Selasa, 16 Mei 2017

Rife's Home Furniture

Rife's Home Furniture

'here's a question for you. when was britain at its most elegant 'and most decadent, 'its most stylish and most radical?' orchestral dance music 'i'd argue for the decade of the regency, 'between 1811 and 1820. 'it was a time when people could feel their world 'being totally transformed.' it was one of those rare moments, a bit like the 1960s,

when there were really big changes in culture and society, all coming together in a great burst of energy. the battle of waterloo was won. london was redesigned. turner and constable were painting, and the waltz was introduced. in this series i'll be exploring this fabulous decade through painting, writing, architecture, fashion. and at the heart of the regency is the puzzle that is george,

the naughty prince regent himself. he loved garish excess, yet he presided over an age of elegance. 'he only ever fought his wife, and never set foot on a battlefield, 'yet he beat napoleon! people called him a fat old fool, 'so how did he end up giving his name to an era and a style 'that stand as the high point of british sophistication?' there's a lot more to the regency than just mr darcy, you know. cannons booming

trumpet playing martial fanfare 'my name is lucy worsley, 'and i'm a historian.' 'i have rather an exciting job as chief curator 'at historic royal palaces.' - hello, kew palace people. - hello.- hello, hello, hello. 'today i'm catching up with our new team at kew palace, 'and yes, they do wear these regency outfits on duty. 'this place has close connections to the prince regent

'and his family.' what do visitors know or think about george, the prince regent, then? it's generally negative, i'd say. this little girl came in. she said, - "sad, bad, mad and fat." - they laugh 'it's here that the regency story begins.' if you want to understand the colourful and flamboyant age of the regency, then, you need to look at the prince regent himself. george really set the tone of the age,

and he was a notoriously extravagant character. george was hugely self-indulgent. he had a limitless appetite for food, clothes, shopping and women. now, i think this was in response to his childhood, which was very simple, very frugal, and he spent it partly here at kew palace. # shall i tell you about my life? # they say i'm a man of the world...

'the current furnishings reflect the tastes of george's modest parents, 'for whom this house was a favourite residence.' # i've seen lots of pretty girls # 'little george's father, king george iii, 'preferred plain boiled eggs to lavish banquets, 'and he tried to drum the same sense of moderation 'into his eldest son.' this is a set of tiny little stays. it's like a corset for a baby. and george was put into these so he would grow up

with a straight figure. his father knew that fatness ran in the family, and he wanted george to grow up healthy and strong. it was part of the discipline of the nursery. george had a restricted diet. there were days without meat. sometimes george was served a fruit tart, but he was only allowed to eat the boring fruit in the middle, not the tasty crust around the edge. even george's games had an educational purpose.

you see this jigsaw, made for him to play with? at the same time, he was supposed to learn the geography of ireland. he had a very strict timetable of lessons. they went on till 8:00 or 8:30 in the evening, and although he was quite clever, his great problem was laziness, and his tutors tried to beat it out of him using a long and snaky whip. but this harsh regime had the opposite effect of what was intended. george just grew increasingly wayward

and resentful. by the time he was 15, one of his tutors said one of two things might happen - either he would become "the most polished gentleman", or he'd become "the most accomplished blackguard in europe". as soon as he could escape his controlling parents, the young george went wild. there were numerous discarded mistresses. george wasn't above using the threat of suicide to get a girl to give in to his demands.

there was even an illegal marriage to a mrs fitzherbert - a catholic, no less. the prince set up home and a rival court at carlton house, but he ran up debts of over half a million pounds. in order to pay them off, he agreed to marry caroline of brunswick. they hated each other. george was revolted by her very relaxed attitude to personal hygiene and caroline eventually won herself a racy reputation that rivalled her husband's.

on the top floor at kew palace are the rooms that once belonged to george's younger sisters. they've been left untouched since the time of the regency. george's brothers escaped, into the army and into the arms of mistresses. but his sisters were kept close to their father. 'this is the bedroom of the youngest, princess amelia.' the medieval fireplace is a typical choice for a girl who was fond of fantasy and fairies. amelia was the favourite of her father, george iii.

'like him, she'd had long battles with illness - 'in her case, tuberculosis. 'in a bizarre way, it was this sickly girl 'who was responsible for the birth of the regency.' in november 1810, poor princess amelia died, and this was a terrible blow to her father, george iii. for many years he'd been suffering from these recurrent bouts of what his contemporaries thought of as madness. today we know it was the physical illness, porphyria.

and his grief at amelia's death sent him over the edge. the next day he had to be restrained in his straitjacket. so parliament passed a bill appointing his son george, prince of wales, as prince regent, or acting king, on his father's behalf. george was sworn in as regent on the 6th of february 1811, and the regency officially began. although the term "regency" is often used to cover the period from the late 18th century right up to the victorians,

george's actual regency lasted just nine years, from 1811 to 1820. as regent, george was not quite a king. 'there was no coronation, and his office would disappear 'the moment his father recovered. as for george's personal life, 'it would have been tragic if it wasn't so funny.' 'people called him "the grand entertainment".' george had the misfortune to live through the golden age of british satirical caricatures.

