Treasures from Chatsworth

Released August 14, 2004

SALEM, Mass.  From Aug. 14 to Nov. 7, 2004, the Peabody Essex Museum presents Treasures From Chatsworth, A British Noble House, an exhibition of rarely shown works, including Old Master drawings and paintings, sculptures, gold and silver objects, gems and jewelry, contemporary art, and important books and manuscripts from the world’s greatest private library.

Chatsworth, home of the Cavendish family since the 16th century, houses one of the most important private art collections in England. Set in in Derbyshire's Peak District National Park, the house has been a destination for tourists since the 18th century. Now visitors to the Peabody Essex Museum can see more than 200 extraordinary treasures from the family’s private quarters.

“We are pleased to present the achievements of this pioneering family of collectors and engage visitors in experiencing the life within a British great house,” says PEM director Dan Monroe. “The family created an environment in which outstanding artistic and cultural creativity represents the changing tastes of successive generations transformed by their passion for exploring and expanding the world.”

This major traveling exhibition has been organized by Art Services International.
Nicolas Barker, formerly Deputy Keeper at the British Library and a fellow of the
British Academy is guest curator of the exhibition. William R. Sargent, PEM Curator of Asian Export Art, is coordinating curator for the museum’s presentation of Treasures From Chatsworth.

The Exhibition Treasures From Chatsworth is a dazzling collection reflecting five centuries of artistic connoisseurship and intellectual pursuits. The works in the exhibition are organized by generation to highlight the interests and roles played by successive family members. Bess of Hardwick, one of the most formidable figures of Elizabethan England, rose from near poverty to become one of the wealthiest women in England. She married four times, each time increasing her wealth and status, and established a dynasty for her Cavendish successors.

Bess of Hardwick constructed the first Chatsworth in the mid sixteenth century. Building on his mother’s achievements, the first earl of Devonshire used influential connections at court, and wealth from his estates at home and from investments overseas, to procure a title from King James I. A rare map of Virginia (1612) -- and a letter from Queen Elizabeth I, are some of the early treasures he contributed to the collection. The second earl died young, but his wife served as a patron to writers, including the great Elizabethan playwright, Ben Jonson, whose books are preserved at Chatsworth. Their son took a prominent part at court and in theatrical masques—plays in which members of the aristocracy and royalty performed. Inigo Jones’s designs for the masques are included in the exhibition.

One of the family’s crowning achievements as art collectors is their world famous holdings of drawings by Renaissance masters. The fourth earl, who rebuilt Chatsworth in a palatial style, was the first to collect Old Master drawings, including works by Il Guercino, one of Italy’s most celebrated artists of the 17th century. His son, the second duke, expanded the collection greatly, acquiring drawings by some of the world’s great artists including Raphael, Titian, D?Rembrandt, and Rubens. Also featured from his period is a cabinet made by Andr魃harles Boulle, the great French furniture maker. The sumptuously decorated piece is veneered with ebony, brass, and tortoiseshell with gilt bronze fittings, and was owned by the second duke.

In the 18th century the third Earl of Burlington left to his heirs a remarkable collection of European paintings, elaborate furnishings, and a library of architectural drawings by Palladio and Inigo Jones. The fourth duke’s cousin, Henry Cavendish, was the greatest chemist of his time and a pioneer in the study of electricity. His exquisitely made instruments are on display, as are his science books, including Copernicus's revolutionary discovery of the solar system and the first atlas of England. The fifth duke and his wife, Georgiana (the great-great-great-great-aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales, and nearly as famous in her day), added many important books to the Chatsworth library. The duchess also collected mineral specimens, a practice considered avant-garde for the period.

Their son was devoted to Chatsworth, and enlarged it considerably. He also wrote an entertaining guidebook to the house, and enhanced the collection with illuminated medieval manuscripts and magnificent bindings, fine silver, ancient and modern sculpture, and fabulous objects such as the jeweled Kniphausen hawk and Henry VIII’s microscopically carved rosary. The seventh duke collected gorgeous hand-colored books cataloguing birds and flowers. Items from Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Ball in 1897, the Ascot Gold Cup, and other sporting events represent the next generation’s interests.

With the Eleventh Duke of Devonshire (who died May 3, 2004, at the age of 84) and the Dowager Duchess, the collections at Chatsworth entered a new stage. The number of great color-plate books was doubled, and works by contemporary artists, including Lucian Freud, one of England's most important late 20th-century painters, added. Their son, formerly Lord Hartington, is now the Twelfth Duke of Devonshire.

The exhibition, Treasures From Chatsworth, A British Noble House, is made possible through the generous support of Affiliated Managers Group, Inc., and Welch and Forbes LLC.

