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Sir John Vanbrugh, 1664–1726

Kings Weston, Bristol: Entrance Front Elevation

Former Title(s):

King's Weston House, Gloucestershire, Entrance Elevation

ca. 1710
Materials & Techniques:
Pen and brown ink with gray wash over graphite on thin, slightly textured, cream laid paper
Sheet: 14 1/2 × 18 5/8 inches (36.8 × 47.3 cm)

Inscribed on verso in graphite, upper left: "Kings Weston | Cf [Vils.] [Bit] I, 46"

Watermark: IV and 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 | Baroque | country house | Palladian
Associated Places:
Bristol | England | Gloucestershire | United Kingdom
Associated People:
Vanbrugh, Sir John (1664–1726), playwright and architect
Accessible by appointment in the Study Room [Request]
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IIIF Manifest:

This is part of a set of John Vanbrugh drawings for Kings Weston drawings at the Yale Center for British Art (B1977.14.1235–39). Kings Weston was one of Vanbrugh’s smaller commissions but also one of his finest. The house was built at the peak of the architect’s career, as he was completing Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. Edward Southwell, a moderate Tory and chief secretary to the lord lieutenant of Ireland, commissioned the design in 1710 to replace the existing sixteenth-century house. Built on a hillside overlooking the Bristol Channel, Kings Weston has a compact plan and a roofline characteristic of Vanbrugh’s style. The exterior has a monumental simplicity, with a restrained decorative scheme that is punctuated by a bold portico of Corinthian pilasters and a whimsical arcaded chimney stack. Inside, the house circulates around the central stairwell. Plans and an elevation of the building were published in Colen Campbell’s first volume of Vitruvius Britannicus (1715). The house was altered by Robert Mylne from 1763.

This elevation shows the entrance front on the building’s south side. The drawing appears to have been altered in Vanbrugh’s own hand to include two large decorative urns on the roofline and wisps of smoke emitting from the chimney stack. The entrance front is shown as it was built, with the bold Corinthian portico and the prominent roofline. The arcaded chimney stack, unique to Vanbrugh, is silhouetted against the sky and is a recurring element in Vanbrugh’s designs, as in Eastbury Park, Dorset.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2014
Along with such luminaries as Sir Christopher Wren and Sir Nicholas Hawksmoor, Sir John Vanbrugh popularized a mix of exuberant Italian baroque elements inspired by the writings of the first century B.C. Roman architect theorists Virtruvius. In 1711 Vanburgh began plans to rebuild Kin's Weston neat Bristol for Edward Southwell. This drawing of the front elevation of the mansion house was possibly used by Vanbrugh to present his ideas to his patron, since elevations were the principal; means to portray the size, proportion of elements, the irregular placement of the giant-order Corinthian pilasters flanking the entrance lightens the bold simplicity of the symmetrical façade, while the decorative urns mark the corners of the structure. The use of gray watercolor wash to fill in the windows and add shadows gives a sense of depth to this essentially two dimensional image. In a naturalistic gesture Vanbrugh has added smoke coming from the arcade of linked chimneys, perhaps to indicate that they are not decorative. This deign, with minor alterations, was reproduced by Colen Campbell (cat. 112) in the first volume of this study of English architecture Vitruvius Britaninicus.

Morna O'Neill

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 132, cat. no. 110, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

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]

The Architect and the British Country House (High Museum of Art, 1986-08-03 - 1986-09-27) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Architect and the British Country House (National Academy Museum & School, 1986-05-04 - 1986-06-20) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Architect and the British Country House (The Octagon Museum, 1985-11-05 - 1986-04-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

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

John Harris, The architect and the British country house, 1620-1920, American Institute of Architects Press, Washington, DC, 1985, pp. 106-7, no. 16, NA7620 .H37 + 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. 132, no. 110, NC228 W53 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Eric R. Wolterstorff, British architectural drawings, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Conn., 1982, pp. 21-2, no. 37, V 0251 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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