Colnaghi Foundation Journal 01 - Page 133

The Sutherland Gallery at Stafford House
Fig. 6 / Exterior view of
Lancaster House (originally
York then Stafford House),
Fig. 7 / Plan of York/ Stafford
House, London.
and by much lesser names than Raphael, Titian and
Poussin. Even so, several were of high quality, such
as Niccolò dell’Abate’s Abduction of Prosperpina (Paris,
Louvre), Pierfrancesco Mola’s Baptist Preaching (Madrid,
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum), and Albani’s Rest on the
Flight (then attributed to Annibale Carracci) (Princeton
Art Museum); and around the same time he bought
at auction a number of well-chosen north European
paintings, including Antoine Le Nain’s Village Piper
(Detroit Institute of Art) (fig. 3).17
More reflective of the future Marquess’s ambitions as
a collector were two important purchases of Flemish
The Sutherland Gallery at Stafford House
paintings, made respectively immediately before he came
into his inheritance in 1803 and immediately afterwards.
In 1801-1802 he bought a work formerly in the Orléans
Collection, but not included in the sale of the northern
European section held in London in 1793: Van Dyck’s
Portrait of the Earl of Arundel (fig. 4).18 Part of the attraction
for Gower, in addition to the cachet of acquiring a work
by a painter whose name was indissolubly linked with the
old English nobility, may have been that the sitter was
well known to have been a leading patron and collector
in the golden age of British collecting during the reign
of Charles I in the earlier seventeenth century. This
consideration is likely to have been even more relevant
with respect to an even greater painting – indeed,
probably the greatest single purchase the Marquess ever
made. Rubens’s sumptuous Allegory of Peace (London,
National Gallery), which he bought from the dealer
William Buchanan in May 1803 for the very large sum of
£3000 – almost as much as his uncle had paid for each of
his two most expensive Raphaels – was well known to have
once belonged to Charles I himself, and was consequently
laden with patriotic significance.19 Presumably it was the
same spirit of patriotism that prompted the Marquess
to donate the painting to the young National Gallery in
1828, thereby depriving the future Sutherland Gallery of
what would otherwise have been its greatest treasure.
In the two decades following the inauguration of the
Stafford Gallery the Marquess built up his collection
slowly and steadily, mainly by way of the London
auction houses, and with an eye to maintaining an
equilibrium between the Italian and the Dutch schools.
Fig. 8 / William Etty,
Comus (The World Before
the Flood), 140 x 202.3 cm,
Southampton, Southampton
Art Gallery.
His taste was very much that of the period, favouring
the Italian High Renaissance and the seventeenthcentury Bolognese, and Dutch genre and landscape
painting.20 Characteristic purchases of this period
include Andrea del Sarto’s Virgin and Child with the
Baptist (present whereabouts unknown), Moroni’s
‘Titian’s Schoolmaster’ (fig. 5); Veronese’s Saint Anthony
Abbot with a Donor (Edinburgh, Scottish National
Gallery); Terborch’s Gentleman Paying his Addresses to a
Lady (National Trust, Polesden Lacey); and Pieter De
Hooch’s Bedroom (Washington, DC, National Gallery
of Art). Occasionally Stafford placed commissions with
contemporary British painters, as obviously in the case
of family portraits by Thomas Phillips (see fig. 1) and
Lawrence; but more characteristic of his patronage
of living painters were his regular purchases from the
annual exhibitions held at the British Institution, of
works by the likes of Opie, Beechey, Northcote, Westall,
William Collins, Maria Spilsbury, and Edward Bird.
Immediately after buying them he sometimes displayed
such works on a temporary basis in the Stafford Gallery,
but as has already been implied, they were all ultimately
destined – like his acquisitions of works by eighteenthcentury painters such as Hogarth, Reynolds and
Gainsborough – not for London but Trentham.
As has been mentioned, Cleveland House formed
part of the Bridgewater inheritance that was to pass
to Stafford’s younger son; and as his collection grew,
he must have become increasingly conscious that
one day his elder son and principal heir would also
require a town house of a grandeur appropriate to
his status and possessions. An ideal opportunity to
acquire such a house presented itself at the beginning
of 1827, when the Duke of York, younger brother
to the king, suddenly died, leaving a palatial but
incomplete new residence in the most prestigious of
locations, between the royal residences of St James’s
Palace and Buckingham Palace, and directly opposite
Cleveland House.21 York House had been begun two
years earlier by the architect Benjamin Dean Wyatt,
and by the middle of 1826 the ponderously impressive
neo-Palladian exterior, clad in mellow Bath stone, was
largely complete (fig. 6). There were already plans for
richly gilded interiors inspired by Versailles, and for
a 130 foot-long picture gallery (fig. 7); these, however,
had scarcely been begun when the prince died, leaving
massive debts and many of the craftsmen unpaid. The
Government was naturally eager to divest itself of this


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