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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston opens two 18th-century period rooms from Great Britain
The Hamilton Palace Room, May 8, 2013. Alan and Simone Hartman Galleries, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
BOSTON, MASS.- Two 18th-century period rooms from Great Britain have been reinstalled at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as part of a suite of galleries. The Alan and Simone Hartman Galleries comprise the Newland House Drawing Room, Hamilton Palace Dining Room, and British Art 1560–1830. They showcase nearly every facet of British art—paintings, furniture, silver, ceramics, and works on paper—including the Alan and Simone Hartman Collection of English silver, with superb examples made in London by Huguenot craftsmen between 1680 and 1760. The drawing room from Newland House, a manor house in Gloucestershire, England, was acquired by the MFA in 1931 and was last on view at the Museum in the 1970s. The dining room from Hamilton Palace, the vast residence of the Dukes of Hamilton just outside of Glasgow, Scotland, was acquired by the MFA in 1924. It was installed in 1928, but was dismantled during the past decade due to the construction of the adjacent Art of the Americas Wing, which debuted in November 2010. The three adjacent Hartman Galleries are located on Level 2 of the Museum’s Art of Europe wing. Concurrent to their opening, the MFA has unveiled its new Art of the Netherlands in the 17th Century Gallery (the renovation of this gallery was made possible by Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo) and the renovated Leo and Phyllis Beranek Gallery, which together showcase more than 100 works.

“The Hartman Galleries are full of remarkable treasures in all media, including recent acquisitions and others that haven’t been seen in many years. Even familiar masterpieces are exciting all over again when placed in a new setting, freshly conserved and carefully lit,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. “We greatly appreciate the generosity of Alan and Simone Hartman, who have supported the creation of these galleries, and thank them for their friendship, which means so much to the Museum.”

Newland House Drawing Room
This drawing room, originally a place to “withdraw” to for privacy and conversation, was a mid-18th-century addition to the house by its owner, John Probyn, part of a suite of new rooms designed in the popular Neo-Palladian style. The room is completely
authentic, down to the oak flooring and elaborately carved classical frieze with emblems of the arts and learning. The MFA purchased the paneled walls and floor when the estate passed out of private ownership in 1930. (The house was destroyed by fire in 2012.) The room opened to the public in 1937 on the ground floor of the Museum’s East Building overlooking Forsyth Way and closed to visitors in the 1970s. In its current location at the MFA, the room’s north entrance incorporates a special feature: above the doorway, visitors can see a partial, exposed view of the back of the historical woodwork that reveals how the paneling and modern supports were constructed.

The reassembled room has been repainted in its original stone color. The most significant change in the space has been the recreation of a tall plaster cove above the cornice and the addition of an ornamental plaster ceiling, based on photographs taken before the room was dismantled in England. Working with MFA curators and conservators, Traditional Line Architectural Restoration of New York City; Mangione Ornamental Plaster of Saugerties, NY; and sculptor Robert Shure, owner of Skylight Studios in Woburn, MA, created the decorative plaster ceiling. It includes foliate and floral carving in coffers surrounded by a Greek key motif. Decorative elements on the walls incorporate broken pediments and carved garlands of fruits and flowers intertwined with drapery swags to suggest abundance.

The drawing room is furnished with mid-18th-century furniture, paintings, ceramics, and silver from the MFA’s collection. Among the highlights is an English glass chandelier created in the 1740s, which was acquired by the MFA specifically for this room. It is fitted with reproduction period candles made by Ymittos Candle Manufacturing Co. of Lowell, MA, which made period candles for the films “Lincoln,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and the upcoming “The Lone Ranger.” Two grand mirrors flank the fireplace fitted with a cast-iron fireback dated 1748. Also displayed are ceramics, such as Figure representing Britannia (England, about 1757–60), and silver, including Pair of candelabra (England, 1742–43) marked by James Shruder.

There are five paintings on view: Canaletto’s Capriccio: A Sluice on a River with a Chapel (1754), painted when he was in England; two canvases by Scottish artist Allan Ramsay, Portrait of a Lady as a Shepherdess (late 1740s-early 1750s) and Portrait of Horace Walpole's Nieces: The Honorable Laura Keppel and Charlotte, Lady Huntingtower (1765); and two paintings by Arthur Devis showing figures in furnished interiors. Furniture in the room includes a mahogany double chair-back settee (about 1760), mahogany secretary (about 1740), and a gilt, painted wood, and green marble side table (about 1740–50). Also featured are two mahogany chests of drawers and a tea table set with Chinese export porcelain (many of these pieces were purchased by the MFA specifically for the room).

