Friday, 5 August 2011

Thomas Hope, creator of the English "Empire" Style, also known as "Regency"

Thomas Hope: Triumph, Tragedy,
Obverse Worlds
Jerry Nolan

Thomas Hope was the eldest son of John Hope (1737-1781), a Dutch merchant of Scottish extraction and a member of a very wealthy and powerful family of merchants and bankers who had settled, four generations earlier, in Holland. Thomas was born on 30 August 1769 in Amsterdam. By the early 1780s the merchant bank of Hope & Co were in the business of raising large sums for kings and governments throughout Europe and in the United States of America, and were recognised as one of Europe’s greatest banking dyna­sties. After the death of his father in 1784, Thomas shared his father’s fortune with his two brothers but appears never to have been active in the management of the lucrative family business, which remained the source of his considerable wealth, and he began as a young man to devote intellect, fortune, time and energy to the arts, with the study of the archi­tecture of ancient civilisations as the starting point. In a letter written in 1804 to Francis Annesley Esq. M.P ‘Observations on the Plans and Elevations designed by James Wyatt, Architect, for Downing College, Cambridge’, Hope closely linked his early interest in archi­tecture with his travels.

‘No sooner did I become master of my own actions, which unfortunately happened at the early age of eighteen, than disdaining any longer to ride my favourite hobby only in the con­finement of the closet, I hastened in quest of food for it to almost all the different countries where any could be expected. Egyptian architecture I went to investigate on the banks of the Nile, Grecian on the shores of Ionia, Sicily and the Peloponneus. Four different times I visited Italy to render familiar to me all the shades of the infinitely varied styles of building peculiar to that interesting country, from the most rude attempts of the Etruscan to the last degraded ones of the Lombards. Moorish edifices I examined on the coast of Africa, and among the ruins of Granada, Seville, and Cordova. The principle of the Tartar and Persian construction I studied in Turkey and in Syria.’

From 1787 onwards, Hope spent most of the following eight years travelling as a student of cultures. During these travels, Hope stayed for about a year in Istanbul/Constantinople where his considerable skill in drawing was practised – some 350 drawings of the life style which he observed among the rich and powerful in the Ottoman Empire now form part of the collections held by the Benaki Museum, Athens.

After years of travel, Hope, at the age of twenty six, returned to acquire an Adam House in Duchess Street, Portland Place, London – a city where other members of his family had fled during 1794 in anticipation of the French invasion of Holland. Hope was to establish himself in London, for the rest of his life: as a scholarly collector of art, an interior designer and a patron of artists and craftsmen. Unfortunately very few of Hope personal papers have survived. Records show how Hope’s considerable wealth enabled him to collect, especially on his oriental travels, many paintings, sculptures, antique objects and books, which were displayed at first in the Duchess Street mansion and later at the Deepdene, his country house in Surrey. Hope was joined in London by his brother Henry, another art collector and patron. Hope became influential in many London societies connected with the arts such as the Dilettanti, the Royal Society of Arts and the Society of Antiquaries. In 1804 Hope opened exhibition galleries, after having had the Duchess Street house extended by one of the foremost architects and designers of the period, Charles Heathcote Tatham, where visitors paid for admission by ticket. The popular view of Hope was as ‘the Furniture Man’. The sobriquet was regarded as a compliment by enthusiastic supporters; but in the case of hostile critics, it was often used as a term of ridicule and an opportunity for caricature, most memorably in the portrait of Hope and his wife as La Belle et La Bête by the artist Antoine Dubost who had failed to be commissioned by La Bête! Hope’s ambitions to influence taste pressed on regardless of criticism as he sketched designs for furniture, room interiors and costumes which he included in books for which he wrote accompanying scholarly texts. The main thrust of Hope’s project in this area of interest was to advance historically based know­ledge of design. Eventually the number of his books as designer were: Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (1807); Costumes of the Ancients (1809); Designs of Modern Costumes (1812); and posthumously An Historical Essay on Architecture, with the illustrations based on early Hope drawings (1835). Hope triumphantly adapted many of these designs for the interior decoration of his house in Duchess Street and for the house in Deepdene, Surrey which he bought after his marriage and commissioned the architect William Atkinson to alter according to Hope’s own plans.

