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Jan Siberechts, 1627–ca. 1703, Flemish, active in Britain (from 1672)

Wollaton Hall and Park, Nottinghamshire

Oil on canvas
Support (PTG): 75 1/2 x 54 1/2 inches (191.8 x 138.4 cm)

Label on verso, center: “[handwritten, underlined] Landscape With View of Wollaton Park. | Oil Painting by Jan Siberechts. (1627 - 1700) | Collection: | Mrs. H. L. Birk[...], | The Park, | Nottingham | Signed & dated 1697 | [typed] P & D Colnaghi & Co. Ltd. | (Established 1760) | Experts, Valuers and Dealers | Paintings, Drawings, Engravings, Etchings | By the | Old and Modern Masters. | 14, Old Bond Street, London, W.1. | Telegrams. | Colnaghi, Piccy, London | Telephone: | Hyde Park 1943-33.”; upper center, handwritten: “Mellon | Woolaton | Park | Hall | #8”

Signed and dated in ocher color paint, lower left: "J. Siberechts-1697."

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
architectural subject | carriage | coach | country house | Elizabethan | fence | gables (architectural elements) | game | gardens | greenhouse | hills | horses (animals) | landscape | lawn | lawn bowls | leisure | orangery | park (grounds) | parterres | pilasters | sculpture | sport | statuary | strapwork
Associated Places:
England | Nottinghamshire | United Kingdom | Wollaton
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

Grand country houses were key centers of power, the administrative and symbolic heart of a great family, a place to entertain and host visitors, and expressions of the owner’s taste and virtue. Wollaton Hall, designed by the Elizabethan architect Robert Smythson, was built between 1580 and 1588. A century on, Sir Thomas Willoughby commissioned this view of the house, placing it at the center of a vast estate—particularly significant in this coal-rich area—and highlighting the new, fashionable formal gardens. The Flemish painter Jan Siberechts presents the country house as a world in microcosm, with its owners at leisure and its servants at work. Members of the household play on the bowling green, stroll in the gardens, and even meet clandestinely among the trees. Elsewhere, gardeners roll paths and dig in the vegetable patches. Behind the house, linens are spread out on the hedgerows to be bleached by the sun.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

Wollaton Hall, near Nottingham, was built between 1580 and 1588 by the industrialist Sir Francis Willoughby (1546/47–1596), whose fortune was in coal. Wollaton was one of the architectural wonders of Elizabethan England. This painting provides a detailed view of the house, and a clear vista of the magnificent gardens. Four broad, geometric areas of grass, known as parterres, make up the formal garden on the house’s central axis. Divided into patterns by sanded walkways, they are decorated with small citrus trees in pots or tubs. Exotic trees were expensive to maintain in England (especially in the “Little Ice Age”) and were therefore stored in greenhouses or “orangeries,” such as the one in the foreground. In spring, trees and plants were brought out of the orangery and arranged in the garden. To the right of the house is a garden for sport and exercise, and a lawn where guests could play bowls. A more utilitarian kitchen garden may be seen in the middle distance, as well as a grassy area where laundry is being dried and bleached. Seventeenth-century cabbages were evidently enormous. Gallery label for Paul Mellon's Legacy: A Passion for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29)

Wollaton Hall, near Nottingham, was built by Sir Francis Willoughby between 1580 and 1588 and was one of the architectural wonders of Elizabethan England. This painting not only provides a view of the Elizabethan house but also a clear vista of the elaborate gardens as they appeared in the late seventeenth century. Four broad, geometric areas of grass, known as "parterres," make up the formal garden on the house's central axis. Divided into patterns by sanded walkways, they are decorated with small citrus trees potted in tubs. Such exotic trees were expensive to maintain in the cold English climate and, consequently, were stored in greenhouses (called "orangeries"), like the glass-roofed building in the foreground; in the warmer seasons, the trees and plants cultivated in orangeries were brought out and placed within the garden. To the right of the main house is a garden for sport and exercise, and a lawn where guests could, for instance, play bowls. In addition to the more formally planned areas reserved for the use of the owners and their guests, this view shows how vital gardens were to daily life on an estate: in the middle distance are both a kitchen garden and a grassy area where laundry was dried and bleached.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005
Wollaton Hall, built between 1580 and 1588 and one of the most spectacular achievements of Elizabethan architecture, was the primary country seat of the family of Sir Francis Willoughby (1546/7–96). Sir Francis commissioned Robert Smythson to create this showpiece as a crown upon the very lands—rich in coal—-that comprised the foundation of his family's fortune. One of his contemporaries remarked that Sir Francis had “out of ostentation to show his riches, built at vast charges a very stately house, both for the splendid appearance and curious workmanship of it” (Camden, 1695, p. 482). The most notable feature of Sir Francis's house was the “Prospect Room,” located in the double-tiered central roof tower. Accessible only via dark narrow staircases in its corner walls, this capacious, light-filled room—with no designated function other than enjoyment—floated above the house and landscape and provided those inside with an unimpeded view of every aspect of the font and fruits of the Willoughby wealth (Friedman, 1989, pp. 149-51). From his characteristic bird's-eye view, the painter surveys the magnificent house and extensive property and carefully depicts not only the glories of the Hall's unusual architecture—with its four-corner tower design, extensive tracery glazing, and raised Prospect Room—but also the daily workings and pleasures of life at Wollaton. Siberechts's patron, Sir Francis’s great-great-grandson Sir Thomas Willoughby, 1st Baron Middleton, and his elder sister Cassandra, mistress of the house, made significant interior improvements to the Elizabethan structure, and Sir Thomas commissioned a number of views of the house and estate from the painter in the 1690s. Siberechts’s portrait not surprisingly emphasizes these recent changes, including: the newly laid-out, fashionable formal gardens; the bleaching field; the garden of specimens planned and gathered together by Sir Thomas; the newly planted “wilderness”; and a neatly tended bowling green. A sumptuous record of place, this prospect is, most of all, a visual hymn to the harmonious accord of God, Nature, and Man found at Wollaton. Julia Marciari-Alexander John Baskett, Paul Mellon's legacy: a passion for British art : masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 245, no. 11, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

