Chatsworth House. © Chatsworth House Trust
NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s New York opened its doors today to Treasures from Chatsworth – a rare, public exhibition in the United States of works from the fabled Devonshire Collection, held at historic Chatsworth House in the United Kingdom.
Chatsworth is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family. The house is renowned for the quality of its art, landscape and hospitality, and has evolved through the centuries to reflect the tastes, passions and interests of succeeding generations, standing today among the most important stately homes in the United Kingdom. Rich with thousands of objects, the Devonshire Collection represents a grand tradition of collecting by the Cavendish family spanning half a millennium, which ranks as one of the most significant collections of art and objects in Europe.
Coinciding with Sotheby’s 275th anniversary in 2019, as well as the opening of their expanded and reimagined New York galleries, the Treasures from Chatsworth exhibition has been designed by the award-winning creative director and designer David Korins, whose work includes the set designs for the Broadway musical phenomena Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and the recent Tony Award-nominated Beetlejuice: The Musical, as well as past Sotheby’s exhibitions.
The extended exhibition offers viewers an immersive experience, featuring extraordinary objects illustrative of the Devonshire Collection while simultaneously bringing to life the experience of Chatsworth House and its spectacular grounds.
More than 40 masterworks have been selected for the Treasures from Chatsworth exhibition to represent the remarkable breadth of the Devonshire Collection – fine art from Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt van Rijn to Lucian Freud, furniture and decorative objects from the 16th century to 21st-century design, and historic jewels, costumes, and archive materials commemorating historic occasions are all on view to the public. A selection of individual highlights is below.
The exhibition also incorporates a special augmented reality (AR) experience for guests to explore the Cavendish family tree through a series of interactive portraits for a closer look at the lives of past Dukes and Duchesses. In addition, QR Codes throughout the exhibition will allow visitors to access additional audio commentary and to experience panoramic views from the Chatsworth House and grounds.
Free of charge and open to the public, Treasures from Chatsworth is on view from 28 June through 18 September 2019 in Sotheby’s New York galleries, located at 1334 York Avenue. Docent tours will be led daily Mondays through Saturdays, at 11:00am and 3:00pm.
The Duke of Devonshire said: “We are so excited to have works from The Devonshire Collections among the first pieces to be displayed in the new gallery spaces at Sotheby’s in New York. Together, Sotheby’s and David Korins have created a space that presents these works in an entirely original and inspiring way, evoking the experience of visiting Chatsworth while also sparking new dialogues and views. Since I became Deputy Chairman in 1996, the relationship between Chatsworth and Sotheby’s has developed exponentially, and continues to present new and exciting opportunities for us both. This exhibition gives us the chance to share Chatsworth with a new audience, tell people about the invaluable work of the Chatsworth House Trust charity, and to demonstrate the way in which The Devonshire Collections continue to evolve with each generation of our family. We are so pleased to welcome you into our Collection.”
Tad Smith, Sotheby’s CEO, commented: “Sotheby’s has been fortunate to share a special relationship with the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and Chatsworth for nearly 25 years. From bringing monumental sculpture to life on the estate’s stunning grounds with Beyond Limits, to the spectacular House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion exhibition, we have been inspired by their commitment to share their home and history with the public. It is truly an honor for Sotheby’s to host treasures from this legendary collection and to share them and the mission of the Chatsworth House Trust with the American public.”
David Korins, award-winning creative director and designer of Treasures from Chatsworth, stated: “Bringing the Chatsworth House and Devonshire Collection to life with this exhibition has been such an enriching experience that I hope our guests will find as intriguing and exciting as I did throughout the creative process. This experience offers a rare peek at not only one of the world’s most important art collections, but into the storied history of the Cavendish family. I can think of no better way to celebrate Sotheby’s 275th anniversary than with this historic project."
One of the jewels of the famed Devonshire Collection is Leonardo da Vinci’s Leda and the Swan, which also marks one of the greatest drawings of the artist’s legendary career. Created by da Vinci in Florence or Milan circa 1506 – while he was working on the Mona Lisa – Leda and the Swan is a mythological preparatory drawing in pen, ink and wash. The work represents one of Da Vinci’s earliest designs for a composition of Leda, wife of the King of Sparta, and Jupiter, who has taken the form of a swan to seduce her. Hatching from the eggs at Leda's feet are their offspring: the twins, Helen (later Helen of Troy) and Clytemnestra, and Castor and Pollux.
