HOUSE PROUD: Britain’s Chatsworth House and its treasures are proving to be a growing source of inspiration in the creative communities.
Gucci’s Alessandro Michele used the famous stately home in Derbyshire, England, for the label’s cruise campaign featuring Vanessa Redgrave. Earlier this month, the Italian house revealed that it will sponsor a major exhibition in 2017 showcasing the Devonshire family’s fashion, clothing and jewelry collections.
Now, Sotheby’s has teamed with Savile Row tailor Huntsman to release a 13-part video series highlighting the family’s diverse art collection housed within Chatsworth, with works ranging from Da Vinci to Damien Hirst.
The short documentary-style videos will be released throughout December and the beginning of January. They will highlight some of the most special items in the collection and explore the process of collecting art, with commentary from the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and curators and contemporary artists such as Michael Craig-Martin and Jacob van der Beugel.
“This film series provides new insights not just into Chatsworth, but into collecting art, and the extraordinary process of working with contemporary artists — something that is of great significance to the present and future of Chatsworth. Chatsworth has a history of its own when it comes to [Sotheby’s] art, having hosted Sotheby’s monumental sculpture exhibition “Beyond Limits” here in the grounds of Chatsworth for over a decade,” the Duke of Devonshire said.
“The collaboration is an unexpected way for a house such as Chatsworth to share its art with the public.”
David Goodman, executive vice president of digital development and marketing at Sotheby’s, said the project felt like a natural progression from the series of digital initiatives the auction house has been working on to reach a global audience, including the launch of an Apple TV channel and an Amazon Fire app.
“Each short episode takes you on an intimate journey that explores treasures both little-known and best loved in the collection,” Goodman said. “But this is by no means a deluxe art historical house tour. The series goes to the heart of patronage and collecting as an art from in itself, and the profound impact it has on the history of art as we know it.”
The first episode puts the spotlight on Lucian Freud’s portrait of Deborah, the Duchess of Devonshire from the Fifties, titled “Woman in a White Shirt.” It scandalized society at the time, with some of the family’s friends asking that it’s covered when they were in the room.
In the video, the Duke of Devonshire recalls his parents’ friendship with Freud, who often stayed with the family at Chatsworth. “His name is one of the first names in our visitors’ book in his rather childish writing. My father just liked being with him and talking to him about commissions. The commissioning of the Freuds were partly inspiration for my father, partly being at the right place at the right time, and partly because he really liked the artist. It made me realize that if you like something enough you should buy it, acquire it, collect it and disregard other people’s opinion.”
Another episode will go inside the Old Masters cabinets, which house rare pieces such as “Leda and the Swan” by Leonardo da Vinci, which was almost lost amidst the chaos of World War II, when Chatsworth was used as a girls’ boarding school.
Fashion will also play a role in the series, with videos dedicated to the family’s jewelry collection, which ranges from 19th-century tiaras to contemporary pieces, and to some of the most elaborate fashion items commissioned by the family, including the Queen Zenobia gown, worn by Duchess Louise in 1897 at a summer ball.