practically as events unfolded, artists sketched them, made cheap prints, and these images went viral. he was brilliant fodder for artists like gillray and cruikshank, because of his weight, because of his difficult wife, and because of his endless procession of matronly mistresses. during the regency, you could catch up on the prince regent's latest antics just by looking in a print-shop window. 'sometimes george even bribed cartoonists 'not to publish images that he found particularly hurtful.'

this one's pretty straightforward. the prince of wales is shown as a whale, and he appears to have seduced this mermaid. they're exchanging glances. being regent must have been like wearing a "kick me" sign. the real king was still alive, meaning george lacked the full props and dignity of monarchy. there's no crown in these caricatures. a red field marshal's jacket identifies george as the pratfalling fat man.

this is the scene outside the prince's mansion, carlton house, just after the huge party he held in 1811 to commemorate the start of the regency. afterwards the grounds were opened up, and it's said that 30,000 people turned up and tried to get in. there was such a crush that one lady broke her leg. here's a lady being trampled upon, and some other ladies accidentally lost their clothes. here we've got a group of ordinary people

who did make it inside carlton house, and they've been confronted with the prince's amazing dining table, laid out for the feast with this dinner service that cost â£60,000. this character is saying, "oh, sue, i don't think i'd like that dry champagne, but if i could have a bit of beer in that there gilded gold thing, that would be dreadfully nice indeed." but there was another side to george.

inside carlton house, he was building up an immense hoard of art and furnishings, a collection that i believe was the great passion of his life. 'carlton house no longer exists, 'and its treasures are long dispersed, 'but in the queen's gallery, part of his collection has been reunited 'for an exhibition.' it gives us an idea of what those revellers at the carlton house fete might have seen.

'kathryn jones, a curator at the royal collection, 'showed me some of george's treasures.' these are some of my favourite objects. they're designed for cooling wine glasses, so they would have been filled with ice, and you could rinse your glass between different wines. - that's brilliant! i need one. - they're fantastic. sadly they've fallen out of fashion. if i put my gloves on, - i can show you the salt-cellar. it's in the form of a...- a merman.

..a mer-man carrying a shell, and if you take out the spoon, that's also in the shape of a shell, and then at the end you have neptune's trident, - so very appropriate for sea salt. - would these pieces have been used at the giant party at carlton house - to celebrate the start of the regency?- that's right. the first delivery was made in 1811, and all these pieces would have been used at that amazing dinner. so it was an extraordinary service,

and it's still used by the queen today. that's brilliant. it looks gold, but it isn't, is it? no, that's right. it's silver gilt, and some of the pieces, when they first came into the collection, were plain silver, and gradually during the regency more and more pieces were gilded, and i think this was partly an aesthetic thing. there were so many disparate elements, he wanted to join them together. but it's also in direct rivalry with napoleon.

funnily enough, at napoleon's imperial court across the channel, the emperor had just bought a silver-gilt dining service. george was setting himself up as a rival ruler and connoisseur. he was waging his own personal war through interior decoration. carlton house was filled with 18th-century sevres porcelain. this was another "up yours" to boney - the firm who made it had been owned by the fallen french royal family. george also collected paintings of the court at versailles, and portraits of cardinal richelieu, and also of louis xiii.

'but his taste wasn't just restricted to this french bling.' so, tell me about this one. this is really the jewel in george iv's collection. it's obviously a rembrandt. it's known as the shipbuilder and his wife, and it was the most expensive painting george ever bought. it cost 5,000 guineas in 1811. do we know where this would have been in carlton house? yes, we do. we have a visual record of it, in fact.

it's in one of the watercolours of 1816 of the blue velvet room, and he displayed it with specific sevres vases of this blue colour. do you think this taste for dutch paintings meant that he was a man who genuinely loved art? - cos they're not showy, are they? - no. it's not really what you expect, and to have something like this in his collection shows that this was the pinnacle of things that were on the market at that time. 'the regency was an age in which art and culture mattered, 'and this agenda was set by the man at the top.

