Colnaghi Foundation Journal 01 - Page 137



136
The Sutherland Gallery at Stafford House
to Dunrobin Castle, the ancestral seat of the Sutherland
family, this time adopting an appropriately Scots
baronial style. Finally, Barry created another Italianate
palazzo at Cliveden, near Taplow in Buckinghamshire,
when the previous, late-Georgian building burnt down
soon after the Sutherlands had bought it in 1849.
Despite spending huge sums on endowing all these
houses with a new architectural grandeur, and while
continuing to keep most of the British paintings and
family portraits at Trentham, the Duke clearly considered
that the only proper home for his collection of Old
Masters – inherited from his father and augmented by
himself – was Stafford House in London. At the time of
its inaugural reception in May 1830, the main, first floor
was still not complete, and the collection was presumably
displayed on the ground floor.32 After the death of his
father, the 2nd Duke retained the services of Benjamin
Wyatt for the completion of the principal floor, but also
employed Robert Smirke to expedite progress on the
upper, bedroom floor, and also Barry, initially in a mainly
advisory capacity. In May 1835 he personally showed the
as yet incomplete Picture Gallery to the visiting director of
the Berlin Museum, Gustav Friedrich Waagen, informing
him that it “will contain, in a few years, the most valuable
paintings.”33 This and the other great state rooms on the
principal floor were still not quite ready in 1838, when the
Duke dismissed Wyatt in a dispute – ironically enough –
over the architect’s profligacy. It was then the task of the
scarcely less profligate Barry to supervise the finishing
touches, and in January 1842 the house – representing
what has been called an “Indian summer of Georgian
architecture”34 – was complete.
Fig. 11 / William Finden,
printed by H. Wilkinson
after Sir Thomas
Lawrence, Harriet
Elizabeth Georgiana
Leveson-Gower, Duchess
of Sutherland; Elizabeth
Georgiana, Duchess of
Argyll, 1831, stipple
engraving, London, The
National Portrait Gallery.
The interior of Stafford House was furnished and
decorated by Wyatt in what was called “the revived taste
of Louis the Fourteenth.”35 That is to say, in dramatic
contrast to the austere neoclassicism of Tatham’s
decoration at Cleveland House, it was decorated in a
romantic and ostentatiously expensive blend of Baroque
and Rococo, with doors, window shutters, pelmets, and
numerous mirrors, profusely adorned with curvaceous
gilt ornament. The walls of some rooms were hung with
coloured damask or velvet, but the most prestigious,
such as the State Drawing Room, the State Dining
Room and the Picture Gallery were painted white, as a
neutral foil for the extensive gilding and the red crimson
upholstery – and also for the paintings. These, as will be
seen, were displayed not just in the Picture Gallery, but
throughout the most important rooms of the ground
and principal floors.
The Sutherland Gallery at Stafford House
“THE PURCHASE OF SEVERAL GRAND AND
INTERESTING PICTURES...”
The 2nd Duke was a young man of nineteen at the time
of the inauguration of his father’s Stafford Gallery in
1806, and thereafter he witnessed at first hand every
stage of its evolution. The aesthetic taste it represented
determined his own, and he must have been well aware
that all of his father’s existing purchases, as well as
every new one, would one day be his. As Lord Gower
he seems to have embarked on his own career as a
collector at the time of a two-year trip to Italy in 18161817. His first steps, however, remained tentative, and
it was not for another ten years that he began buying
in earnest.36 It is probably no coincidence that this was
in 1827, at the very time when he and his wife were
looking forward to installing themselves in the new
family mansion of Stafford House and to surrounding
themselves with palatial splendour. Indeed, whereas his
father’s collecting was focused more or less exclusively
on pictures, the 2nd Duke and his duchess were
equally addicted to buying and commissioning marble
sculpture, bronzes, furniture, porcelain, silverware and
every kind of luxurious objet d’art.37 While sometimes,
therefore, he succeeded in acquiring individual
masterpieces, just as often his picture-buying seems to
have been guided by a concern for the general effect.
Gower’s initial diffidence as a collector, as well as the
awe in which he held his father, is reflected in a letter
to his mother during his early Italian trip, in which he
wrote that he “dreamt the other night my father, on
seeing my little purchases, held them all rather cheap.”38
These purchases are not easy to identify, but possibly
correspond to items by (or attributed to) such painters
as Domenichino, Cimaroli, and Panini later recorded in
the Sutherland Gallery. When in Rome in 1817 Gower
did, however, strike out in an independent direction by
making the very expensive double commission from
the great neoclassical sculptor Thorvaldsen of a bust
of himself (lost), and a marble group of Ganymede and
the Eagle (Minneapolis Institute of Arts).39 It is not clear
where Gower originally intended to place the group; in
any case, by the time that both sculptures finally arrived
in London at the end of 1829, its obvious destination
was a prominent position in Stafford House.
Gower’s next commissions did not follow on until
shortly after his marriage in 1823, when he employed
Lawrence to execute a pair of portraits of himself and
his young wife. That of himself (see fig. 2) continued in
137

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