the palace including a new range of royal apartments and a chapel for King James II).

But Wren’s plans – images show a grand domed building – were largely never realised (although he did convert the Banqueting House into a chapel) and the destroyed palace never rebuilt (no doubt in large part due to the fact that King William III preferred a more rural and less damp location – such as that of Kensington Palace – thanks to his asthma).

For more on the history of the Palace of Whitehall, see Simon Thurley’s Whitehall Palace: The Official Illustrated History.

Built in the 16th century for King Henry VIII, Bridewell Palace only had a short-lived life as a royal residence before it was handed over to the City of London and used as a poorhouse and prison.

Located on the western bank of the Fleet River (the site is now occupied by Unilever House and remembered in the place names of Bridewell Place and Bridewell Court), the palace – named for a holy well located nearby which was dedicated to St Bride  (St Brigid) – was built on the direction of the king’s key advisor Cardinal Thomas Wolsey between 1510-15 on land which had previously been the site of St Bride’s Inn.

In 1515 Cardinal Wolsey gave it to King Henry VIII after taking up residence at Hampton Court and York Place  – Henry was looking for a royal residence in London after the Palace of Westminister was largely destroyed in a fire in 1512. Work continued on the palace until its completion in 1523.

The palace, the site of which is now marked with a plaque on the approach to Blackfriars Bridge, consisted of two courtyards surrounded by brick buildings with the three storey royal lodgings (separate quarters for the king and queen) located around the inner courtyard and entered by a grand staircase from the outer courtyard. It also featured a watergate was located on the Thames and, interestingly, Bridewell was the first royal palace not to have its own great hall.

Among historic events hosted here was the visit of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1522 (the emperor did not stay here but his entourage did). In 1528 meetings of the papal delegation took place at Blackfriars (located next door and joined by a specially built gallery) to discuss the king’s divorce from Queen Katherine of Aragon – it’s here that the Queen made her most famous speech declaring her fidelity to the king – and for its duration the king and queen lodged at Bridewell. It’s also said that it was at Bridewell Palace that artist Hans Holbein the Younger painted his famous work – The Ambassadors (see our earlier post on this here).

Following Cardinal Wolsey’s fall from favor in 1529, King Henry VIII no longer used the property (he took over the Palace of Whitehall, then known as York Place, as his main residence in 1530 – for more on this see our earlier post here). It was leased for much of the following decade to the French ambassador in London before, following petitioning for a new hospital for the poor from Nicholas Ridley, the Bishop of London, King Edward VI gave it to the City of London in 1553. They took over fully in 1556 and converted the palace into a prison, hospital and workrooms (we’ll deal in detail with the prison in an upcoming post).

A late 17th and early 18th century wood carver and sculptor, the curiously named Grinling Gibbons is remembered for his magnificent carvings in numerous English buildings including such London icons as St Paul’s Cathedral and Hampton Court Palace.

Not much is known about Gibbons’ early life. The son of English parents (his father was apparently a draper), he was born in Rotterdam in The Netherlands on 4th April, 1648, and, as a young man, is believed to have undertaken an apprenticeship as a sculptor in that country.

Around the age of 19, he moved to England – first to York and to Deptford in the south. It was the quality of his work which led diarist John Evelyn, having discovered Gibbons working on a limewood relief of Tintoretto’s Crucifixion in a small cottage near Deptford in early 1671, that led him to introduce him to Christopher Wren, the architect of the age, and fellow diarist Samuel Pepys and to eventually present him (and his relief) to King Charles II at Whitehall Palace on 1st March the same year.

But Gibbons’ work apparently failed to initially impress at court and it was only following his ‘discovery’ later that year by the court artist Sir Peter Lely that he began to receive major commissions.

It’s apparently not known when Gibbons married his wife Elizabeth and moved to London they were living there by 1672 and were having the first of their at least 12 children (while at least five of their daughters survived into adulthood, none of their sons did).

In 1672, they were living in an inn, called La Belle Sauvage or The Bell Savage, located on Ludgate Hill near St Paul’s, and, while Gibbons continued to maintain a workshop here into the 1680s, the family moved to Bow Street in Covent Garden around the end of the 1670s (the house here apparently collapsed in 1702 and was subsequently rebuilt in brick).

Gibbons, who was admitted to the Draper’s Company in 1672 and held various posts within it over ensuing years, reached the pinnacle of his success when he was made master sculptor and carver in wood to King William III in 1693, and was later made master carpenter to the king, then King George I, in 1719.

Having worked mostly in limewood, Gibbons, recently called the “British Bernini”, is known for his distinct and exuberant style which features cascading foliage, fruit, animals and cherubs. While he worked on numerous important buildings outside of London – including carvings in the Chapel Royal and king’s dining room at Windsor Castle, in a chapel at Trinity College in Oxford, at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire and a famous ‘carved room’ at Petworth House in Sussex – and beyond (he also created two presentation panels – known as the ‘Cosimo’ and ‘Modena’ panels which were sent to Italy as royal gifts), Gibbons is also noted for his work on a number of prominent buildings in London.

Among the buildings he worked on or in around London are the churches of St James’s in Piccadilly, St Mary Abchurch, St Michael Paternoster Royal and, famously, St Paul’s Cathedral (where he carved choir stalls, the bishop’s thrones and choir screen) as well as Hampton Court and Kensington Palaces.

While he is primarily remembered for his limewood carvings, Gibbons’ workshop was also responsible for sculpting statues, memorials and decorative stonework. A couple of the workshop’s statues can still be seen in London – one of King Charles II in Roman dress at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea and another of King James II outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square – while the magnificent Westminster Abbey memorial to Admiral Sir Clowdisley Shovell is also attributed to him.

Gibbons died at his Bow Street home on 3rd August, 1721, and was buried in St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden (his wife had been buried there several years before).

For more on Grinling Gibbons, check out David Esterly’s Grinling Gibbons and the Art of Carving.