After some years of anxious searching among notable women for a wife and the future mother of his children, eventually Hope was introduced to the beautiful youngest daughter of William de la Poer Beresford, Archbishop of Tuam in Ireland and later first Baron Decies, who a little reluctantly accepted his proposal. Hope was so pleased by this triumph that when the Archbishop handed over three thousand pounds, Hope handed the dowry back to Louisa when they were married in 1806. Apart from his children, what Louisa quickly facilitated were Hope’s plans to entertain and court in a grand manner the fashionable world of London. An old friend of the Irish family, the novelist Maria Edgeworth, recorded her impressions of the Hopes at home at both the Duchess Street mansion and Deepdene, in letters written to her own family in Ireland. In May 1813, Edgeworth wrote about a grand reception in Duchess Street: ‘We have been to a grand night at Mrs. Hope’s – furniture Hope – rooms really deserve the French epithet superbe! All of the beauty rank and fashion that London can assemble I believe I may say in the newspaper style was there and we observed that the beauties past fifty bore the belle. The Prince Regent stood holding con­verse with Lady Elizabeth Monck one third of the night… About 900 people were at this assembly… I asked him (Hope) who somebody was who was passing and he answered “I really don’t know. I don’t know half the people here nor do they know me or Mrs. Hope even by sight. Just now I was behind a lady who thought she was making her speech to Mrs. Hope but she was addressing her compliments to some stranger.’

In 1817 the Hope family (father, mother and three young sons) went on a tour of Italy. On the tour there was great joy when one of Hope’s favourite protégés, the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorwaldsen, made marble busts of the family which included a bust of Hope showing him as a dignified and calm thinker; but there followed horror on the death of his beloved 7 year old son Charles in Rome; after which the boy’s ashes were taken back home to Deepdene where a mausoleum was erected within the year for the casket with his ashes. When Edgeworth visited the Hopes at the Deepdene in April 1819, she noted a change in Hope and his wife: ‘Mr. Hope himself has in his whole appearance marks of having suf­fered much. The contrast between their depression of spirits and the magnificence of every­thing about them is striking and speaks volumes of moral philosophy to the observer’. Perhaps it was after the unexpected death of his Charles that Hope experienced not only a sense of personal tragedy but a growing self-confidence which enabled him to express his wider human sympathies and well-informed views of the wider world than had so far appeared in his writings and his entertainments. About this time, Hope began work on the novel which was published by John Murray in 1819 as Anastasius or Memoirs of a Greek, written at the close of the eighteenth century in three volumes. Hope held back from revealing his authorship of Anastasius in the first edition, choosing to adopt the mask of an anonymous editor of a recently found ill-written manuscript which was being brought to public notice for readers with an interest in the regions ‘once adorned by the Greeks, and now defaced by the Turks.’ The erasures and imperfections of the journal were used as a justification of the editor’s knowledgeable and enlightening notes at the back of each volume. In the light of the immediate success of the novel, Murray persuaded Hope to reveal his identity as author in the second edition of 1820 which would now include a map of the travels of Anastasius, some extensive pruning of the text which did not include any revision of the novel’s narrative flow. The revelation that Hope was the author was greeted with widespread incredulity in the literary journals. In Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (September, 1821), there appeared a facetious article entitled ‘On Anastasius. By – Lord Byron’ by Christopher North who argued strongly that there was evidence on every page that Byron actually wrote the novel. This challenge to his authorship provoked Hope, in a strong echo of his previous summary of travels to back up his knowledge of world archi­tecture, to proclaim in a letter to the editor of Blackwood’s Magazine from Duchess Street dated Oct. 9, 1821 that not only had he written the novel but that it was all based on his travels in the Orient some twenty years earlier, a significant time before Lord Byron’s work appeared:

‘I beg to state, that in the course of long and various travels, I resided nearly a twelve­month at Constantinople; visited the arsenal and bagnio frequently; witnessed the festival of Saint George, saw Rhodes, was in Egypt, in Syria, and in every other place which I attempted to describe minutely; collected my eastern vocabulary… on the spot, and whilst writing my work; … adopted a fictitious hero in order to embody my observations in the East in a form less trite than that of a journal; avoiding all antiquarian descriptions stu­diously, as inconsistent with the character assumed; for the same reason, omitted my name on the title-page.’

What most puzzled Hope’s Regency contemporaries about his claim to authorship of Anastasius was the pressing psychological question as to why and how Hope, the self-professed neo-classical aesthete and the generous host at the magnificent houses of the Duchess Street mansion and Deepdene, could have ever written such a romantic novel which entered convincingly into the character of Anastasius, the young highly intelligent rebellious youngest son from a wealthy Greek Orthodox family on the island of Chios, who was imagined by Hope as an intrepid traveller, the Muslim convert Selim, and the ambitious mercenary soldier who achieved social and cultural mobility, political insights, and a blis­tering degree of self-knowledge once he had fearlessly vaulted well beyond the frontiers of parochial Chios to experience periods in prison and among the poor on the streets of Con­stantinople before fighting against Austrians, Russians and Arab factions during the twilight years of the Ottoman empire. What probably most attracted the admiration of contem­poraries like Lord Byron and William Beckford was Hope’s unexpected ability to express deep intensity of feeling in the story of Anastasius/Selim, careering across the whole Christian/Muslim divides within the Ottoman empire, embracing friends and lovers and killing assorted enemies and recounting utterly unexpected desert adventures like his en­counters with the Wahhabee tribes (Chapters V-IX in Volume III). Nothing of this romantic resourcefulness surfaced during his grand receptions when his wife glittered and he often seemed cumbersome and shy. However acute observers of the 1798 portrait by Sir William Beechey of Hope as a rich Oriental traveller hanging in the Duchess Street mansion might not have been so surprised if they had spotted the depiction in the background of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a mosque for Muslim pilgrims at one the most revered Muslim sites in the whole of Turkey as a prophetic sign of Hope’s stirring passion for Islam which then cas­caded onto the pages of Anastasius.

