“Probably the most beautiful thing at Chatsworth” goes online
Described by the current Duke of Devonshire as “probably the most beautiful thing at Chatsworth”, Lucian Freud’s painting of the Duke’s mother Duchess Deborah, ‘Woman in a White Shirt’ is the first in a series of short films featuring some of the Derbyshire estate’s most treasured artworks.
Filmed in the magnificent setting of Chatsworth’s library and posted on the website (Woman in a White Shirt), the Duke charts his family’s close friendship with Freud and how a painting that left many people “shocked and pretty upset” when it was first unveiled in the late 1950s came to be commissioned and painted at the artist’s “scruffy and horrible” flat in Paddington.
Exploring the diverse works of art in the Devonshire Collections with insight into their history and significance, each episode features a mix of archive footage, rare photographs and contemporary correspondence, as well as interviews with members of the Devonshire family, art experts, and artists including Michael Craig Martin and Jacob van der Beugel.
Other films focus on Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing ‘Leda and the Swan’, part of Chatsworth’s extensive collection of Old Master Drawings; the archive of Jorge Lewinski, who spent decades photographing the most important artists of the postwar period including Francis Bacon, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore; Jacob Van Der Vaardt’s beloved Trompe l’oeil Violin; Thomas Gainsborough’s painting of the notorious Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; the 17th century Mortlake Tapestries; and the coronation-worthy Devonshire tiara (for a full list of episodes see below).
‘Treasures of Chatsworth’ is a series of 13 short films (approx five minutes) that will be posted at regular intervals. Originally made in 2016, the films are being highlighted on Chatsworth’s website to keep visitors informed and entertained while the house, garden and farmyard, gift shops, restaurants, car parks, and public toilets are closed until further notice though, as a vital food service outlet, the Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop remains open.
Episode 1- Lucian Freud’s ‘Woman in a White Shirt’
A portrait of Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, commissioned from Lucian Freud, caused a sensation in British society. Now ‘Woman in a White Shirt’ is “probably the most beautiful thing at Chatsworth,” says the current Duke, who recalls the close friendship between Freud and the Cavendish family.
Episode 2 – Commissioning Artworks Across Generations
There is a rich history of patronage at Chatsworth, which is filled with works commissioned directly from artists of their time, be it the early 19th century or the early 21st. This episode explores the relationship of trust between the artist and their commissioner, highlighting Jacob Van der Beugel’s 2014 ‘North Sketch Sequence’ and Antonio Canova’s ‘Sleeping Endymion’, made almost exactly 200 years earlier.
Episode 3 – Leonardo Da Vinci’s Drawing of ‘Leda and the Swan’
The Devonshire Collections include one of the world’s finest and most extensive collections of Old Master drawings. Among these is a Leonardo da Vinci that was almost lost in the chaos of the Second World War.
Episode 4 – The Lewinski Photo Archive
Between 1940 to 1970, photographer Jorge Lewinski took hundreds of images of important postwar artists in their studios: Francis Bacon, Bridget Riley, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore among many others. “He recorded people, but he did it in such a way that gave you so much of an insight into the artist’s way of being,” says the Earl of Burlington, son of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, who acquired the Lewinski Archive for Chatsworth.
Episode 5 – The Needlework of Elizabethan Chatsworth
A rare depiction of the original Chatsworth House from around 1550 provides a vital connection to the past. Hundreds of years from now, visitors will look to Johnny Warrender’s many renderings of Chatsworth and its garden for a 21st-century view of the house and its surroundings.
Episode 6: Jan Van Der Vaardt’s Trompe l’oeil Violin
Among the many beloved pictures at Chatsworth, one in particular stands out: Jan Van Der Vaardt’s Trompe l’oeil Violin. Episode 6 reveals the mysterious history of this all-time favourite.
Episode 7 – The Landscape as a Work of Art
At Chatsworth, the Devonshire Collections extends beyond the walls of the house. Throughout the garden and grounds, carefully curated sculptures are thoughtfully integrated with the landscape – “it’s like one amazing piece of land art,” says the 12th Duke.
Episode 8 – The Changing Face of Portraiture
From the earliest days at Chatsworth, the dukes and duchesses have commissioned Britain’s greatest artists to capture their likenesses. Among the most celebrated of these is Thomas Gainsborough’s depiction of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Learn about the famously extravagant Duchess and see a contemporary portrait of Lady Burlington by Michael Craig Martin.
Episode 9 – Design Through the Ages: The Counterpart Bench and George III Coronation Chair
Form and function go hand-in-hand in great furnishings, whether antiques of royal provenance or cutting-edge creations by today’s most innovative makers. As this episode reveals, at Chatsworth, functional objects have always been valued for both their beauty and their utility.
Episode 10 – The Mortlake Tapestries
Even a familiar, well-documented masterwork that has been hanging on the wall for hundreds of years can still contain untold stories. This episode focuses on how the 17th century Mortlake Tapestries reveal surprising evidence of an unusual period in Chatsworth’s history.
Episode 11- The Devonshire Parure
Of all the objects that one can collect, jewellery is perhaps the most personal, intimate and precious. From the coronation-worthy 19th-century tiara in the Devonshire Parure to a witty, wearable gold brooch by a contemporary designer, jewels have a special legacy at Chatsworth.
Episode 12 – The Queen Zenobia Ball Gown
Among the Duchesses of Devonshire, there have been several tastemakers whose flair for style is evident in the carefully preserved garments that can be found in the cupboards of Chatsworth. Among the most elaborate of these is the Queen Zenobia gown, commissioned by Duchess Louise in 1897 for a summertime ball. Fashion continues to play a role at Chatsworth today, as the Countess of Burlington explains in this episode.
Episode 13 – Masterworks in Silver
It may be difficult to imagine packing up an enormous silver chandelier for a weekend visit to your country house, but for the 6th Duke of Devonshire, toting the elaborate fixture from one residence to another was simply a necessity. This episode explores the ‘pure bravado’ of many silver objects in the Devonshire Collections, as well as a few more understated recent commissions.