Events

George Byng and the Furnishing of Wrotham Park, 1816-47

Dr Diana Davis

Monday, 27 February, 5.30 pm, The Wallace Collection Lecture Theatre

George Byng (1764-1847) inherited Wrotham Park in 1789, the year of the French Revolution. The association is significant because the Revolution transformed the London art market and with it elite collecting practice. Byng bought furniture, porcelain, bronzework, silver, Kunstkammer, and Old Master paintings but his Francophile preferences shine through. Wrotham’s interior was emblematic of an innovative Anglo-Gallic decorative style in which the old art of the ancien regime became as fashionable as the new and furnishings made by British dealers were highly prized.  This lecture examines how dealers enabled this paradigm shift in taste: investing ancien régime art with royal romance and age value; displaying old and new together in elegant shops; altering original objects to conform to current taste and unifying the whole through the nomenclature ‘Louis XIV style’. However, Wrotham was never French, nor intended to be so. In this Palladian house, Byng displayed his French decorative art with Regency furniture and dealer-made furnishings inspired by eighteenth-century France but modified to suit British preference. Moreover, his art choices melded French and antiquarian taste.  The seminal influence of the dealer Edward Holmes Baldock is examined in an analysis of his porcelain-mounted and marquetry furniture and modified porcelain. Byng was a man of discerning taste but his collecting was shaped by unique circumstances and directed by the dealer who, acting as retailer, maker and decorator, created a new Anglo-Gallic decorative style.

Admission free. No booking required.