The triumph of Anastasius among the reading public continued until 1849, the year of its last edition, after which the novel drifted into neglect and virtual oblivion. One suspects that from the very beginning, his family were not too keen on the novel. The family view was expressed in The Book of the Beresford Hopes by Henry William Law and Irene Law with an Introduction by Viscountess Ullswater, published in 1928. Irene Law was Thomas Hope’s great-granddaughter and her aunt Viscountess Ullswater was his granddaughter. Both women were descended through the line of Hope’s youngest son Alexander. Accord­ing to the Laws, Anastasius can be best understood as one of Thomas Hope’s ‘recreations’, a straying away from his neo-classical ideas – with some ‘literary help’ from the tutor to his sons, the Anglican clergyman. Rev. J. Hitchens. The Laws included an extract of a letter from Hitchens to Louisa which praises Anastasius along generalised lines: ‘Whenever it makes its appearance, of the splendour with which it will shine, and the wonder and admiration and speculation which it will excite there can be no doubt. A new star will have appeared, and the learned will seize on it as a theme for their criticism, and the curious as an object for their speculation, and all as a matter of wonder and amazement’. Perhaps the purple passage was included by the Laws as an expression of gratitude to the memory of the flattering Hitchens for his devotion to Louisa who had nominated him as a trustee of the settlement made on her second marriage. However, other comments strongly suggest that probably the only section of Anastasius deemed wonderful and admirable by the Beresford Hopes would have been Hope’s preface to the second edition in which the author referred to his wife Louisa as ‘the sole partner of all my joys and sorrows whose fair form but enshrines a mind the fairer,’ The financial success of the book prompted Hope to purchase the so-called ‘Anastasius pearls’ (two rows) for his wife ‘from the profits’. The ‘Anastasius pearls’ were another example of the cult of Louisa as a supreme beauty which glowed forth from the picture and engraving of 1812 in which George Dawe painted a radiant Louisa posing on the bottom steps of staircase before an overawed and adoring dog. The striking difference between Dawe’s lovely representation of Louisa and Hope’s representation in the 1798 Beechey portrait was noted by the Laws with some relish: ‘Thomas, himself a short and rather ugly man, was represented in Turkish costume by Sir William Beechey, who thus succeeded in hiding his physical defects, and giving him a more or less romantic appear­ance.’ Here was the Beresford Hope family’s own distinctive version of the theme of La Belle and Le Bête!

The Laws suggested that the initial reluctance of Louisa to accept Hope’s marriage proposal was linked to her earlier affection for a childhood friend, William Carr Beresford, the illegitimate son of her uncle, the Earl of Tyrone and the first Marquis of Waterford. Carr, who was born in 1768. After a period of tough military training in Strasbourg, Beresford’s tours of military service from 1785 onwards included such places as Nova Scotia, France, Corsica, the West Indies, India, Egypt, South America, India, Portugal and Brazil. The period of military service for which he became best known was his spell as Marshal in the Portu­guese army, fighting alongside a fellow Irishman, the Duke of Wellington, in the Peninsular War (1809-1811). In 1811 Beresford began dabbling in Tory parliamentary politics in County Waterford in Ireland. In 1828 his old comrade-in-arms appointed him to the post of master-general of the ordnance in Wellington’s first ministry. In his novel Thomas Hope imagined Anastasius/Selim as a soldier in the ranks of the Turkish armies in the latter days of the Ottoman Empire where the grim realities of the battlefields, the appalling political intrigues of the period, and reflections on the collapse of empire were not excluded from the records. The exposure of such gory goings on was far removed from the manners of the Duchess street mansion and the Deepdene, and somewhat closer to the London’s Holland House set where Hope was more intellectually at one with certain Whig causes. Edge­worth’s strongest sympathies always lay with Louisa and she was always frank about her dislike of the Egyptian influences in the interior decoration of the Deepdene which she described as ‘hideous’; but in April 1822, she warmed a little to the storyteller in Hope: ‘The Deepdene is beautiful at this time of year – The hawthorn hedges – the tender green of the larch and sycamore in full leaf. We had a delightful walk one morning – Mr. Hope all the time conversing very agreeably and telling me anecdotes – fresh from life’. Yet nowhere in Edgeworth’s published correspondence is there any mention of Anastasius. Perhaps the very idea of reading it seemed beyond the reach of her imagination?

