As beautiful as my first visit was, the highlight of my time in Chatsworth was of course my tour of the house and garden. So in my second post on Chatsworth, I take you with me to my favorite parts of the house.
The tour of the house starts from the northern side of the building. You are welcomed to the tour by some very friendly guides and by this imposing Weeping Ash tree.
I can only imagine how pretty this tree is with all its leaves. I’ve only ever seen Weeping Willows and I’ve never seen one that goes as high up as this Ash.
From the main entrance and ticketing area, your tour starts almost immediately in what is the most remarkable room of the house, the Painted Hall.
Fans of the 2005 Pride & Prejudice film will remember this as the starting point of Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth’s tour of Pemberley, led by the housekeeper. Elizabeth almost got left behind by her group because she was staring in awe of this room. I don’t blame her one bit.
The tour includes a visit to the State Apartments created for the visit of King William II and Queen Mary II, which never happened. The State Apartment windows face the Emperor Fountain and the Canal Pond and, of course, the verdant landscape of the estate.
The other room in the house of historical significance is the State Dining Room, where Queen Victoria once dined.
But because I am a bigger bookworm than I am a history nerd, I was far more impressed by the library, one of six in the house, housing the collection of 17,000 volumes amassed by the first seven Dukes. This collection includes books from half a millennium ago, so the room is always kept under low light. Access is restricted and visitors are only able to survey the library from the door. If I wasn’t afraid of being kicked out of the house, I would have loved to walk along the shelves to just look at (not even touch!) the books.
Just down the hallway from the library is my favorite sculpture in the Chatsworth collection, if not in the world. Not that I know a lot about sculpture, but I think the Veiled Vestal is stunning.
Carving stone to realistically look like soft, flowing fabric must be difficult enough. To work it and make it look like a thin, delicate veil over the gentle features of the vestal virgin is just amazing. You can even make out the waves of her hair on her forehead under the veil.
Isn’t she breathtaking?
But the Veiled Vestal is just one of the many remarkable sculptures in Chatsworth. The Sculpture Gallery is the last part of the house tour, and it showcases the Devonshires’ collection rather beautifully.
The room used to be more heavily decorated with rich tapestries and curtains which were removed during filming for Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice. Inspired by the changes made for the movie, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire decided to make them permanent. They redecorated (or, to be more accurate, un-decorated) the Sculpture Gallery to match the 6th Duke’s original and simpler designs for the room. I think the bare walls and almost monochromatic scheme (I do dislike those pink boxes) rightly puts the focus on the pieces of art.
There was one key bust that was missing from the gallery. In the movie, Elizabeth gets lost in thought in front of the bust of Mr. Darcy in the Sculpture Gallery. While it is no longer alongside the more notable pieces of art, it is still in the house. Chatsworth retained the bust as a souvenir, and it is currently displayed in a corner of the Orangerie shop, beside the Austen-related items for sale.
It may not be by Antonio Canova and may not have been deemed worthy of a place in the gallery, but this definitely has a special place in my heart. As tempted as I was I did as I was requested and did not kiss it, though.
A little Darcy/McFadyen ogling was a fitting end to the visit to (his) house. The next part of my tour was a visit the magnificent gardens, which I’ll try to do justice to in my next post.