'but there was a practical side to being an art-loving royal patron. 'in your portraits, you could spin an image 'to counterbalance those cruel caricaturists, 'and george's chief flatterer 'was one of the greatest english portraitists, 'thomas lawrence.' when lawrence painted george in his red field marshal's uniform, critics sneered at the way the painter had transformed an overweight, balding 50-something

into a well fleshed adonis. jonathan yeo paints the rich and powerful of the 21st century. 'i showed him one of lawrence's unfinished portraits of george, 'to learn how the idealised images of the regent were created.' i've always thought of this as a really flattering image. - is that how you see it? - er, it is quite flattering. it looks like it's been done for a coin or something like that. he's facing this way, but the perspective is slightly skewed

and he's very side-on. if you cut that out and do it in profile, that's one way of avoiding showing if someone's overweight. you see this skin here? that's the whitest part of the skin. has he highlighted that because that's smooth, and so these wrinkles are more sort of hidden in the eye-socket and in the shadow there? ah, it's a flattering angle. it's sort of hollywood lighting. - yeah.- all the hollywood movie stars would look around to find where the light was in front of you and above,

because it gets rid of wrinkles whichever angle it's coming from. the hair looks quite artfully arranged. - it's quite a contemporary look. - it looks like justin bieber. it does a bit. the lips are very red, - and it almost looks like he's wearing makeup in it.- he was known to.- ah! nowadays we have photography. we know what people actually look like, so people tend not to lean on you to make them look fantastic. in those days, if the painter was the only person to record how you looked, there was nothing to stop you rewriting history.

in fairness to the regent, looking like a leader was really important. 'as the regency was getting started, 'napoleon was at the height of his powers, 'and we'd been slogging away against france, our old enemy, 'almost continuously for a generation.' we'd been fighting the french for the best part of 20 years, and they were winning. the english channel was just the thin blue line protecting us from boney's evil empire. napoleon basically controlled the whole of europe,

through puppet governments, direct rule and favourable alliances, and he'd set up a trade blockade against the british that went all the way from spain in the west to russia in the east. a side effect of the war was that travel and trade with europe became impossibly restricted. the heyday of the grand tour was long gone. 'before, we'd looked up to french and italian culture, 'but now it was out of bounds.'

so we couldn't trade with the continent, and you couldn't visit it either, unless you were going to take your chances as a soldier. instead we looked inwards, into our own little island, to feed our imaginations. britain's enforced stay-cation was made tolerable, though, by the cult of the picturesque. it won legions of followers from the end of the 18th century. regency types could be found with their sketchbooks out

at every ruined abbey and beautiful vista. locals complained that england had become the country house of london. getting back to nature wasn't everybody's cup of tea. this is a very amusing spoof of the picturesque which came out in 1812. it's called the tour of dr syntax in search of the picturesque. it was so popular, it went through five editions in the first year. dr syntax's adventures are told through verse

and beautiful illustrations by thomas rowlandson. syntax is a schoolmaster, and also a bit of a bore. with his horse grizzle, he endures many of the perils facing the regency picturesque-hunter. the story is that dr syntax wants to make some extra money in the summer holidays, so he decides to make a tour of the lake district, and write an illustrated book about it to sell to armchair travellers. he thinks he can make a lot of money. as he puts it, "i'll ride and write, and sketch and print,

and thus create a real mint." "i'll prose it here, i'll verse it there, and picturesque it ev'ry where." in this picture, he's been sketching a ruined castle, but he's slipped over and he's falling back into the lake, and i think his horse is laughing at him. he often seems to be being laughed at by animals. in this one, he's been tied to a tree by some highwaymen,

and he's having to be rescued by some ladies. so it's just one disaster after another for dr syntax, but he takes it all terribly seriously, and in this picture he's telling everybody about his tour, and everybody has fallen asleep, except for one couple who are squeezing each other and having a good time. silly old dr syntax! what a twit. the artists and amateur sketchers longing for the continent found the flavour of southern france and italy

in one particular corner of england. during the napoleonic wars, british artists felt that the southwest was the next best thing to the mediterranean. down here, they felt that the colours were warmer and the light was more intense. one man who certainly agreed was joseph mallord william turner. 'in 1811, a firm of engravers commissioned him 'to paint a tour of the south coast,

'to feed the market for picturesque prints. 'so turner spent that summer journeying around the southwest. 'at ivybridge in devon, 'turner captured a languid late-summer afternoon.' we often think of him as a kind of early impressionist, but he also documented everyday life. the regency turner liked his landscapes inhabited, with lots of dirty detail. his own coach would have changed its horses here at ivybridge,

just like the one in the picture. here's the mail coach about to leave. it's yellow. it's got the red wheels. everybody's getting on board. but this figure here, he's going, "wait for me!" he's about to miss it. now, was he an artist who'd been sketching for too long, or had he spent too long with this mysterious female figure off in the woods? we just don't know.

hang on! wait for me! this image, like the others from turner's tour, was eventually engraved, and filled up the libraries of the regency middle class. 'using the original sketches and watercolour, 'professor sam smiles took me through turner's artistic process.' now, i can hardly believe that these scribbles here resulted in that beautiful completed, finished work of art. and that's because neither you nor i have his acute visual memory.

what turner had managed to produce, over years of training, was a graphic system, a way of drawing, which allowed him to capture the essence of a scene with marks that meant a lot to him, but to you and me, looking at them, perhaps meant considerably less. i'm particularly struck by this christmas tree. it looks like a pictogram, yet here it is, a beautiful-looking thing. absolutely - things he observes that nobody else bothered to record. i mean, the picture we're looking at looks like peaceful england, an absolute idyll of tranquillity and relaxation.

but as he moved along the coastal strip, he found the ports with men of war in them, marines and sailors, the army making preparations... this was a country readying for war. even though trafalgar was a few years in the past, napoleon still represented a major threat. - there was still a real danger of invasion, wasn't there?- absolutely. 'forts like this one protecting plymouth 'guarded many of the settlements that turner visited in 1811.

