The Spencer House sale is history, some impressive results, very nearly all of it well in excess of what would require any of the pieces to get government permission to leave England. How much of it was purchased by Lord Rothschild for placement back into Spencer House we will know in the fullness of time.
A minute ago, I had a brief word with one our craftspeople, describing his onsite repair to a period piece of furniture within an expensively designed interior he pithily characterized as ‘boring’. Naturally, and conveniently I might add, this put me in mind of my blog yesterday. Say what you want, Vardy’s work at Spencer House might be called lots of things, but boring couldn’t possibly be one of them. Realizing that, aesthetically speaking, English rococo isn’t everyone’s tasse de thé, Vardy’s Palm Room nevertheless achieves an ultimate classicism, defined within this context as a canonical mid-18th century expression of material culture.
And, for contemporary designers, what more can a body, either interior designer or client, aspire to? Not to say that every 18th century interior is as effectively wrought, but very many are, and I would find it illuminating, in this age of houses all around the world that are extreme examples of wealthy effulgentia, to see an economic comparison made between what’s laid out now, and what was laid out in the 18th century, for domestic architecture and design.
Whatever such a comparison demonstrates, it so often appears that, with the likes of so many masters of architecture and design- Adam, Kent, Chambers, Carr, Holland- the list goes on and on- the ‘quality’ of two centuries ago got more for their money. Within the larger consideration of material culture, the rubric of art and architectural history considers as its primary focus a search for a site of meaning. And so many 18th century interiors are fraught with meaning on so many levels. For the Spencers, with John Vardy as their medium, the expression of Palladianism meant much more than a fashion, a prominent advertisement of knowledge and sophistication gained from the Grand Tour, but more basically a celebration of an Augustan Britain, with classic architecture a visible link to an Arcadian golden age. Think the Acropolis transplanted to St James’s.