Louisa tried to secure an offer of a peerage to her husband by using the good services of Wellington; but even Hope’s offer of ten thousand pounds for that honour was rebuffed by Wellington’s short-lived Tory government in the late 1820s. Probably with a great masked sigh of relief, Hope turned to concentrate on writing a vast philosophical work, to be entitled An Essay on the Origins and Prospects of Man with the objective of exploring explicitly his unusual ideas about the nature of the universe, the origin of species and the diversity of human cultures which would amount to the fullest fruition of his world travel­ling in the external and internal worlds. Hope’s death at the age of 62 prevented this very ambitious work being brought to full fruition. Apparently against the wishes of his family, the work was posthumously published in three volumes by Murray in the year of Hope’s death which led to a very great deal of incomprehension among the reviewers. An Essay was cursorily, if courteously, dismissed by the Laws: ‘The book seems worthy of mention, inasmuch as in the passages quoted there is certainly a suggestion of the idea of evolution, but as far as can be judged, it appearance made no impression at the time, and none reaped the reward or gained the applause that the author anticipated.’ Edgeworth recorded her last encounter with Hope a few days before his death in February 1831 when that she ‘followed Mrs. Hope through all the magnificent apartments and then up to their attics and through and through room after room till I got into his retreat and then a feeble voice from an armchair “Oh my dear Miss Edgeworth, my kind friend to the last”. And I saw a figure sunk like La Harpe – in figured silk robe de chamber and night cap – death in his pallid sunk shrunk face. A gleam of affectionate pleasure lighted it for an instant and straight it sunk again’. Edgeworth’s reference to La Harpe evoked the memorable costume of the contro­versial French literary critic whom she had met in Paris before he died. After Hope’s death, Louisa received letters of sympathy from her friend at Court and frequent guest at recap­tions, Queen Adelaide, wife of William IV.

In 1832 Marshal Lord Beresford married Hope’s widow. Beresford joyously responded to the devotion of his stepson Alexander, then a schoolboy at Harrow. At this time Alex­ander’s older brothers, Henry, Thomas and Adrian, became conscious of the need for financial independence and determined to curtail Marshal Beresford’s involvement in their family, a position which was being much welcomed by their mother and brilliant young Harrovian brother. In 1836 Lord and Lady Beresford purchased Bedgebury Park, in Kent, the seat of Francis Law whose descendant Henry William would marry Irene Beresford Hope. His brother-in-law, Henry Philip Hope, helped to pay for extensions to Bedgebury Park. On Henry Philip’s death in 1834, there was open warfare between the Marshal and his disobedient stepsons who battled in the courts for a greater share of the Hope inheritance, which included the family’s collection of jewels. The retired Marshal had a battle on another front where he engaged in an acrimonious verbal battle with Sir William Napier in three angry, somewhat ponderous, long pamphlets about alleged mishandling of the Albuera campaign during the Peninsular War in 1811. The Laws recorded how Louisa changed as Lady Beresford: while she retained her old fondness for jewels and of wealth, largely as a result of the influence of Alexander – Cambridge University luminary, Tory M.P. and one of the most vocal leaders of the Anglican High church party – she began to devote some of her wealth to educational and pious objects and ‘observed Church seasons and ordinances with far greater regularity than of old.’ Lady Beresford died in 1851 and bequeathed the Anastasian pearls to her eldest son, Henry Thomas. Marshal Beresford died in 1854, where­upon his titles became extinct. Thereafter, Alexander decided to found a Beresford Hope dynasty by changing his family name to Beresford Hope, a change which had been the wish of his stepfather. Alexander married Mildred, daughter of J.B.W. Gascoyne-Cecil and niece of Robert, the third Marquess of Salisbury and future Tory prime minister. Alexander and Mildred had three sons and seven daughters. Their daughter Mary married James William Lowther, later the first Viscount Ullswater and speaker of the House of Commons. The male line of Beresford Hopes lasted two generations and ended when Alex­ander’s grandson, Harold Thomas, died in 1917. As the most publicly honoured of Thomas Hope’s sons – closely associated with Lord Salisbury’s coterie of relatives and decorated with honorary doctorates on both sides of the Atlantic – Alexander felt in 1861 that he might deign for one reason only to pigeon hole his father as ‘a man of genius’ in The English Cathedral of the 19th Century as he looked back on his childhood in Duchess Street:

I may be allowed to leave on record that impression of early but vivid recollections of the taste, the fancy, the eye for colour and form, which characterised the whole conception. The style was not suited for practical use, and so the experiment broke down; but it was the experiment of a man of genius, and not to be confused with the contemporary and parallel, but far more insipid, Empire epoch of French art. The great fact for which Thomas Hope deserves the gratitude of posterity… was that he, first of Englishmen, conceived and taught the idea of art – manufacture, of allaying the beauty of form to the wants and productions of common life.