'and the paintings that came out of his south-coast journeys 'are shot through with the sense of a country at war.' at st mawes in cornwall, turner saw at first hand the effect of the war on the pilchard industry. with the continent closed for trade, much of the industry's market was inaccessible. instead, the pilchards are left to rot on the beach, to be sold as manure. even this innocuous watercolour of the dorset coast

has a sinister undertone. is it me, or does that wagon look a bit like a field gun? 'the landscape around plymouth impressed turner so much 'that he returned several times in the early years of the regency. 'he thought that it hardly seemed to belong to this island. 'and a favourite location was the popular picnic spot 'of mount edgecombe.' turner did the sketch which this watercolour was based on somewhere pretty near to here. you can recognise the river tamar.

here are a great load of ships from the navy. we've still got ships down there, but the really special thing he's shown us is this party of sailors, who are going back at the end of a day's shore leave. they've obviously had a great time. they've met up with some ladies. this gentleman with the wooden leg is playing his violin, and now they're going home, except for this couple, who are going off into the woods to do who knows what. so as well as giving us topography and landscape,

turner's given us a record of an afternoon of enjoyment 200 years ago. the sailors had every right to enjoy their afternoon off. 'for years they'd been fighting napoleon, 'one of history's most formidable warriors.' the same can't be said of the prince regent. george had absolutely zero battlefield experience, but he still thought of himself as boney's opposite number. for years, george had begged his father to be allowed to go and fight

without success. now he was too old to be of any use, apart from ceremonial duties. if he couldn't face boney in battle, george could at least try to outdo him with flashy military outfits. this regimental jacket of his shows that he loved to look like a soldier, if only an ornamental one. george was helped by london's best tailors, including jonathan meyer, who founded meyer & mortimer.

'200 years on, this firm is still going, 'and they're going to let me have a peek 'at their regency account books.' - hi, brian.- hello, there. - can i have a look at your ledger? - yes, of course.- thank you. - here we are.- thank you very much. - there we go.- beautiful! this is a pretty extraordinary book, and this page here lists all the items

which have been bought by the prince of wales, and they just fit in with what you expect of his extravagant, over-the-top character. he is buying quite a lot of rich gold royal cord, i imagine to decorate a uniform, something like that. and here we have... he's bought 54 rich gold fringed tassels to swing off things. over on this page... this is really interesting. here you can see clothes being altered

to suit his body-size and shape. here we have the altering of a yellow waistcoat, "made higher in the neck and adding lace". now, that sounds to me like to disguise the double chins. and here we've got "enlarging a regimental jacket in the breast". it wouldn't do up! and this is a theme. throughout the accounts, things are being enlarged, being lengthened, being made bigger, to fit his rather plump body. as you flick through the pages,

what strikes you is the huge number of things that george is buying. clearly he's a shopaholic. and when i say buying, he's not necessarily paying for them. the debt mounts up. it's â£156 at the bottom of this page. it's not paid off. it's carried forwards. â£300 over here. then, flicking through the book, we get a grand total of â£490 that he owes to the tailors.

that's a hefty tab - the best part of â£30,000 in today's money. i feel a bit sorry for mr meyer. the prince liked to think of himself as a man of style, a leader of military fashion. but for civilian wear, he could be found squeezing himself into the look set by his friend beau brummell... ..the famous dandy. brummell's opinion mattered so much that once, when he criticised the cut of george's coat,

the poor old prince burst into tears. brummell is credited with inventing the suit, and with it the dashing tailored look of the english gentleman. 'i wanted to know what it was about brummell 'that made people spend several hours a day 'watching him get dressed. 'so i asked his biographer, ian kelly.' i'm sorry, but to spend three hours a day preening yourself - seems really effeminate to me. - how dare you?

um, yeah. well, in theory, the clothes are meant to express a sort of uber-masculinity, a more stated masculinity. to be "a dandy" was much nearer the modern american coinage of being "a dude". it was about a new way of being a british gentleman, which was to do with reserve and sang-froid, stiff upper lip, all that sort of thing. well, i don't care if it's supposed to be just for men, because i want to experience a brummell-type suit for myself.

i'm super-keen to channel a bit of butch regency style. so, it's supposed to make me feel cool and masculine? obviously, as a gentleman, i can't possibly watch a lady dress, even if you're dressing as a man. i'll go practise with my canes. you fiddle with your canes. 'for a regency dandy, getting dressed was a performance art. 'but i'm pretty sure it's not going to take me half a day to get ready.' - dah-daah!- hey! i couldn't do myself up at the back. can you give me a hand, valet?

