Colnaghi Foundation Journal 01 - Page 151

The Sutherland Gallery at Stafford House
Sutherland Gallery when it was inaugurated in 1841.
The clearest illustration of the heart of the Gallery
is provided by Wingfield’s view of the west wall of
the central space, with its triple arch designed as a
magnificent framing for the Soult Murillos (fig. 21).
The two were placed on either side of a central
fireplace and mirror, with busts of the painter, as
recorded by Jameson, crowned by winged victories
represented in stucco in the lunettes above them.77 In
Wingfield’s view, the central mirror clearly reflects,
as it was supposed to do, Guercino’s very grand Saint
Gregory and Angels (London, National Gallery) hanging
on the east wall directly opposite. In between the
arches and to the sides, smaller pictures were hung in
vertical tiers of four.
Also opposite the Murillos, as seen in one of the main
photographs of the Gallery (see fig. 19), were placed
many of the Duke’s other most important paintings,
hung in just two tiers. These included several from
the Stafford Gallery, including Moroni’s ‘Titian’s
Schoolmaster,’ Van Dyck’s Arundel, and at least three exOrléans pictures, as well as several of his own prize
purchases, including the Van Dyck’s Lucas van Uffel
(then called Portrait of an Artist) brought back from Paris
together with the Guercino. Seen in Wingfield’s view
of the north end of the Gallery (see fig. 20) is an open
doorway leading to an enfilade along the north front;
and on either side, paintings by Niccolò dell’Abate,
Veronese and Jacopo Bassano chosen at the Orléans
sale by the Marquess, and a Turchi and a Zurbarán
added by the Duke. Conspicuous in Wingfield’s view
of the south end is Delaroche’s Strafford, with the
Andrea del Sarto Virgin and Child on the opposite side
of the doorway.
Fig. 22 / (overleaf) Francis
Danby, Delivery of Israel
out of Egypt, oil on
canvas, 149.5 x 240 cm,
Preston, Harris Museum
& Art Gallery.
From all this it is clear that the hang of the Sutherland
Gallery did little to develop the modest beginnings
of an art-historical arrangement at the Stafford
Gallery three and a half decades earlier. There was no
attempt to separate northern from southern European
paintings, and in continuity with eighteenth-century
fashion, greater attention was paid to size, shape and
prestige than to school. Van Dyck, Honthorst, Philippe
de Champaigne, Delaroche and the Spanish were all
mixed together freely with the majority Italians. Some
attention was paid, however, to school and genre, and
to some extent scale, when it came to choosing which
paintings should be displayed in the Picture Gallery
and which elsewhere in the house. Whereas history
paintings and historical portraits were the preserve of
The Sutherland Gallery at Stafford House
the Picture Gallery, genre scenes and landscapes – in
other words, nearly all the Dutch – were consigned to
ante-rooms and corridors.
The by-now traditional separation of British from
continental painters was also generally maintained.
As the Marquess and then the Duke settled into
Stafford House, and increasing areas of wall needed
to be furnished, a number of the British pictures
were brought from Trentham to London,78 and it
was apparently regarded as appropriate for modestlyscaled modern genre scenes and landscapes to be
hung alongside their Dutch predecessors. Some of
the other British pictures, however – for example,
the family portraits by Lawrence and Landseer, or
history paintings by West, Etty and Danby – were
quite imposing in scale; yet none was thought suitable
for display in the Picture Gallery. This is not to say
that some of these works did not occupy conspicuous
positions in the main reception rooms: thus Lawrence’s
stately portrait of the Duchess (see fig. 11) dominated the
ground floor Dining Room from above its mantelpiece;
while Landseer’s portrait of the Sutherland children
with their pet animals was hung in the Green Library,
alongside – appropriately enough – Winterhalter’s
equally idyllic Decameron (see fig. 13) and two Fêtes
galantes attributed to Watteau.
By contrast, most of the portraits from the Lenoir
Collection were hung in the secluded space of the
Duke’s small, private dining room, to which very few
visitors indeed had access.79 The few to be displayed on
the principal floor, including Subleyras’s Pope Benedict
XIV, and Drouais’s Madame de Pompadour and Queen
Marie-Antoinette, were presumably selected as works of
particular aesthetic quality. Most of the rest, however,
may have been of interest to the 2nd Duke and to a
handful of French and Francophile antiquarians,
but were probably less so to the general art lover, or
to family members proud of their Leveson-Gower
ancestry. It is perhaps not surprising that when the 3rd
Duke began to look for sources of cash in the more
challenging economic climate of the 1870s, he should
identify the Lenoir portraits as among the first items in
his inherited collection he was willing to sell.
