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William Kent, ca.1686–1748, British

Stowe House, Buckinghamshire: Design for Ceiling and Wall Decoration

Former Title(s):

Design for Ceiling and Wall Decoration

between 1728 and 1732
Graphite, pen and black and brown ink, brown and gray wash on moderately thick, slightly textured, white laid paper with four fold marks bar scale of 2/13 inch to 1 foot
Sheet: 15 1/8 x 12 1/2 inches (38.4 x 31.8 cm)

Inscribed in pen and black ink, center: ’26:0’ and ’36:0’; dimensions of door at lower center labeled in pen and black ink: ‘3.9’ and ‘7.6’; elevation at center right labeled in pen and black ink: ‘2.8’, ’26.0’

Watermarks: Fleur-de-lis within crowned cartouche and W below

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawing & Watercolors-Architectural
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
architectural subject | ceiling | cove ceilings | Palladian | plans (drawings) | reflected ceiling plans
Associated Places:
Buckingham | Buckinghamshire | England | Europe | Stowe house | United Kingdom
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IIIF Manifest:

From the 1730s until his death in 1749, Sir Richard Temple, first Viscount Cobham (1675–1749) commissioned numerous designs for interior alterations to Stowe House as well as garden temples and other embellishments to the landscape from William Kent. This design proposes an ornately decorated ceiling for a hall at Stowe. As a reference to the patron's distinguished military career, the central oval features an idealized representation of Lord Cobham accepting a sword from Mars, and the theme is continued in the coving with martial trophies flanking an all’antica portrait of the patron. It is not known if the design in this drawing was ever executed as rooms within the house have since been altered.

It appears as though the drawing is the work of both Kent and his assistant, Henry Flitcroft, having been laid out in black pen by Flitcroft and altered by Kent. The precise details of the ceiling ornament as well as the rough alterations in brown pen are in Kent’s own hand. The modifications, suggesting adding sculptural reliefs to the room, were probably added when the architect presented his design to the client.

Madeleine Helmer, 2014

Susan Weber, William Kent, designing Georgian Britain , Yale University Press, 2013, pp. 206, 207, 624, cat. no. 82, fig. 8.27, NJ18.K364 W53 2013 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

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