In reality, Hope’s legacy as the Furniture man was already in decline in A.J.B. Beresford-Hope’s lifetime. Duchess Street house was sold off in 1850 by Henry Thomas Hope, great friend of Disraeli, Young England politician, promoter of the London and Westminster Joint Stock Bank, patron of the Great Exhibition, after which the Duchess Street house was demolished in 1851. The Deepdene was modified by Henry Thomas into a pioneering example of a Victorian High Renaissance palazzo and landscaping, and remained in the possession of the Hope family until 1917, when it was sold off and the collections appeared in Christie Sales Catalogues. Quite a few of the objects which had been illustrated by Hope in Household Furniture were bought by the great enthusiast for a Regency Revival in furniture, the playwright Edward Knoblock, who went on to trumpet his Hope collection. Subsequently the stripped-out Deepdene building was used as a hotel, and after having being reordered into British Rail offices, was finally sold off and demolished in 1969. In the grounds remains the mausoleum erected by Hope in 1818 over the buried ashes of Charles and consecrated as the family burial place by Louisa’s cousin, Lord John Beres­ford, Bishop of Raphoe and afterwards Archbishop of Armagh. Of the 33 tomb-recesses, only 9 were filled over the years and the last internment was that of the 8th Duke of Newcastle in 1941 before the mausoleum was sealed up in 1957 and lurks in the countryside as an obscure monument to the tragedy of a forgotten Hope.

In retrospect, one of the roots of Hope’s personal tragedy seems to have been that, for all of his anxious protestations of love of Louisa, and genuine gratitude for her acceptance of him as her husband, there was in their arranged marriage a disconnectedness of mind, a sense of separateness which was perpetuated among the Beresford Hopes and recorded by the Laws. Certainly Alexander seems to have had little respect or understanding for the diversity of his father’s vision, possibly because in parts it included radical criticism of the conventional wisdom of the High Anglicanism which Alexander espoused. Alexander’s political convictions included admiration for Stonewall Jackson’s part in the American Civil war. Clearly Thomas Hope’s youngest son felt closest to his stepfather and expressed that adoration by organising at the church in Kilndown school, on the first Sunday after the Marshal’s funeral, a solemn missa pro defunctis, with the Beresford motto Nil nisi cruce displayed on large black wall hangings. There is a very sad irony in the fact that Alexander was determined to restrict his father’s triumphs to the world of furniture design. When Alexander was in the womb, Hope was creating the character of Alexis as the son of Anastasius who became the solar star leading his father out of the desert and whose death as a child in Trieste was the blow from which Anastasius would never recover. The inspiration for Alexis was his deceased son Charles who in the Laws version of family history was, by intention or an oversight, omitted from the family tree included at the front of their book: neither was the Sir Thomas Lawrence portrait of Charles as an Infant Bacchus, commis­sioned by Hope in 1816, reproduced by the Laws. If Alexander ever yielded to the temptation to glance over his father’s novel in later years, doubtless he would have grown ever more determined never to be mentioned in the same breath as poor Alexis! It was left to the daughter of Henry Thomas, Henrietta, who married Lord Lincoln, later the 6th Duke of Newcastle, to take care of the Lawrence portrait of Charles as a central part of the Hope legacy, a tradition which has been preserved by subsequent Dukes of Newcastle.

Hope had his contrasting triumphs: as the ‘Furniture Man’ and as the ‘Anastasius/Selim man’. During his lifetime, few of Hope’s guests, not even the attentive Edgeworth, seem to have understood, or even sensed, the sources of his great imaginative power when he first turned to write about the obverse of western cultures and civilisations as a direct con­se­quence of his travels in the Orient shortly after the early death of a beloved son. In the tradition of the Beresford Hopes, Hope enthusiasts today still choose to value one side of the Hope coin and to devalue the other. The Hope Exhibition at the V & A in London and at the Bard in New York will provide a prominent showcase to appreciate one triumph; and this edition of Anastasius, the first in a single volume, ought to prompt the same people, and many others, to respond to the both. What a tragic loss of opportunity if the two sides of Hope are not at last pieced together in the wake of 2008, the year of the exhibition and the book.