The Catalogue
A fully illustrated, 450-page catalogue accompanies the exhibition. In addition to individual entries and full-color illustrations of all objects in the exhibition, the catalogue also includes a foreword by the late Duke of Devonshire. Essays by Nicolas Barker discuss the chronology of the family, the growth of the Chatsworth collection, and the significance of British connoisseurship. Diana Scarisbrick, independent curator and recognized scholar of jewelry and gems, contributed an analysis of the jewels in the collection, highlighted by the Devonshire Parure, a suite of jewels made to be worn at the coronation of Czar Alexander II of Russia in 1856. The catalogue also includes a family tree, biographical information, a bibliography, and an index. It is published and distributed by Art Services International, Alexandria, Virginia.

Related Programs

Treasures From Chatsworth, A British Noble House, is enhanced by an array of public programs, including music, film, and lectures.


Ensemble Chaconne: The Devonshire Treasures, A Musical Context Sunday, Aug. 15, 4 p.m.
Free with museum admission

Ensemble Chaconne performs dazzling chamber music as heard in the royal courts, salons, and great country houses of eighteenth-century England. Selections include gems by Handel and Vivaldi as well as splendid rococo selections by later composers. The Lowell Institute makes this program possible.

Lectures and Gallery Talks

England’s Finest Private Treasure House: Chatsworth and the Devonshire Inheritance
Sunday, Sept. 12, 2:30 p.m.
Reservations by Sept. 10
Lecture only: members $8, nonmembers $13
Lecture and tea: members $25, nonmembers $30
Morse Auditorium, Copeland Gallery, and Asian Garden, weather permitting

Simon Seligman has been Chatsworth’s education and promotions manager for 14 years. He shares the story of how one of the world’s greatest private art collections has been brought together at Chatsworth through the taste, zeal, and informed eye of one family. Pre-registered guests may enjoy wine, tea, sandwiches, and light desserts in the Copeland Gallery following the lecture. His Grace the Duke of Devonshire is planning to attend. London Taxis of North America is providing transport to the Duke during his visit to Salem. Sponsored in part by the Margaret Nowell Graham Memorial Fund.

The Smithsonian, Badminton, Oxygen, and a Sandwich: Stories from British Historic Houses
Sunday, Sept. 26, 3 p.m.
Members $8, nonmembers $13
Morse Auditorium

Boston-based architectural historian Curt DiCamillo entertains with enlightening stories from the great repository of art and culture: the British historic home. From the debut of one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies to the planning of the twentieth century’s most decisive battle, these treasure homes have hosted many of the people and events that have shaped our world.

Film Series Members
$5, nonmembers $6
Morse Auditorium

Treasure Houses of Britain: Building for Eternity 1985, 58 minutes
Saturday, Aug. 14, 3:30p.m.

Join the 2nd Viscount Norwich as he leads a tour of the magnificent manors, halls, churches, and estates of Great Britain, revealing the best in Tudor exuberance and Classical simplicity. Chatsworth is one highlight of this rare look into some of the most private homes of Britain.
(VHS format)

The Madness of King George
1994, 107 minutes; director Nicholas Hytner
Saturday, Aug. 14, 5 p.m.

Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren star in this lavish, literate tale of the king who lost the American colonies and slid into dementia. With colorful characters, comic undertones, and nuanced performances, this lauded drama is a must for fans of intellectual historical cinema.
(DVD format)

1998, 121 minutes; director Shekhar Kapur
Saturday, Aug. 21, 2:30 p.m.

Director Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth serves up a brimming goblet of religious tension, political conspiracy, sex, violence, and war. Dodging dethroning schemes and assassination attempts while rejecting the machinations of would-be suitors, the young Elizabeth (in an Oscar-nominated performance by Cate Blanchett) ultimately redefines herself as the indisputable Virgin Queen.
(DVD format)

Yo-Yo Ma, Inspired by Bach: The Sound of the Carceri 1998, 55 minutes; director Fran篩s Girard
Saturday, Aug. 28, 4 p.m.

The Sound of the Carceri explores the deep relationship between music and architecture through a high-tech “virtual confrontation” between Bach and his contemporary, the architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Director Fran篩s Girard places Yo-Yo Ma within a series of computer-generated, three-dimensional re-creations of Piranesi’s well-known etchings of imaginary prisons, the carceri.
(VHS format)

Kick-Start a Collection Family Art & Nature Workshop
Sunday, Aug. 15, 1 p.m. Free with museum admission Ages six and up
Idea Studios and galleries

What do you collect? Rocks? Shells? Stamps? Delve into the world of collecting beginning with a tour of Treasures From Chatsworth. Then discuss different aspects of collecting and try your hand at classifying, organizing, and displaying objects that you can take home to start your own collection. The Lowell Institute makes this program possible.


PR Contacts:

April Swieconek  -  Director of Public Relations  -  978-745-9500 X3109  -

Whitney Van Dyke  -  Director of Communications  -  978-542-1828  -

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