But the sale of the Lenoir portraits in 1876 80 –
appropriately enough to a leading member of the
Orléans dynasty, the Duc d’Aumale, for his château
at Chantilly – was only the beginning of the end. The
1870s marked a key moment in the decline of the
traditional power and wealth of the British aristocracy
in general,81 and the exceptional profligacy of the
2nd Duke and his Duchess left the Sutherland family
particularly vulnerable. But the sale by the 3rd Duke
of some very valuable French eighteenth-century
furniture, as well as of further paintings, could hardly
in itself reverse the continuing decline of its once
fabulous fortune, and the real impetus for the dispersal
of the Sutherland Collection came with the pressure
to reduce the number and scale of the various family
residences. Particularly tragic was the case of Trentham,
where already by the 1880s Capability Brown’s lake
and the neighbouring the River Trent had become
badly polluted by the surrounding Potteries, making
the house almost uninhabitable.82 In 1905 the 4th Duke
decided to abandon it; and having failed to donate
it to Staffordshire County Council, demolished it,
leaving it in its present state of fragmentary ruin. As is
recorded in three catalogues of 1908/ 1909 compiled
by the Duke himself, the Trentham pictures were
redistributed variously between Lilleshall, Dunrobin
and Stafford House;83 and partly to make room for this
redistribution – but certainly also to raise funds – he
consigned no less than 101 paintings for sale at Christie’s
in February 1908.84 Although for the most part these
were works apparently regarded as of lesser importance,
the Duke was at the same time negotiating the sale of
some of the individual jewels of the Stafford Gallery,
such as Moroni’s ‘Titian’s Schoolmaster,’ which he sold in
1908/1909 through Duveen to Peter A. B. Widener of
Philadelphia.85 A useful survey of the highlights of the
Sutherland Gallery on the eve of its demise is provided
by an article in the journal Les Arts of January 1913 – all
the more useful since it includes photographs of many
of the works soon to be dispersed, and for which there
exist no other reliable illustrations.86
Well before the occasion of the last great ball at Stafford
House, held in June 1911 to celebrate the coronation of
George V, the 4th Duke had been thinking of selling his
London mansion. By 1912 rumours were circulating that
it was to be bought by the Sunlight Soap magnate Sir
William Lever (later Lord Leverhulme), and in 1916 the
deal was concluded. Lever intended what now became
Lancaster House not as his residence, but as a home
for the Museum of London.87 When the Duke died in
June 1913, a further large sale of Sutherland pictures
was held at Christie’s, this time comprising 146 lots that
included most of the inherited remnants of the Stafford
Gallery.88 Today only a rump of the Stafford-Sutherland
Collection remains, at the Leveson-Gower family’s
Scottish seat of Dunrobin Castle. This, nevertheless,
is a very distinguished rump, and as well as including
masterly family portraits by Reynolds, Romney,
Lawrence, Wilkie, Landseer and Winterhalter, it retains
a number of the paintings by contemporary artists that
the Marquess of Stafford had patriotically bought at
the exhibitions of the British Institution. In 1963 the
5th and last Leveson-Gower Duke died childless, and
the earldom of Sutherland, which under Scottish law
could pass through the female line, was inherited by his
niece, together with Dunrobin Castle and its contents.
The dukedom, however, passed to his distant Egerton
cousin, the 5th Earl of Ellesmere – and owner of the
Bridgewater Collection – who accordingly became 6th
Duke of Sutherland.
Just as Stafford House represented an Indian summer
of Georgian architecture, so the Sutherland Gallery,
and especially the “grand and interesting pictures”
acquired for it by the 2nd Duke, may be seen in
retrospect as representing an Indian summer of
aristocratic collecting in Britain. By the early 1840s,
when the Gallery was inaugurated, most of the
Duke’s fellow-peers had long since withdrawn from
the market for Old Masters, leaving it not so much
to the industrialists of the Midlands and the North –
who tended to favour contemporary painting – as to
members of a newly-wealthy generation of merchants
and bankers, and of landowning gentry such as H. A.
J. Munro of Novar (1797-1864) and Robert Holford
(1808-1892).89 As will have been evident from the
present discussion, regrettably few paintings from
the Sutherland Gallery have ended up in British
public collections – although most of these are of
considerable distinction, including Guercino’s Saint
Gregory and Saints and Honthorst’s Christ Before the High
Priest in the National Gallery, Veronese’s Saint Anthony
Abbot and Donor in Edinburgh, Terborch’s Gentleman
Paying his Addresses at Polesden Lacey, Danby’s Delivery of
Israel out of Egypt in Preston (fig. 22), and Etty’s Comus in
Southampton. Also now in public ownership are some
of the pictures kept by the Sutherlands at Trentham,
including Gainsborough’s Rocky Wooded Landscape in
Edinburgh.90 But probably of more relevance for the
historic significance of the Sutherland Gallery is the
fact that, like the other private galleries discussed by
Anna Jameson at a time when the National Gallery
was still in its infancy, it provided an inspiring model
for public collections of paintings – in terms of their
content, if not so much of their methods of display – as
they were founded and developed in the Victorian era.


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