Colnaghi Foundation Journal 01 - Page 134

The Sutherland Gallery at Stafford House
conspicuous white elephant, and Stafford quickly seized
his opportunity. Abandoning the house that he had
inherited from his uncle Bridgewater in 1803, he and his
wife took up residence on the ground floor of their new
home early in 1828, and renamed it Stafford House.
The state rooms were largely complete by the summer
of 1829, and the magnificent Entrance Hall, with its
double-branch staircase with ornate gilt balustrading
and its scagliola-clad walls, must have been largely
complete by May 1830, when the Staffords held a lavish
reception to inaugurate their new mansion.22
The Sutherland Gallery at Stafford House
Although the Picture Gallery, situated on the east side
of the upper floor, was not to be finished until l841,
long after the Marquess’s death, he must already have
been making plans for it even before he moved in.
Indeed, all his new purchases from 1827 must have
been made with Stafford House in mind – including,
in some cases, British pictures. The plan to create a
new Picture Gallery naturally also involved the removal
of his own acquisitions from Cleveland House across
the street, thereby effectively dissolving the celebrated
Stafford Gallery. Further, to boost the projected new
gallery he now transferred back to London the small
number of continental Old Masters that for reasons of
space he had earlier sent to Trentham. As is recorded
by an inventory drawn up soon after his death,23 all
these paintings were displayed in his final years in the
habitable public and private rooms of Stafford House.
Of Stafford’s late purchases, one of the most interesting
is that of a pair of half-length female saints by Murillo,
Saint Justa and Saint Ruffina (Dallas, Meadows Museum,
Southern Methodist University) which he acquired at
the Altamira sale at Stanley’s in June 1827. With the
significant exception of the collection of the Duke
of Wellington at Apsley House, Spanish painting had
previously been poorly represented in British collections,
including that of Stafford; and the acquisition marks
a new taste to be developed further in the following
decade by the Marquess’s son, the 2nd Duke. Also
marking a new departure was the acquisition by Stafford
in 1828 of a large mythology by the young Willam
Etty, the Comus (The World Before the Flood) (fig. 8), which
although English, is likely always to have been intended
for Stafford House and not Trentham, because of its
large size (141 x 202 cm). The Gentlemen’s Magazine
sarcastically commented that this erotic and explicitly
Titianesque (and Poussinesque) painting “will serve to
accompany the private Titians of that nobleman”;24 and
although this could never have been true in a literal
sense, the Marquess may in some sense have been
attracted to it as a substitute for the Bridgewater Titians
and Poussins in his former home of Cleveland House
that would not cross the street to his new home.
Probably Stafford’s very last purchase, made as 1st
Duke of Sutherland only a month before his death in
July 1833, was the Saint Chrysogonus Borne by Angels by
Guercino (fig. 9), an artist very much in the taste of the
Orléans Collection. Although it had been brought from
Rome by the dealer Alexander Day in 1801, it had
remained in his hands ever since25 – perhaps because
Although not inheriting the Bridgewater fortune, the 2nd
Duke was still immensely rich, and after his succession
to the dukedom in 1833 at the age of thity-seven, he
and his wife Harriet devoted much of the rest of their
lives to an idle enjoyment of their wealth.27 As well as
adding to their inherited collection of paintings, they
spent prodigious sums on throwing parties and taking
trips to the continent, and even more on large-scale
building and refurbishment projects. Indeed, already in
the 1830s the Duke’s annual expenditure was exceeding
his annual income, resulting in the necessity to draw on
capital, and to sell off existing assets; whereas in 1833
his inherited investments in government stocks exceeded
£1 million, by 1850 this figure had halved.28 Yet as the
possessor of a ducal title, he clearly felt that he owed
it to his peers to lead a lifestyle even more magnificent
than that of his father. In this respect he was prompted
and led by his wife, who became Mistress of the Robes
and close confidante of Queen Victoria, and who used
her position to make herself into London’s leading
society hostess of the early Victorian period (fig. 10).29
Fig. 9 / Guercino, Saint
Chrysogonus Borne by
Angels, London, Government
Art Collection, Lancaster
Fig. 10 / Franz Xaver
Winterhalter, Portrait
of Harriet, Duchess of
Sutherland, oil on canvas,
243.8 x 142.2 cm, Dunrobin
Castle, Sutherland Trust.
collectors considered its di sotto in su composition and
large scale inappropriate for a domestic room or picture
gallery. But with the intention of eventually placing the
painting on the ceiling of the planned Picture Gallery at
Stafford House the new Duke was clearly attracted by
precisely these characteristics – and in fact, his architect
Wyatt also seems to have had it in mind when designing
the Gallery’s central lantern. Nearly two centuries later,
long after the other pictures that once comprised the
Sutherland Gallery have been dispersed around the
world, Guercino’s painting still occupies the lantern in
the gallery of the present-day Lancaster House.26
There is some evidence that the Duchess shared her
husband’s interest in pictures, and on occasion guided
him in his choice of acquisitions. Occasionally, as in
the case of a small Italian Landscape by Richard Wilson
(untraced), acquired at the Northwick sale in 1838,
she bought on her own account.30 But above all she
was interested in architecture, interior decoration and
gardens as splendid settings for her family, friends and
guests. Already in the 1820s, soon after their marriage
and in the lifetime of the Marquess, she played a
major role in supervising the building of a new house
in the Tudor style by Jeffry Wyatville on the ancestral
Leveson estate of Lilleshall. But it was after the couple
succeeded as 2nd Duke and Duchess of Sutherland in
1833, with the professional help of Charles Barry in
particular, that they were able to indulge their taste for
upgrading their houses into truly ducal residences.31
Between 1834 and 1839, Barry remodelled Trentham,
transforming the previously rather plain and spare
Georgian building into an ornate country palazzo (now
largely demolished). He also replaced what had been
a deer pasture in front of the house with an extensive
Italianate formal garden, with a geometric parterre and
statuary, including a full-scale bronze replica of Benvenuto
Cellini’s Perseus at the near end of Capability Brown’s lake
(in situ). Then in the 1840s – after having helped with the
completion of Stafford House – Barry turned his attention


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