This painting is of a type known in its time as a "prospect," an extensive bird's-eye view of a country house and its surrounding estates. Prospects are views that tend toward maps, often with different parts seen from different angles, and they demonstrate more of the layout and workings of the given place than any actual viewpoint would reveal. The form was developed by artists of the Low Countries and flourished in Britain from the later seventeenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries. With its comprehensive, godlike perspective, it offered the landowner the pleasure of seeing his property and realm laid out before him as a whole; he might hang a prospect of his estate in the country house itself or perhaps in his London residence, where it would serve the additional purpose of impressing upon visitors the important factof his owning land. More generally, it gave a delightfully clear expression to the idea of mankind creating order within nature, from the symmetry in the architecture of the house, to the rational plan of the pleasure grounds and gardens attached, to the careful husbandry apparent in the farmlands beyond.

Wollaton Hall, a short distance west of Nottingham, is one of the most important Elizabethan houses in Britain; it dates from the 1580s, and the architect was probably Robert Smythson. It was designed as a grand showpiece, proclaiming the success and status of its owner, Sir Francis Willoughby, a coal magnate-cum-entrepreneur. Its most striking and unusual feature architecturally is the raised central hall with its tall proportions and medievalizing window tracery and turrets. In 1688 Wollaton passed to Sir Thomas Willoughby, Bart., Sir Francis's great-great-grandson, and it was he who commissioned Siberechts to paintthis and other views of the estate and neighboring countryside. Though still in his twenties, Sir Thomas was already a considerable ?gure in the area, having served as High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1695-96. He was elected Tory Member of Parliament for Nottingham in 1698, later represented Newark, and in 1712 was created 1st Baron Middleton by Queen Anne. He clearly took great pride in Wollaton. He remodeled parts of the interior of the house, commissioned mural decorations, and installed in the park formal gardens in the French style; having inherited some of the scienti?c interests of his father, who was a famous naturalist, he also created a garden of botanical specimens. (Wollaton is now owned by the Corporation of Nottingham and houses the city's natural history museum.)

The view in the painting, which is from the southeast, gives a fairly faithful account of the appearance of the place, though with the house shown on lower ground, perhaps to lend drama to the hills that rise up in the distance. Like most prospects, it records the owner's improvements to his estate (some of which may have been prospective rather than actual), and the pleasures he could offer his guests there. Fashionably dressed people stroll around the grounds; a game of bowls is in progress on the lawn at lower right; in the foreground the coach and six with escort shows the formal approach to the house, leads the viewer into the scene, and also indicates further luxuries of Wollaton life, those of traveling in style and being attended by an ample household of servants. Elsewhere we see more of the daily workings of the place: to the south of the house, staff at work in the vegetable garden and a man rolling the path of the parterre; to the west a cabbage patch, a bleaching ?eld, and some barns; to the north, between the house and the village of Wollaton, a maid milking a cow in the middle of a field.

Malcolm Warner

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. 36 cat. no.7

Nicholas Alfrey, Mapping the landscape, essays on art and cartography , Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Nottingham [England], 1990, p. 11, GA105 M27 1990 (YCBA) +

John Baskett, Painting in England: 1700-1850: the Collection of English paintings formed by Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon : on Exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, until August 18th, , Connoisseur, Vol. 153, London, June 1963, p. 100, N1 C75 + (YCBA)

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 245, no. 11, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Geoffrey W. Beard, The compleat gentleman, five centuries of aristocratic life , Rizzoli, New York, 1992, pp. 76-7, HT653 G7 B415 1992 (YCBA)

Charles Beddington, Canaletto in England, a Venetian artist abroad, 1746-1755 , Yale University Press, New Haven, 2006, p. 31, , fig. 19, NJ18 C17 B45 2006 + OVERSIZE (YCBA)