- let me be your man. - thank you, jeeves. ok... now, tell me when you can't breathe any more, - or don't.- mm-hm. that's not too bad. tell me about these trousers that i'm wearing. - these are rather interesting.- it's a footnote in the history of fashion, but a rather important claim to fame of brummell and the regency. brummell is the man who invents trousers, as gentlemen wore breeches and stockings before this period,

he imported these from the hussars. you've got understraps to keep the trouser tight. and these look like girls' shoes, but they're regency men's dancing pumps. yeah! they're a very butch item. - what's next? is it cravats? - it has to be the cravat. this is the key item. chin up! very important. a beautifully tied cravat was the most important part of the dandy's uniform. it had to be scrupulously spotless. brummell sent his to the country to be washed,

so that his laundry wouldn't be tainted by london soot. the trick is to keep it as tight and as high as you can possibly bear, so, when your face begins to turn blue, then we know we've got it too tight. but i'm relatively pleased and proud of that. it's meant to look like a perfect cylinder of white. there we go. we're allowed one declension, as it was known. the valet places his finger here, and you lower your chin.

and that, in theory, stays in place until we tie the next cravat or the next dressing. she laughs it looks better than it feels. it's pretty uncomfortable. on the positive note, though, you're obliged to hold yourself better. built-in hauteur. i feel like my nose is in the air. that, too. it's one of the supposed origins of "toff" and "toffee-nosed", because this obliges you to keep your nose in the air, but especially if you're in any danger

of dribbling anything brown from snuff-taking, - which is a pretty disgusting thought. - that's really disgusting. so the toffee-nose is brown snot from snuff-taking, and you've got to keep your nose up so it doesn't spoil your cravat. so much for the age of elegance. song: "dandy" by the kinks # dandy, dandy # where you gonna go now? # who you gonna run to?

# all your little life # you're chasing all the girls # they can't resist your smile # oh, oh, they long for dandy # london's st james's was dandy central. previous generations of young men had been able to explore europe on a grand tour, but gentlemen of leisure, in the early years of the regency, spent much of their lives within a quarter of a mile

of st james's palace. white's is a club where, it's said, people have died from exclusion, and brummell used to inspect the promenading dandies from its bow window. a stone's throw away, there was gentleman jackson's boxing gym, where a bit of man-on-man action could while away the long idle hours. brooks's, which counted the regent as a member, was famous for its gambling, with fortunes won and lost

at its gaming tables. and this rather forgettable modern building stands on the site of the most exclusive night spot in the whole of st james's. right here is the site of almack's club. this is the holy of holies. this is the most exclusive club in regency london. it's where beau brummell insisted that men were dressed in a strict uniform of white and black, or white and sometimes blue-black,

but certainly a strict monochrome. there's an image here from a contemporary novel of what it would have looked like in those days, a ball at almack's. they're having a dance, and unlike some of the other clubs, at this one, the ladies were in charge. absolutely. it was a series of terrifying dragons, royal and aristocratic ladies, who decided who was allowed in and who wasn't, who was suitable for their daughters or not. and, yes, there's a lot of cartoons and ditties

- on exactly that terrifying issue. - aha! i know one. if to almack's you belong, like a monarch, you can do no wrong. but if you're expelled on a wednesday night, - by jove, you can do nothing right! - he chuckles 'an evening's entertainment could be rounded off 'with a visit to one of the many brothels down the alleys 'just off st james's street.' but syphilis was rife,

and would eventually claim brummell himself. syphilis manifests in all sorts of ways, including a sort of bipolar disorder, and brummell gambles away all his money, - and publicly insults the prince of wales.- he was rude to him? astonishingly, yeah. the prince regent turned up at a party, appeared to ignore beau brummell, cut him, as they said in the regency, and brummell turned to a mutual friend and said, "so, alvanley, who's your fat friend?"

- about the prince regent. - meaning the prince regent?- yeah! and very soon, all the creditors were on his back. he fled to france, spent the last 20 years of his life in penury, eventually insane, and in an asylum. it's a kind of a greek arc of a story. so the story of beau brummell is pride followed by a fall. well, the victorians liked to think so, certainly. actually, i think it's tailoring followed by syphilis. he laughs

'brummell showed that access to the regent's circle 'could brutally be cut short. but those on the outside 'sometimes made the best of it, creating an alternative legacy 'of real value.' at the very start of the regency, and just near here on dulwich common, a dandy fell off his horse. his name was francis bourgeois, and he was an owner of paintings - no less than 370 paintings, and some very, very good ones, too.

a few weeks later he died of his injuries, and his death set in motion a sequence of events that would really change the british attitude to art - not only how it was looked at, but also who could see it. 'bourgeois had considered leaving the collection 'to the british museum, but he wasn't part of the regent's charmed circle, 'and he felt the museum was run by snobs. in a final two fingers to the establishment,

he left his collection to dulwich college, and the architect john soane built a new picture gallery especially to house it. 'bourgeois' will insisted that his paintings be available '"for the inspection of the public", which makes dulwich picture gallery 'the first purpose-built public art gallery in britain.' the bulk of the paintings still on the wall, including rembrandts and raphaels, come from bourgeois' bequest of 1811.

