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William Kent, ca.1686–1748

Octagonal Temple at Shotover Park, Oxfordshire: Plan, Section and Elevation

Former Title(s):

Design for an Octagonal Temple at Shotover Park, Oxfordshire

Temple Design for Shotover Park, Oxfordshire, ca. 1738-45

ca. 1738
Materials & Techniques:
Brown wash, pen and brown ink, and graphite on medium, slightly textured, cream laid paper
Sheet: 11 1/4 x 12 3/8 inches (28.6 x 31.4 cm)

Watermark: fleur-de-lis within crowned cartouche and LVG below

Signed on verso in pen and brown ink, center right: "W.K."

Inscribed in graphite, lower right: "D"; inscribed on verso in pen and black ink, center right: "Coll: Tyrrell | in Oxfordshire"; in pen and brown ink, center right: "WK"

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 | octagonal | pavilions (garden structures)
Associated Places:
England | Europe | Oxfordshire | United Kingdom
Associated People:
James Tyrell
Accessible by appointment in the Study Room [Request]
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IIIF Manifest:

In 1718, James Tyrrell (ca. 1674–1742) inherited Shotover Park in Oxfordshire and commissioned William Kent for work on both the house and gardens. Among Kent’s additions was an octagonal temple on a mound at the southern end of Shotover’s Wilderness Garden, for which this is a design. As in this drawing, the temple as executed consisted of a simple octagonal room faced with rustication on the four principal sides and covered with a domed roof. The drawing exhibits Kent's penchant for both small detail and broader, gestural strokes of brown wash. The marginalia, showing a grotesque between acanthus leaves, is also characteristic of Kent but, as in his other drawings, it is unclear whether this detail corresponds with the design or if it is an unrelated drawing from another project added to the sheet for the purposes of convenience or ornament.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2014
Trained in Rome and Florence as a painter, "Il Kentino," as his critics mockingly called him, was lured home from Italy in 1720 by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, to work as interior decorator for Burlington House, Piccadilly. As the leading proponent of the revival of the Palladian style in England and an architect himself, Boyle was influential in establishing this classical style as the predominant architectural language of the mid-eighteenth century. The Italian architect's I quattri libri dell'architettura was the first translated into English in 1715, the same year as the appearance of the first volume of Colen Campbell's homage to Palladio, Vitruvius Britannicus. Kent's interior decoration, architecture, and garden design repeatedly return to the classicism and rationalism of Palladio for inspiration. General James Tyrell continued his father's plans to renovate the house and gardens of Shotover Park when he inherited the property in 1718, and Kent's design indicates Tyrell's desire for the latest style, to transform his grounds into a landscape inspired by the paintings of Claude. Kent's temple, erected near the west front of the house, displays the even proportions, solid masses, and plain exterior characteristic of his interpretation of the Palladian style. The drawing depicts the traditional plan, elevation, and cross-section of the structure. However, Kent has also included an ornate grotesque design that does not correspond to his depiction of the decorated ceiling of the temple interior. This drawing could represent an alternative decorative scheme or indicate Kent's well-known habit of doodling on his drawings.

Morna O'Neill

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neill, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 135 cat. no. 113

The Line of Beauty : British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-05-19 - 2001-08-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

British Architectural Drawings (Yale Center for British Art) (Yale Center for British Art, 1982-04-21 - 1982-05-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Country Houses in Great Britain - Yale Center for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 1979-10-10 - 1980-01-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Country houses in Great Britain., Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1979, p. 71, no. 54, N6764 Y34 1979 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Susan Weber, William Kent, designing Georgian Britain , Yale University Press, 2013, pp. 395, 396, fig. 15.5, NJ18.K364 W53 2013 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Scott Wilcox, Line of beauty : British drawings and watercolors of the eighteenth century, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, p. 135, no. 113, NC228 W53 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Wilmerding, Essays in honor of Paul Mellon, collector and benefactor, Essays , National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC & Hanover, NH, 1986, p. 147, fig. 12, N7442.2 M455 1986 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Eric R. Wolterstorff, British architectural drawings, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Conn., 1982, p. 15, no. 19, V 0251 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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