London, Victoria & Albert Museum, from 21 March to 22 June 2008. 8 Then New York, The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture from 17 July to 16 November 2008.(the art tribune)‏

It seems that only the English know how to look at and exhibit decorative arts as a living matter, reflecting its strong hold over those who have made them an everyday companion in their lives or the instruments of an aesthetic crusade. Rejecting aseptisized whites and grays, Londoners dare to splash color on their walls, to regroup objects in assymetrical and hybrid ways, to break spatial barriers ; nor do they flinch at theatrical and lighting effects to breathe life into a marble statue by Flaxman, Canova, Thorvaldsen or just to draw attention to a painting. Accompanied by a well-chosen text, the Thomas Hope exhibition develops a precise and objective biography of the artist in just a few rooms. The progressive staging adopted by the organizers, in a welcome refinement for its search of surroundings suited to the explanations, avoids solidifying, congealing, in a word embalming the paintings, sculptures, furniture, albums and ceramics. Like black and orange, blue and gold, the old and the modern go well together here. Around 1800, both in Paris and London, the reverence for Antiquity and the brilliance of youth went hand in hand. Why should it be any different today ? The exhibition at the V & A is in no way a dusty catalogue of faded relics. Forty years after David Watkin’s book in 1968, eminent specialists revisit along with him the fascinating figure of Hope (ill.), whose international culture is more relevant than ever.
Born in 1769 in Amsterdam to a prosperous family of bankers, the future pope of Regency design undertook his Grand Tourbetween 1787 and 1795, combining traditional Italy and Portugal on the one hand and the Balkans on the other ; in 1792, in Rome, Jacques Henri Sablet shows him playing cricket in his portrait, simply marvelous. His exotic inclination and his encyclopedic inquisitiveness push him in 1796-1798 all the way to Constantinople. The Egyptian model will be the second element behind his open-minded reflections on ornamentation, colour and the formal vocabulary of new taste. The arrival of the French Republican army in the Low Countries in January 1795 forces his family into exile in England. A few years later, in the last step of his London launching, Thomas moved into Duchess Street after acquiring a spacious home designed and decorated by Robert Adam. A beautiful residence, it had belonged to William Hamilton’s sister (in 1801 he bought a large part of the second collection of Greek vases from William) and he undertook a major remodeling, enlarging and redecorating it. Notably, he added several galleries where first-rate paintings (Guercino, Poussin, etc.), sculpture and antiques were gracefully lined up in a didactic endeavor that was nonetheless devoid of puritanical dullness.
Because the collector never forgot to be the arbiter of taste and the master of elegance that he strived to embody at any price. A patron of Flaxman’s engravings, Hope was struck by the amazing beauty and the novelty of Percier and Fontaine’s publications. The two Parisian architects (they would sometimes cross the Channel) began to publish their Recueil de décorations intérieuresin 1801, a formula that Thomas Hope would adapt to the London environment. Six years later his own illustrated manual appeared, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, veritable bible of Regency taste. He himself crossed the Channel as soon as hostilities died down, in 1802-1803 during the truce initiated by the reaty of Amiens, in 1814 after Napoleon’s first fall. Never in one place for long, always involved in a project, Hope published on any subject where he felt an aesthetic reform was needed, from gardening to how to dress or how to behave in society : a true art of life that his wife, the beautiful Louisa, applied and which the exhibition illustrates delightfully. There are also the major modern sculptures that he commissioned for his enjoyment and that of the many visitors he welcomed to his home. Canova’s Venus is here from Leeds, the group of Aurora and Cephalus by Flaxman from Liverpool and Thorvaldsen’s Psychefrom Copenhaguen. Obviously, modern painting held its own next to these amorous mythological figures. Hope was one of West’s and Westall’s patrons, as well as of several French artists, including Antoine Dubost – his Damocles from the Salon de 1804 resurfaced recently – and Louis Gauffier, two of whose paintings he owned, from the museum in Poitiers. Every piece of the puzzle is in place here, and has its share to tell, inviting the museum goer to put together a fitting portrait of this artist without borders.

Thomas Hope (1769–1831) was influential as a designer, design reformer and collector. A Dutchman, born in Amsterdam, Hope inherited from his family a tradition of collecting as well as vast wealth from the family bank. He was a collector on a grand scale and also an innovative designer of great genius who helped define what we understand as the Regency style.
His extensive Grand Tour travels in Europe, Greece, Turkey and Egypt inspired his interest in antiquities as a source of designs for Regency interiors, furniture and metalwork. He was determined to reform contemporary taste by returning architecture and the arts, including interior design and furniture, to what he conceived as the spirit of classical purity.
In 1799 he bought a house designed by Robert Adam in Duchess Street, Portland Place, London, which he remodelled with a series of themed interiors. The colourful interiors of Duchess Street and of Hope's country house, Deepdene in Surrey, played a unique role in the history of collecting, interior design and display. Both were open to select visitors, but his furniture reached an even wider public through his book, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration. Published in 1807, this book introduced the term 'interior decoration' into the English language.

