As I said in my last blog the old-fashioned grand tours of the continent that incorporated Rome have impacted significantly on the architecture in the UK. But not only in the outside design of our stately houses and monuments.
It also impacted on the internal design of Georgian properties as ceilings were lifted in the living areas of houses and it became the fashion to make your ceiling a domed canvas for a work of art. Previously the fashion had been the style that had begun in Egypt to paint ceilings dark blue with stars or to display Tudor roses in roundels. The places the rich tourists would have explored in Rome included the Vatican and within the Vatican are incredibly bright and beautifully painted walls and ceilings – including the Sistine Chapel of course.
The pictures below have paintings from the Vatican on the left and paintings from Georgian stately homes on the right.
This adoption of the ornate ceiling dressing is not very surprising, and you may have guessed this, but the thing that really struck me was when I walked into this room in the Pope’s museum and it threw my memory back to a room in a stately home in England.
A couple of years ago when we visited Chatsworth House the tour ended with a room full of a collection of statues and busts and nothing else. The 6th Duke of Devonshire, known as Hart, had created the room to house his collection. I thought it really odd at the time, but when I walked into the room (pictured above) in the Vatican, the room I had seen in England years before made sense suddenly. It was a copy. Made by a man who saw something he was awed by and wanted to recreate it.
Many of the statues in the 6th Duke’s collection were acquired or inspired while on his first grand tour and during future returns to Italy.
The Marlow Intrigues
The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel
The Illicit Love of a Courtesan
The Passionate Love of a Rake
The Scandalous Love of a Duke
The Dangerous Love of a Rogue
The Secret Love of a Gentleman
The Reckless Love of an Heir
The Tainted Love of a Captain
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I have worked in some wonderful historical venues for my day job as well as visiting places at the weekend for fun and to do research for the historical books. But sometimes I work in a modern venue that still makes me think about the past.
A while ago now, I went to a meeting that was in a venue at the top of an office block close to the banks of the Thames in London near Vauxhall Bridge. When I looked out through the window it struck me just how small London was in the Regency and Victorian eras when my historical books are set.
Three years ago I occupied one cold autumn evening that I had stayed over in London for work by walking down to the area where Vauxhall Pleasure grounds had once been. It is that small triangle of green on the far side of the river. You can see there is very little there now, I couldn’t even find any plants or trees that suggested there had been an aristocratic playground there once. But I walked there thinking about all the historical characters’ whose diaries and letters I had read, imaging them climbing into boats to cross the river to reach the excitement at the time when there was no bridge. I had set a scene there in The Passionate Love of a Rake and so I knew a lot about what it was like in its heyday.
The underpass to get from one side of the road to the other near the park is decorated with images to remind people today what people then would have been looking forward to. Men on stilts and tightrope walkers.
I was writing The Tainted Love of a Captain at the time I was in this high office building and I had recently researched how to obtain a licence to marry without the banns being read. I had set a scene in the book when a character travels to Lambeth Palace to obtain a licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s officials. So when I turned the other way in this office, with my camera, and took another picture, I was probably foolishly surprised to see Lambeth and Westminster Palace within easy walking distance to the boats to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.
I thought of Harriett Wilson as I stood there looking out at London. I have shared her story on the blog. I thought particularly about the days she wrote of waiting in a carriage outside Westminster Palace for a lover to come out from a meeting of the House of Lords. Perhaps men left the House of Lords and travelled straight to the boats to ferry them over to the pleasure grounds. I also thought about Frances Bankes letters that talked about visiting her son when he was ill while at the boys’ school in Westminster. The element of her life story inspired an element of The Reckless Love of an Heir, as she sat on an upturned bucket beside his bed, did she dine at the pleasure gardens when they were in their townhouse.
Certainly, lots of the wealthy families owned houses in the area between Westminster and Vauxhall, as all the street names declare.
It was just fascinating for me to stand there and look down and it made my imagination run with ideas on how people lived in the past. That area of London would have been flooded with the best society.