Leda and the Swan is even more remarkable for its history, having almost been lost in the chaos of World War II. The work was requested for loan to an exhibition of Da Vinci’s work in Milan in 1939. Knowing that war was imminent, the 10th Duke of Devonshire was reluctant to do so, but was convinced knowing that King George VI was sending requested works from the royal collection. The work was not able to leave Italy after the exhibition, and survived World War II in storage at the Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome. When returned to Chatsworth following the war, it bore the white marking now seen in the center of the drawing.
Rembrandt Van Rijn, Portrait of an Old Man, 1651. © Devonshire Collection. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees
This masterly painting of an old man by Rembrandt van Rijn is signed and dated 1651 – a period during which the artist painted rarely and received few portrait commissions.
Formerly one of three Rembrandt paintings in the Devonshire Collection, the work was seen in the collection of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, as early as 1728, marking it as one of the earliest Rembrandt paintings ever acquired by an English collector.
It is not certain whether this work is a commissioned portrait. Alternatively, it may show an old male model, dressed in a rich exotic costume, sitting for a ‘tronie’ – a popular Dutch genre painting of the time. Such works gave the artist the opportunity to show off their technique: here, with directional lighting, Rembrandt shows his mastery through lighting in depicting character and old age, with his broad brushstrokes bringing to life the texture and weight of the man’s rich costume.
The Devonshire Parure, a Seven-Piece Jewelry Set. Created for the Coronation of Tsar Alexander II in 1856. © Devonshire Collection. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees.
Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire wearing the Devonshire Parure and standing near Lucian Freud's 1956 portrait of her titled Woman in a White Shirt
In 1856, William, 6th Duke of Devonshire, commissioned a seven-piece set of jewelry known as the Devonshire Parure, incorporating 88 carved gems from the large gem collection at Chatsworth that was assembled primarily by the 2nd and 4th Dukes of Devonshire.
The commission was a response to the Duke’s nephew’s attendance at the coronation of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, as a representative of Queen Victoria. Having previously attended the coronation of Tsar Nicholas I, the Duke could be certain that Maria, Countess Granville, would need a large and remarkable suite of jewels to furnish her wardrobe for the many functions she would attend and host.
Today the engraved gem collection at Chatsworth represents the largest such collection in private hands. Whilst prominent collections such as those of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (1586-1646) and George Spencer, Fourth Duke of Marlborough (1739-1817) are now in the British Museum or dispersed through other collections both public and private, the Devonshire gems remain in the family which collected them.
Lucian Freud, Woman in a white shirt Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. © Devonshire Collection. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees
Lucian Freud, Portrait of a man Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire. © Devonshire Collection. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees
A highlight of the Treasures from Chatsworth exhibition will be two works reflecting the long association between the leading 20th century artist Lucian Freud and the 11th Duke and Duchess, whose portraits he was commissioned to paint. The strikingly-informal nature of the works speaks to the close association between sitter and artist: many of Freud’s works in the Devonshire Collection were completed while he stayed as their guest at Chatsworth.
These two informal portraits show Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire (1920–2004), father of the current duke of Devonshire, and his Duchess, Deborah (née Mitford) (1920–2014). They form part of a group of oil paintings of the 11th Duke’s family that were painted over a period of approximately 20 years. As Freud used to explain: “I work from the people that interest me… I use them to invent my pictures with”.
Of the two portraits, Woman in White, the portrait of Duchess Deborah, was the first to be painted, in 1958-60. It marked a transitional point in Freud’s career, when he started to paint in a broader, looser style. He painted the portrait of the Duke a decade later, in 1971-72. It is also unconventional and disquieting. In it he appears to be unwilling to submit to the intense scrutiny of the artist, with his head is lowered and his eyes – ‘the mirror of the soul’ – hidden.
The Peeress robe © Devonshire Collection. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees
The Peeress robe was worn by Duchess Deborah when she attended the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. The Duchess writes in her book, Wait for Me, about the worry of what she was going to wear to the coronation and about finding a crimson peeress's robe in tin trunks at Chatsworth, “with velvet of exceptional quality, so soft your fingers hardly know they are touching it”.
The one problem with the robe was that the bodice was cut off the shoulder, unlike the other peeress gowns. The 11th Duke and Duchess had to seek a dispensation from the Queen to allow Deborah to wear it. The bodice had been clearly altered and the neck line is typical of the 1830s, so it is thought that this dress was originally made for the 6th Duke’s sister, Lady Georgiana Cavendish, wife of the 6th Earl of Carlisle, to wear to the coronation of William IV in 1831.