'to ensure the gallery's visitors don't forget his generosity, 'bourgeois is actually buried in the building. 'he's in a mausoleum next to his business partner - 'some say partner in every sense - noel desenfans.' it was difficult for them. people were slightly dismissive. they thought desenfans was pretentious, and they thought bourgeois was a fool, which quite clearly he wasn't. he was a dandy, though, and people laughed at him for his buckskins

and his polished boots and his hair, all modelled, of course, on the prince regent. 'ian dejardin is the current director 'of dulwich picture gallery.' i love the whole idea that this place is a couple of outsiders cocking a snook at the establishment. well, i think that's what it was. i think it's what it was. in francis bourgeois' will, there is just this little tiny snippet of a phrase. he says that the paintings are to be on display

"for the inspection of the public". and you read that, and you think, "well, obviously." but no-one had said that before. this is a really big step forwards, that it's a public art gallery. it's incredibly significant. we're 13, 14 years before the national gallery, so we were it. we were the national gallery for many years, really. the government had long been under pressure

to establish a national public-art collection. 'dulwich showed what could be done. 'the official national gallery was founded in the 1820s, 'encouraged by the arts-loving george as king george iv. 'the columns on the portico were even recycled 'from his palace, carlton house, after it was demolished.' another voice raised in support of the national gallery was that of thomas lawrence, george's one-man pr machine. lawrence knew very well how art could transform the life

of an ordinary boy. painting had taken him from humble beginnings to the very top of society. his meteoric rise started while he was still a child in the market town of devizes. a little town in wiltshire might seem quite a surprising place for a society portrait painter to grow up, but devizes was a key stopping point on britain's busiest coach route from london through to bath. so the whole of fashionable london came here.

if they wanted a meal or a bed for the night, they stopped at this inn, which was run by the young painter's father, thomas lawrence senior. picture the scene. it's the 1770s. you've just arrived here at the bear inn. you've got off a stagecoach. you're tired, you're hungry. but the landlord, thomas lawrence senior, as he offers you a drink, he says, "would you like to see my ten-year-old son reciting a poem

or taking your portrait?" this may have sounded like a bit of a bore, but if you chose the poem, the boy would leap up onto the table, recite from milton. that was pretty good, but if you handed over your guinea for your portrait, you'd have quickly realised that you were in the hands of a genius. the actor david garrick, who'd witnessed both of the boy's party tricks, said he couldn't work out whether the young lawrence's future lay with the pencil

or the stage. 'in 2011, i visited the first exhibition 'of lawrence's work in 30 years, at the national portrait gallery. 'he's long been a neglected artist, 'but in his own time, he was the world's top portrait painter. 'lawrence produced the visual record of the vanished world 'of regency society. 'he particularly enjoyed painting wealthy and beautiful women, 'and the ladies enjoyed his attentions.

'even the regent's matronly sister is shooting us a saucy look.' there's a rather brilliant contemporary review of this painting here, of lady selina meade. it just goes, "ha, it's lady selina meade, very tasty indeed." lawrence was clearly a very attractive, flirtatious, smooth individual. one of his friends said that if you got a letter from him saying, "yes, i can come to dinner," it felt like you were getting a love letter. this is mrs isabella wolff. she became a sort of muse to him,

and he spent the best part of 15 years finishing this portrait. as well as producing an amazing painting together, it's also said that they produced an illegitimate child. there was an awful lot of gossip about what went on at lawrence's sittings. in 1806, he was suspected of getting too friendly with caroline, the princess of wales, during late-night portrait sessions.

lawrence had to sign a written affidavit that nothing had happened, and that the door had been unlocked at all times. 'george himself seems to have had ambivalent feelings 'about lawrence's relationship with his wife, 'but he overcame his misgivings when he realised 'that lawrence could make him look fantastic.' in 1815, with the battle of waterloo, the napoleonic wars finally came to an end.

the allies, with britain in the lead, were victorious at last. george celebrated the end of the wars by commissioning lawrence to paint the allied kings and commanders, and rewarded him with a knighthood. the innkeeper's boy was now sir thomas lawrence. painting the allied leaders would keep lawrence busy for many years to come. the end of the fighting would affect the british profoundly.