David Bindman, The History of British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2008, pp.130-32 (v.1), pl. 71, N6761 +H57 2008 Oversize (YCBA)

Malcolm Cormack, A Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 202-203, N590.2 A83 (YCBA)

Country houses in Great Britain., Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1979, cover, pp. 5, 6, 8, 9, 22 - 23, no. 3, cover, N6764 Y34 1979 (YCBA)

John Crowley, Imperial landscapes, Britains's global visual culture 1745-1820 , Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2011, p. 9, fig. 6, N8214.5 G7 C76 2011 + (YCBA)

David Evett, Literature and the visual arts in Tudor England, University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1990, p. 69, NX543 A1 E94 1990 (YCBA)

Boris Ford, The Cambridge cultural history of Britain, Cambridge University Press, London; New York, 1992, v. 3, p. 208, NX543 C36 1992 (YCBA)

Alice T. Friedman, House and household in Elizabethan England, Wollaton Hall and the Willoughby family , University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1989, pp. 160-1, fig. 6.1, DA690 N92 F75 1989 (YCBA)

Nick Grindle, Big Houses and Little People: How formal patterns in the landscape relate to social compositions in Jan Siberechts' works, Object, no. 2, 1999/2000, pp. 95-109, no. 2, N7475 O35

John Harris, Bird's-eye Views at Yale, Country Life, vol. 164, November 30, 1978, p. 1820, 1823, fig. 2, S3 C68 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

John Harris, The artist and the country house, a history of country house and garden view painting in Britain, 1540-1870 , Sotheby Parke Bernet, London Totowa, N.J., 1979, pp. 47-48, 74, no. 70, fig 70,col. pl V and color detail, N6764 H36 + (YCBA)

Dean Hawkes, Architecture and climate, an environmental history of British architecture, 1600-2000 , Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group), London, New York, 2012, pp. 23, 38-40, fig. 2.6;pl. 9, NA2541 .H39 2012 (YCBA)

Luke Herrmann, The Paul Mellon Collection at Burlington House, Connoisseur, v. 157, no. 634, December 1964, p. 216, N1 C75 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) Another copy available in YCBA Vertical File Collection: v 2334

David Jacques, Gardens of Court and Country : English Design , 1630-1730, New Haven : Yale Univeristy Press, 2017, p. 142, fig. 108, SB466 G7 +J334 2017 (YCBA)

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 36, no. 7, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA)

Painting in England 1700-1850 from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, The Royal Academy of Arts Winter Exhibition 1964-65., , Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK, 1964, p. 84 (v. 1), no. 300, pl. 75, ND466 R68 1964/65 (YCBA) Also available on Microfiche: Fiche B214 (YCBA)

Painting in England 1700-1850, collection of Mr. & Mrs. Paul Mellon. , Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, 1963, p. 39 (v.1), no. 5, pl. 168, ND466 V57 v.1-2 (YCBA)

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 3, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA)

Colin Platt, The great rebuildings of Tudor and Stuart England, revolutions in architectural taste , University College Press, London, 1994, p. 16, NA965 P63 1994 (YCBA)

J. H. Plumb, The pursuit of happiness : a view of life in Georgian England : an exhibition selected from the Paul Mellon collection, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1977, pp. 60, 124, no. 136, N6766 Y34 1977 (YCBA)

Vanessa Remington, Painting paradise: The Art of the Garden, Royal Collection Trust, London, p. 128, fig. 105, N8217.G36 R46 2015 (LC) Oversize (YCBA)

Kate Retford, The Conversation Piece Making Modern Art in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2017, p. 133, fig. 98, ND1314.4 .R48 2017 (LC) Oversize (YCBA)

David H. Solkin, Art in Britain 1660-1815, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2015, pp. 63-64, fig. 61, N6766 S65 2015 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Sotheby's sale catalogue : Catalogue of old master paintings : 11 July 1962, Sotheby's, London, July 11, 1962, p. 7, Lot 18, Auction Catalogues (YCBA)

James Stourton, The British as art collectors, from the Tudors to the present , Scala Publishers, London, 2012, p. 72, fig. 83, N5245 S595 2012 + OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Malcolm Warner, Great British paintings from American collections, Holbein to Hockney , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, pp. 62-3, no. 6, ND464 W27 2001 (YCBA)

Ellis Waterhouse, The Dictionary of 16th & 17th Century British Painters, Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1988, p. 246, ND464 W38 1988 (LC) (YCBA)

Andrew Wilton, Five centuries of British painting, from Holbein to Hodgkin , Thames and Hudson, London, 2001, p. 43, no. 29, ND464 W55 2001 (YCBA)

Yale University Art Gallery, Painting in England, 1700-1850, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, [exhibition at] Yale University Art Gallery, April 15-June 20, 1965. , vol. 1, W. Clowes and sons, New Haven, 1965, p. 75 (v. 2), Plate on p. 75, ND466 Y35 (YCBA)

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