“The new Hartman Galleries allow the MFA’s legendary collection of English decorative arts to take pride of place in a variety of settings—a Baroque dining room from the 1690s, a Palladian drawing room from the 1740s, and a modern long gallery with stateof the-art display cases,” said Thomas Michie, Russell B. and Andrée Beauchamp Stearns Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Art of Europe, at the MFA. “The Hartman Collection of silver, now gleaming in six new cases, has never looked more beautiful. In addition, the Hartmans’ generous loans of Regency silver add a whole new dimension to the presentation.”

Hamilton Palace Dining Room
The oak-paneled dining room was one of the state apartments in Hamilton Palace, the vast residence of the Dukes of Hamilton just outside of Glasgow, Scotland. It was completed in 1694 by Anne, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton, with the leading Scottish architect James Smith. By the mid-19th century, Hamilton Palace was Scotland’s largest and grandest country house and featured one of the best private art collections in Britain. Toward the end of the 19th century, large private residences had fallen out of fashion and upkeep was prohibitively costly. Most of the house’s contents were sold at auction in 1882. The remainder—including 30 paneled rooms—was sold before the house was demolished in the 1920s. The dining room is the only room from Hamilton Palace that survives intact and is open to the public today. It was purchased for the Museum in 1924 and installed in 1928, then dismantled in 2002 in preparation for the construction of the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing, which opened in November 2010.

The oak details of the reassembled room date to 1700 and were created by master woodcarver William Morgan. They include the architrave, frieze, and cornice; a monumental chimneypiece “with fish and fowl and flowers”; two Corinthian capitals flanking the fireplace; and picture frames and friezes over three doors. In the early 19th century, the 10th Duke of Hamilton began a campaign of refurbishment, adding the black marble mantelpiece and the coat of arms over the fireplace. Complementary oak flooring was added by the MFA. Also featured is an ornamental plaster ceiling created for the room by the Museum in 1928 and a 19th-century brass chandelier in the style of the 17th century.

The Hamilton Palace Dining Room highlights more than 130 works, including an array of some 95 pieces of early English silver from the collection of Alan and Simone Hartman, acquired by the MFA in 2001. These are displayed in six newly designed cases constructed by Italian manufacturer Goppion, which line the perimeter of the dining room. The silver objects on view were made in London between 1680 and 1760, a period marked by the influx of French Huguenot craftsmen, who sought refuge after French King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, ending government tolerance of Protestants. The Huguenots brought with them innovative techniques and new styles. Among the exquisite objects on view are Wine Cooler (English, 1718–19) marked by David Willaume; Basket (English, 1725–26), marked by Thomas Farren; and works reflecting the rococo style, such as Candelabra (English, 1744–45), marked by John Hugh LeSage and the ornately crafted Case for two Tea Caddies and Sugar Box (English, 1739–40), marked by Lewis Pantin I. Additionally, the collection contains specialized tablewares, such as the silver and fruitwood Chocolate pot, (English, 1722–23), marked by David Tanqueray. It was among fanciful works in silver made to accommodate new cuisines and dining customs introduced in the 17th century, such as exotic hot beverages: chocolate from Central America, tea from east Asia, and coffee from the Middle East.

The Hamilton Palace period room also showcases select furnishings evoking the type of objects that would have been found in the dining room, including a cabinet-on-stand (English, about 1680–90) featuring Chinese Coromandel lacquer panels and engraved gilt brass mounts. Placed on top is a pair of gu-shaped and bangchuiping vases (China, Qing dynasty, 1662–1722). Also on view is an oak, ebony, and rosewood table (Dutch, about 1660) featuring a blue-and-white Dutch Delft sweetmeat set from about 1680—one of numerous blue-and-white Delft and Chinese ceramics displayed in the room.

British Art 1560–1830
Adjacent to the Newland House period room is the British Art 1560–1830 Gallery, where nearly 250 decorative works (silver, ceramics, paintings, furniture, and works on paper) ranging from the Elizabethan to Regency eras are on view, many in specially made Goppion cases. The gallery features selections from the MFA’s renowned collection of British silver, including Candelabrum Centerpiece (English, 1806–1807), marked by Philip Cornman and designed by Charles Heathcote Tatham, as well as English porcelains from the Jessie and Sigmund Katz and Richard C. Paine collections, such as, respectively, Plaice sauceboat (English, about 1752) and Clock case (English, about 1761), both made at Chelsea Manufactory. A highlight is a case dedicated to a variety of colorful and artfully designed teapots. Punctuating the cases are chronological vignettes of furniture, such as a pair of walnut armchairs (English, about 1766–65), and an ebony, boxwood, and yew (among other woods) cabinet-on-stand with ivory veneers (Europe, about 1690). Paintings, including Portrait of Two Girls (Misses Cumberland) (about 1772–73) by George Romney, are also presented, in addition to changing displays of prints and drawings.





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