'the sense of a closed, isolated island evaporated, 'and slowly the narrow world of the dandies and st james's 'would disappear. it was replaced by a hunger for continental travel.' song: "la mer" by charles trenet # la mer # qu'on voit danser # le long des golfes clairs... 'the later years of the regency would see romantic poets 'darting about europe, and turner discovering the light of venice.

'those who couldn't get away could always read about it 'in the countless travelogues now being published. 'voyagers wrote of the warm welcome they received from everybody 'except the french, who greeted the british 'with vindictive irritation.' so, this is a really exciting moment for the british. they've beaten napoleon, their country is the reigning european superpower. they want to go and see for themselves

what their army has been fighting over. # voyez # pres des etangs # ces grands roseaux mouilles # many tourists made a detour for the battlefield of waterloo itself, a victory described by the duke of wellington as "the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life". the battle of waterloo was on the 18th of june 1815. by the 19th of june, the battlefield was already a visitor attraction.

an eye witness reports a carriage full of people coming out from brussels. they all got out, and they examined the field. within a few months it had become a regular day-out destination. there were hordes of guides to show you around. there were lots of little boys selling gruesome relics of the fallen, such as hair and bones. 'the main feature of the battlefield now 'is the lion's mound. built in the 1820s,

'nearly 400,000 square metres of battlefield earth 'were shifted to build this observation point.' the contours of the land have been levelled out a bit from what the earliest visitors would have seen, because so much earth was scooped up to make this big hill. as the duke of wellington said, "they've ruined my battlefield!" 'the remains of hougoumont farm were a particular draw 'for the early tourists.' 'this was the scene of some of the most bitter fighting,

'as the french had repeatedly tried to storm the gates 'of the british-held enclave. 'early visitors, in the months after the battle, 'recorded stepping over mouldy human remains 'and patches of charred earth where bodies had been burned.' when the painter turner visited, he carefully sketched the locations where the greatest numbers had fallen. back in england, he painted this - the field of waterloo.

it's the night of the battle, and storm clouds fill the sky. hougoumont farm is in flame. a flare warns that there are scavengers on the battlefield. many of the injured were robbed and then killed by these looters. people are searching for their loved ones. the dying and the dead, the french and the english, are just an intermingled clump of bodies. 'lord byron, the regency's sharpest chronicler, 'made the journey here in 1816.

'a year after the battle, the site had been tidied up.' byron found it really hard to reconcile his imagined visions of carnage with what he actually saw - fertile fields returning to farmland. and this is an idea that he incorporated into the canto of childe harold's pilgrimage that he was writing at the time - "as the ground was before, thus let it be. "how that red rain hath made the harvest grow!" like many other sightseers, byron couldn't resist the opportunity

to buy some souvenirs, and he mailed them back to his publisher in st james's. and these are some of the actual spoils of war, which byron sent back to his publisher, john murray, still here. let's have a look. ah! now, we know that he sent back some cockades, and these are red, white and blue french napoleonic badges made out of leather. oh, look at the little eagle on the top there! and these would have been a very powerful sight

in the early 19th century. to see that would have been like looking at a swastika today. it would have given that sense of fear to a good, respectable english person. this symbolises boney, the enemy. ooh, look! you wouldn't call that a bullet, would you? it's a piece of shot. that could do some damage. i'm just wondering what's on that now.

that could be a bit of french blood. and another badge. these things look like a load of trinkets, and they are, in one sense, but in another sense, these all belonged to real individuals who probably gave their lives on the battlefield of waterloo. there's something quite sinister about them. 'hidden away in a churchyard in plymouth 'lies an odd little postscript to the war with napoleon.'

this grave belongs to one of the strangest casualties of the napoleonic wars. he was killed after the battle of waterloo. the fighting was over. his name was john boynes, and he was a stonemason who worked in the dockyards. and it says here he was "unfortunately drowned" returning from a trip to see bonaparte out in plymouth sound. it was 1815. he was 35 years old. napoleon had surrendered to the captain of the british ship hms bellerophon, then moored off the west coast of france.

the ship took boney to torbay, and then to plymouth sound, where she waited around a bit while the government decided what to do with him. it was supposed to be a secret that bonaparte was on board, but one of the crew put a message into a bottle and slipped it out to a passing ship, so the news was out. once this had happened, bonaparte was allowed to take a walk on the deck at six o'clock in the evening. he could be seen for miles around

up there, and every boat in plymouth got on the water to try to get a closer look. normally there wouldn't have been anything remarkable about a naval vessel in plymouth sound. but this was napoleon, the most famous man in europe! hello! thank you. thanks very much. the commotion made the authorities rather jittery. the captain of the bellerophon, captain maitland,

recorded, on the 30th of july, that there were more than a thousand of these little boats come to see napoleon. the guard boats from the big ship tried to disperse the crowd by ramming them, with such force that some of the smaller vessels nearly capsized. among them were two artists who captured the bizarre scene for posterity. john james chalon gave us a panorama, complete with surrounding boats and the people straining to get a closer view.

