The collection

Lord Burlington, the architect and owner of Chiswick House, was known as the 'Apollo of the Arts'. He was one of 18th-century Britain's greatest patrons and art collectors.
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Lord Burlington collected art from across Europe on his grand tour. On his return to England, he filled his houses, including the villa at Chiswick with his magnificent treasures. At Chiswick, the walls were hung so densely with paintings that they obscured the luxurious velvet wall hangings. A selection of his original collection can still be seen at Chiswick House today, alongside complementary paintings, family portraits and painted views of the house and garden. Burlington’s friend and collaborator William Kent designed furniture specifically for the house. The collections include his mahogany and gilt chairs and a spectacular pair of marble-topped tables, which enhance the richly gilded interiors. A new generation brought a change in taste. Burlington’s grandson the 5th Duke of Devonshire and his wife, Georgiana, furnished the house to reflect their Anglo-French, neoclassical style. An impression of lightness and elegance is created by the painted and gilt French furniture now on display in the bedchamber at Chiswick House.

Ten highlights

lady charlotte boyle george knapton

Date: c.1723
Type: Painting
Material: oil on canvas
Place Made/Found: London
Artist: William Aikman

William Aikman was a leading Scottish portrait painter and he was commissioned by Lord Burlington to paint a series of family portraits. This oval portrait and a similar portrait of Lady Burlington’s sister, Mary, are fitted above the doors in the bedchamber at Chiswick House. Lady Burlington was involved with furnishing the interiors at Chiswick and she was an accomplished artist in her own right.

Date: c.1725
Type: Table
Material: marble, gilt, pine
Place Made/Found: Italy and London
Artist: William Kent
Lender: Purchased with Whitley Trust funds, and grants from Heritage Lottery Fund, Art Fund, London Historic House Museums Trust and Friends of Chiswick

The base of this table is boldly carved with motifs associated with the sea. Sea nymphs support the corners of the table, and the mask of Neptune, god of the sea, is at the centre of the base. A chubby putto, balancing on a scallop shell, embraces Neptune and drapes him with swags of oak leaves. These sea motifs re-occur throughout the interiors of Chiswick House.

bacchus ariadne sebastiano ricci

Date: c.1716
Type: Painting
Material: oil on canvas
Place Made/Found: London
Artist: Sebastiano Ricci

The Venetian decorative painter Sebastiano Ricci created this painting for Lord Burlington’s central London property, Burlington House. It was moved to Chiswick when the new house was completed. The frame, designed by William Kent, is inscribed with the date 1729. The painting shows the moment in Classical mythology when Bacchus, god of wine, discovers Ariadne on the Greek island of Naxos, where she has been abandoned by Theseus.

chair london william kent

Date: c.1727-32
Type: Chair
Material: gilt pine, velvet
Place Made/Found: London
Artist: William Kent
Lender: Purchased with the aid of a grant from the London Historic House Museums Trust

This side chair was designed especially for Chiswick House. It is unusually small, to suit the proportions of the villa. There is a scallop shell on the top rail – a motif which was frequently used by the designer William Kent. The legs are carved with fish scales and there are female masks on the knees. These masks represent Venus, while the decoration refers to her mythical birth from the sea.

classical ruins colosseum canvas rome

Date: c.1655
Type: Painting
Material: oil on canvas
Place Made/Found: Rome, Italy
Artist: Viviano Codazzi and Michelangelo Cerquozzi

This painting is thought to have been purchased by Lord Burlington during his first visit to Italy in 1714/15. Viviano Codazzi often included recognisable buildings, such as the Colosseum, within his imaginative scenes and employed other artists to add the figures. In 1740 this painting was described as ‘Ruins, Viviano, with figures by Michel Angelo’, which is probably a reference to the artist Michelangelo Cerquozzi.

ambassador morocco godfrey kneller

Date: 1684
Type: Painting
Material: oil on canvas
Place Made/Found: London
Artist: Godfrey Kneller and Jan Wyck

This striking painting was part of Lord Burlington’s collection and hangs in its original position in the octagonal domed saloon at Chiswick House. It is a portrait of Muhammad Ibn Haddu, who was sent as an ambassador from Morocco to the Court of Charles II in 1681. He caused a sensation in London and became famous for his displays of horsemanship in Hyde Park.

porphyry vase italy rock

Date: 16th Century
Type: Vase
Material: Porphyry
Place Made/Found: Italy

This is one of a pair of large vases made from an extremely hard purple volcanic rock known as ‘Imperial Porphyry’. In 16th-century Italy, broken Roman columns and sculptures made from this highly prized material were re-used to create new pieces such as these vases. The vases were purchased by Lord Burlington on 4 February 1715 while he was visiting Italy as part of his Grand Tour of Europe.

cascade terrace chiswick george lambert

Date: 1742
Type: Painting
Material: oil on canvas
Place Made/Found: London
Artist: George Lambert and William Hogarth
Lender: Purchased by English Heritage with generous assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund & London Historic House Museums Trust, 1990

By the time that this view of Chiswick House was painted, the designer William Kent had begun to make changes to the gardens. The painting shows the sweep of lawn between the house and water that had been opened up to create a new, ‘natural’ style of garden. The painter George Lambert used his artistic licence, as the stone balustrade never actually existed.

dorothy boyle countess burlington

Date: c.1748
Type: Painting
Material: oil on canvas
Artist: After George Knapton

Lady Charlotte Boyle was Lord Burlington’s youngest daughter. It was through her marriage to the Marquess of Hartington, later the 4th Duke of Devonshire, that Chiswick House was inherited by the Devonshire family. Charlotte died at the young age of 23. This portrait relates to a larger painting by George Knapton which shows her playing a harpsichord.

chiswick house art south west

Date: c.1729
Type: Painting
Material: oil on canvas
Place Made/Found: London
Artist: Pieter Andreas Rysbrack

This view of Chiswick House and gardens was commissioned by the house’s owner and architect, Lord Burlington, not long after his new villa was completed. It provides a glimpse of the old house, a Jacobean mansion that was demolished in 1788. The painting is part of a larger set that may once have hung at one of Burlington’s other houses as a reminder of Chiswick when he was away. Purchased 2007, with assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), the London Historic House Museums Trust, the Chiswick House Friends and private individuals

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