Hope's influence continued long after his death, partly because of his book. His designs appeared in trade journals and books on interior design, and though the Duchess Street house was demolished in 1851, its contents were taken to The Deepdene where they remained accessible to the public.

In 1917 his collection was dispersed in a great sale at The Deepdene. This led to a renewed interest in Hope's achievement, for objects designed by him were bought by collectors and museum directors in Europe and the USA, so reaching a wider public. Hope's style influenced the Regency Revival of the 1920s and '30s, and even Art Deco design. The novelty and quality of his furniture and interior design have been admired from his death to the present day.

Duchess Street
The interiors created by Hope at his London house in Duchess Street, off Portland Place, were the fullest expression of his mission to transform modern British taste.
He opened the house in 1802, with a grand party attended by the Prince of Wales. To the surprise of his contemporaries, he then issued admission tickets in 1804 to members of the Royal Academy. Subsequently there were numerous other visitors to the house, including leaders of society, artists, scholars and designers.
Hope's startling juxtaposition of styles included Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Indian elements, as well as his own version of the French Empire style. Classical sculpture and vases were displayed alongside modern paintings and sculpture. Most striking of all was the inventive and exotic furniture that Hope designed specifically for the house.
The Egyptian Room
The Egyptian Room was one of the most inventive interiors of its date in Europe. Here Hope displayed his belief in the importance of the ancient Egyptians to the origins of western culture.Mingling genuine pieces of Egyptian sculpture with exotic furniture designed by himself in an Egyptian manner, he also exploited his novel colour theories. The walls and furniture, he explained, were in the 'pale yellow and bluish green of the Egyptian pigments, relieved by masses of black and of gold.'
The Statue Gallery
In the Statue Gallery, Hope placed his finest pieces of antique sculpture. The design was austere, with top-lighting, a coffered ceiling and yellow-painted walls. To avoid 'interfering' with the contour and purity of the white marble statues, Hope left the walls 'perfectly plain'. Although Hope believed that many of the sculptures were Greek, they are now recognised as later Roman versions. In the past, critics decried these works as copies, but today Roman sculpture is seen as having value in its own right, as do the interventions of 18th century restorers. These restorations, seen in many of Hope's antique statues, were the work of dealers catering for the Grand Tour market.
The Vase Room
There were four Vase Rooms at Duchess Street, in which Hope displayed his vast collection of Greek figured vases. The vases, he wrote, 'relate chiefly to the Bacchanalian rites connected with the representations of mystic death and regeneration'. He therefore designed shelves and cabinets decorated with carved heads of the bearded Bacchus. Also, since many vases had been discovered in tombs near Naples, one room had 'recesses, imitating the ancient Columbaria, or receptacles of Cinerary urns'. The exhibition features an interior that evokes the Vase Rooms at Duchess Street. The bronze lamp and mahogany display cupboard in this recreated interior came from the Third Vase Room, where furnishings 'of a quiet hue and of a sepulchral cast' matched the vases.
The Aurora Room
This theatrical interior was one of Hope's most inventive and colourful creations at Duchess Street. Mirrors reflected the central feature - the statue of Aurora, goddess of dawn. The walls were hung with 'satin curtains ... of the fiery hue which fringes the clouds just before sunrise', below 'a ceiling of cooler sky blue.' The colours used in the display are an attempt to reproduce faithfully the original decorative scheme. They are also based on surviving contemporary rooms, including those created by Sir John Soane, who visited Duchess Street in 1802.

The Deepdene
In 1807, the year after his marriage, Hope bought The Deepdene, a large house set in a hilly wooded landscape of great natural beauty near Dorking in Surrey. Just as he had challenged conventional urban taste with his novel interiors at Duchess Street, he now rethought what a modern country house should look like.
The Deepdene was a red-brick Georgian mansion, dominating not adapting to the scenery of the valley in which it stood. Hope remodelled it with a loggia-topped Italianate tower on which to pivot the whole composition and added a wing shooting out at an angle of 45 degrees on a sloping site. This asymmetrical grouping blended the house into its irregular landscape as recommended by recent theorists of the Picturesque.
There is less record of the interiors of The Deepdene than of Duchess Street, but its exteriors were depicted in enchanting watercolours, shown together here for the first time. These watercolours provide a vivid record of The Deepdene's delectable mingling of architecture and nature, of its conservatories, terraces, garden steps and sculpture galleries.
They were commissioned by John Britton for a book on The Deepdene as an expression of Picturesque theory in the country. This was intended to parallel the book that Britton published in 1827 on Sir John Soane's house, which showed the Picturesque in town. Unfortunately, the book on The Deepdene was never completed.