they were really excited to see britain's mortal enemy, the man who'd directly affected the lives of everyone in plymouth. he was repellent but fascinating. the artist who gave us the close-up was charles lock eastlake. eastlake was able to get his boat right up close to napoleon. he took a few rapid sketches on the spot, and later he turned them into a full-length portrait. the fallen emperor looks a bit dishevelled, but he still seems to command the respect of a british sailor.

is napoleon looking out at the crowds, or is he thinking about his own gloomy future? this picture made eastlake's name. he would go on to a glorious career, eventually becoming president of the royal academy. there was one person notably absent from napoleon's final public appearance - the prince regent. by this stage, napoleon had been writing him personal letters, it would have been relatively easy for george to come to plymouth,

but he stayed away. i think that, even with napoleon defeated, he still felt he would have been overshadowed. 'napoleon never did get a personal hearing from the regent. 'after ten days, he was sent to permanent exile 'in the south atlantic. 'george, meanwhile, was left with a bonaparte fixation 'from which he never really recovered. 'he set about acquiring objects that connected him with napoleon, 'and some still remain at buckingham palace.'

this amazing cloak was retrieved from napoleon's coach on the battlefield of waterloo, and it ended up in george's clutches. there's a napoleon theme in his commissions. 'at the end of the marble hall in buckingham palace 'is mars and venus by canova, napoleon's favourite sculptor. 'oddly enough, at the end of the wars, 'he became george's favourite sculptor too. 'george secured this particular work

'when he presented canova with a snuffbox 'containing a â£500 note.' but the prize in george's collection was this. this sensational thing here is called the table of the grand commanders. here's alexander the great. here are other generals of antiquity. it's pretty much made out of porcelain. it was made for napoleon,

and a couple of years after the battle of waterloo, it was given as a gift by the restored king of france to george. he treasured it. it was one of his favourite possessions. and when he had himself painted by thomas lawrence, this table appears in the background, in what becomes the definitive image of george as regent, and then as king. with a few slight alterations, this would be the basis of all george's later state portraits.

lawrence reproduced the painting so often that he was still knocking them out even when he was on his deathbed. to george, this isn't just a table. it's a symbol of all his feelings about napoleon. the message is pretty clear - this used to belong to napoleon. napoleon's been beaten. it now belongs to george. george himself is the grand commander. 'when george eventually became king in 1820, 'he would rebuild windsor castle as gothic fantasy.

'and in its design, he included a space 'in which his victory over napoleon could live forever. 'this is the waterloo chamber, 'where the collaboration between george and his spin-meister, 'thomas lawrence, is finally played out. the room was originally a medieval courtyard. it was closed over, to recall the hulk of a ship. but it's what's on the walls that really grabs our attention. now, this has to be one of the most fabulous rooms in europe.

george's big rivals as royal art patrons were henry viii and charles i, but neither of them did anything on the scale of this. there are more than 25 portraits here by sir thomas lawrence, and these are the men who brought you the victory of waterloo. we've got sovereigns, we've got statesmen, we've got the actual commanders of the armies, and they're shown in a really theatrical manner. they're all larger than life, and they loom down at us

from the walls. i'd say it was like being in their presence, but it isn't - it's better than that. 'in the later years of the regency, lawrence travelled around europe, 'hanging out at diplomatic conferences 'and painting everyone on george's wish list. 'he returned laden down with unfinished portraits, 'and he kept polishing them up throughout the 1820s. 'there's something unreal about this room. 'it doesn't reflect the grim reality of waterloo.

'rather, it shows what the man who commissioned it 'desperately wanted to be true. this is george's room.' this is how he saw himself, as a warrior king in a chivalric court. but what's kind of glossed over here is the fact that he wasn't at any of the battles. he was always safe on the other side of the channel. he seems to have forgotten this fact as time went on. he would sometimes amaze people by talking about waterloo

as if he'd been present, and there was another battle, the battle of salamanca, where he claimed to have led a cavalry charge at the vital moment when things were looking very black indeed. wellington's generals, who really had been present, often injured, and in some cases killed, are hidden away in dark corners, as if they're not allowed to intrude upon george's fantasy. this room was only completed after george and lawrence were both dead,

but it captures the high point of george's regency. here the prince regent was working with an extraordinary painter that's really like the regency period itself. it's a unique mix of appearance and reality. they've fused together into something that's not quite the truth but it's spectacular all the same. 'next time, we explore the regency's greatest legacy - 'the rebuilding of britain in the aftermath of waterloo. 'as we'll discover, george wasn't alone

'in wanting to live in a world of make-believe.' subtitles by red bee media ltd e-mail .

Rife's Home Furniture

Tidak ada komentar:

Posting Komentar