Friday, December 9, 2016

Buckinghamshire: A fall visit to Waddesdon Manor

Waddesdon Manor was built by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild to house his collection of decorative arts over 130 years ago. His collection is on par with that of the Wallace Collection and the Royal Collection. The tickets into Waddesdon are timed to avoid overcrowding and it helps a lot. There is a headphone tour which will add greatly to your enjoyment, it is however at an additional cost.

The house was built to entertain. The Baron planned to show off his wonderful collection and did, to a vast array of the who’s who of Victorian and Edwardian England. The condition of all his treasures is phenomenal due to the extraordinary efforts at preservation that have been undertaken almost from day one. The lighting from the outside is kept minimal and there is new interior lighting to show off the painting to advantage.

You enter into the East Gallery which has the two largest Guardi paintings in the world. You then pass to the breakfast room, the conservatory, and ante-room and into the dining room. The table is set for a dinner party circa 1894 and the flower arrangements are so tall that the two sides of the table can't see each other. The walls have two Beauvais tapestries modeled after Boucher paintings. The carpet is Aubusson and dates from 1780.

The Red Drawing Room has three Gainsborough's and a Reynolds. The Gainsborough of Lady Sheffield reflects beautifully off the Rocco mirror on the opposite wall. There are beautiful pieces of Sevres and furniture from Versailles. The carpet is a Savonnerie made for Louis XIV for the Louvre, the blue and yellow colors are particularly fresh. This is an amazing room.

The Grey Drawing Room has three Joshua Reynold's full-length portraits, one of the Duchess of Cumberland who has bedroom eyes. There is a beautiful little secretaire with Sevres inserts. This room though opulent has a cozy warmth.

The West Gallery has among its treasures a marvelous French tall clock that appears to be gold and lacquer. It is about 8 feet tall and has a mother of pearl face.

The Baron's room was his inner sanctum. He surrounded himself with portraits of beautiful women, many with dubious reputations. Two pictures of Mrs. Robinson, also Lady Hamilton and Mrs. Jordan by Romney adorn the walls.

And if you think this is all there was you have to see the West Hall where I was stopped dead by the beautiful Duchess de Polignac by Elisabeth Vigee Lebrun. The Morning Room has paintings by Cuyp, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Gabriel Metsu, and Gerard Dou.

The Sevres Room has among other things a dessert set that belonged to Marie Antoinette.

This place is beyond description and well worth the admission. It has a really great gift shop and extensive gardens, an aviary, and a wine cellar. If you would like to bring some home there is also a nice wine shop. Plan to spend the whole day.

The admission cost is determined by the time of year and additionally, it is more expensive to visit on the weekend. The most expensive rate was 15 pounds at the time of this visit for the house and garden in high season on the weekend. From January to the end of March, the shops, aviary, Manor Restaurant and the gardens are all that are open. 

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