The Deepdene
In 1807, the year after his marriage, Hope bought The Deepdene, a large house set in a hilly wooded landscape of great natural beauty near Dorking in Surrey. Just as he had challenged conventional urban taste with his novel interiors at Duchess Street, he now rethought what a modern country house should look like.

The Deepdene was a red-brick Georgian mansion, dominating not adapting to the scenery of the valley in which it stood. Hope remodelled it with a loggia-topped Italianate tower on which to pivot the whole composition and added a wing shooting out at an angle of 45 degrees on a sloping site.
This asymmetrical grouping blended the house into its irregular landscape as recommended by recent theorists of the Picturesque.

There is less record of the interiors of The Deepdene than of Duchess Street, but its exteriors were depicted in enchanting watercolours, shown together here for the first time. These watercolours provide a vivid record of The Deepdene's delectable mingling of architecture and nature, of its conservatories, terraces, garden steps and sculpture galleries.

They were commissioned by John Britton for a book on The Deepdene as an expression of Picturesque theory in the country. This was intended to parallel the book that Britton published in 1827 on Sir John Soane's house, which showed the Picturesque in town. Unfortunately, the book on The Deepdene was never completed.

Hope's influence continued long after his death in 1831, partly because of his book, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration. His designs appeared intrade journals and books on interior design, and though the Duchess Street house was demolished in 1851, its contents were taken to The Deepdene where they remained accessible to the public.

In 1917 his collection was dispersed in a great sale at The Deepdene. This led to a renewed interest in Hope's achievement, for objects designed by him were bought by collectors and museum directors in Europe and the USA, so reaching a wider public. Hope's style influenced the Regency Revival of the 1920s and '30s, and even Art Deco design. The novelty and quality of his furniture and interior design have been admired from his death to the present day.

'Should I succeed in kindling for the arts a more intense and universal love, when comes the hour of death, I shall think I have not lived in vain.'

The Regency period of furniture history in England extends for at least the first 30 years of the nineteenth century and bears little connection with the actual reign of the Prince Regent, George, 1811-1820.
Regency furniture represents, in a sense, the taking of the neoclassical antique style as seen in Robert Adam furniture and his descendants in later Georgian times one step further. While previously the antiques of the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome were a source of inspiration for furniture designers, in the Regency era attempts are made to make actual copies of ancient furniture, and there is a new interest in the heritage of Egyptian furniture.

Antique Regency style furniture has plain, slender, elegant lines and avoids shapes and curves for surfaces. The use of carving and elaborate forms of decoration and ornament like marquetry declines. There is a great deal of brass work employed and much use of rosewood and zebrawood, because they allowed striking use of colour in veneers, alongside mahogany, which was still the wood of choice for most library, dining room, and regency bedroom furniture.

Brass Egyptian Head Ornament

French polishing came into vogue around 1810 and allowed for smoother finishes. Regency furniture was often covered with woven and printed fabrics particularly chintz.

First Designs

In 1794 the architect Henry Holland sent his designers to Rome to collect classical objects the results of which were published as a collection of drawings, "Etchings of Ancient Ornamental Architecture", in 1799-80. These provided designers and craftsmen with ideas for furniture and other pieces in the classical style of the Regency period.
Thomas Sheraton's "Cabinet Dictionary" of 1803 included Grecian couches, animal monopodia, and chairs with legs curving forwards, the "sabre" design, one of the most characteristic of the Regency period. Later in 1804-1806 Sheraton published the first Egyptian designs used in English furniture, in the " The cabinet maker and artist's encyclopedia".
"English Empire" Style
In 1807 the designer Thomas Hope published his "Household Furniture and Decoration". Hope attempted to make direct copies or adaptations of classical and ancient furniture using wood and bronze and in doing so commonly used motifs such as the winged Sphinx, winged lions and lion masks, hocked animal legs, griffins, Egyptian heads and gods, and lyres.
Hope's fine regency furniture was fairly large in form, and somewhat serious, and was made more palatable for the mass market by George Smith in his "A Collection of Designs for Household Furniture and Interior Decoration" in 1808, and in 1826 the " The cabinet-maker and upholsterer's guide".

Other Regency Styles
Gothic furniture underwent another revival during the Regency era as did Chinese and chinoiserie styles.
The craze for pseudo Chinese furniture saw the use of much decorative japanning with wing pagoda and dragon motifs, black and gold lacquered furniture and imitation bamboo chairs.
The Gothic is always present in English furniture and saw much popularity in the Regency period. Reproductions and new developments of Gothic pieces were often made by the cabinet makers George Seddon and Sons who supplied Gothic furniture to Windsor Castle, 1827-33.
By 1826 the cabinetmaker George Smith complained of the growth of eclecticism, "a melange or mixture of all the different styles associated together". This chaotic swirl of styles is to be found in the Early Victorian age.

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