Raffaele Monti, the Veiled Vestal, 1846 © Devonshire Collection. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees
On display in America for the first time ever will be one of Chatsworth’s visitors’ favorite objects: the Veiled Vestal by Victorian sculptor Raffaele Monti. Commissioned in Milan in 1846 by the 6th Duke of Devonshire – who was ahead of his time in recognizing the artist’s genius – this marble sculpture is now familiar to millions thanks to its star turn in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
A virtuoso piece of illusionistic carving, the statue is made up of four sections of Carrara marble. It shows a veiled Vestal Virgin guarding the sacred flame. In Ancient Rome, the six Vestals were virgin priestesses whose lives were dedicated to the goddess Vesta. They were responsible for ensuring that the sacred flame in Vesta’s temple in the Forum was never extinguished. The Vestals’ duty was regarded as fundamental to the safety of Rome.
Partly due to Duke’s patronage and partly for political reasons, Monti moved permanently to London in 1848. His output became prolific and his veiled figures became very popular in Britain. His career was assured with the display of his sculpted veiled figures at the capital’s Great Exhibition of 1851 – including the present work.
Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Jan Snelleck. © Devonshire Collection. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees.
Anthony van Dyck’s striking drawing of the Flemish artist, draughtsmen and collector Jan Snelleck is part of a group of celebrated portraits by Van Dyck of notable people of his age. This work is from a large collection of Old Master Drawings purchased via a private sale from Nicolas Anthonis Flinck in 1723/4 by the 2nd Duke of Devonshire.
Van Dyck, a leading pupil of Rubens, was an exceptional European artist particularly in the field of portraiture. As a portrait painter in England from 1632, he revolutionised the art of the portrait, influencing not only his contemporaries but also countless artists down the centuries.
Letter sent to Mary Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, by John F Kennedy 21 september 1944.
One of the more poignant objects in the exhibition highlights aspects of the collection that relate directly to the lives of the Cavendish family. One such treasure is a deeply personal condolence letter from President John F Kennedy to the 10th Duchess, whose son – only recently married to the president’s sister Kathleen ‘Kick’ Kennedy – had been killed during World War II.
Canaletto, Venice: A view of Santa Maria Della Salute and The Entrance to The Grand Canal from The Piazetta. © Devonshire Collection. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees
Canaletto, Venice: A View of The Doge's Palace and The Riva Degli Schiavoni from The Piazzetta. © Devonshire Collection. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees
A pair of exceptional paintings on copper panels by 18th-century artist Antonio da Canale, (called Canaletto) show views of Venice looking West and East from the Piazzetta by St. Mark’s. The copper support renders these classic sunlit Venetian scenes with increased luminosity. They belong to a small group of Canaletto’s views on copper painted dating to the late 1720s, and primarily sold to English patrons. The pair was last on view in New York 30 years ago, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s major Canaletto exhibition in 1989-90.
INSPIRED BY CHATSWORTH: A SELLING EXHIBITION
28 June – 18 September
Concurrent with the Treasures from Chatsworth exhibition, Sotheby’s is pleased to present Inspired by Chatsworth, a selling exhibition of paintings, drawings, jewelry, furniture and works of art, which draws its inspiration from the many ways in which Chatsworth has influenced the history of collecting and the formation of taste from the late-17th century right up to the present day.
The exhibition features works by various painters, sculptors, potters and draughtsmen who were patronized or collected by successive Dukes of Devonshire, including the rare violin trompe l’oeil by Jan van der Vaart, which is a version of the example at Chatsworth House, as well as the superb bronze sculpture of Mercury after a model by Giambologna, similar to the piece that is displayed in the Dome Room at Chatsworth. Works by major artists in the Devonshire Collection are also represented in our exhibition, most notably a monumental early masterpiece by Canaletto, a lively portrait of a man by Hals, a fine studio version of the Devonshire Rembrandt of a man in oriental costume (or King Uzziah), and even a contemporary portrait by Lucian Freud. Further works which exemplify the Chatsworth taste include a rare Madonna and Child with Saint Julian by the great Florentine mannerist Rosso Fiorentino, of which there are fewer than 30 known paintings by the artist.
Additionally, the show includes a selection of top quality decorative arts, such as a beautiful set of Meissen birds modelled by Kändler for the Japanese Palace at Dresden, fine pieces of 18th and 19th-century furniture, and, with the invaluable help of Adrian Sassoon, a wonderful array of modern decorative objets d’art and sculptures by contemporary artists such as Felicity Aylieff, Edmund de Waal, Pippin Drysdale, and Andrew Wicks, whose work is collected by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and are at Chatsworth today.