History and Culture

Art and culture has always been at the heart of Chiswick House and Gardens – from Lord Burlington’s collection to artists today.

Rather than a conventional home, Chiswick House was a bold architectural experiment. It also provided an exquisite setting for Burlington’s collection of paintings, specially-designed furniture and souvenirs from his European travels.

The lavish interiors of the first floor, the ‘piano nobile’, were hung with richly coloured velvet.  These wall coverings have been re-created in the Blue Velvet Room, Lord Burlington’s private study, which is hung with hand-woven blue silk velvet.

Image: An inlaid marble and gilt pine table, about 1725, possibly designed by William Kent. © Historic England Photo Library

In the 18th century, the velvet hangings would have been almost obscured by a huge number of paintings. Lord Burlington was one of 18th-century Britain’s greatest art collectors and his support of designers, artists and musicians earned him the title ‘Apollo of the Arts’, bestowed on him by the historian and writer Horace Walpole.

By the early 1890s, Chiswick had largely been cleared of its collections, but from the mid-1950s onwards some pieces have returned. Today the Upper Tribune provides the best example of Burlington’s original picture hang.

Image: Painted ceiling in the Red Velvet Room.
© André Pattenden

The interiors were decorated in collaboration with William Kent who designed furniture especially for Chiswick, such as a set of carved and gilt chairs which he made unusually small to suit the proportions of the villa. They have a scallop shell motif carved on the top rail – a motif that almost became Kent’s trademark and which is also found on the tables in the Gallery. The tables have inlaid marble tops, purchased by Lord Burlington while he was on the Grand Tour in Italy.

William Kent was also responsible for the painted ceilings at Chiswick. His ceiling in the Red Velvet Room shows Mercury, representing commerce, directing Abundance (who holds a cornucopia or horn of plenty) to the three visual arts – Architecture, Sculpture and Painting.

Lady Burlington formed a close friendship with Kent who she affectionately referred to as ‘Kentino’. He helped her to redecorate the Garden Room on the ground floor of the house, now known as the Summer Parlour. The work was carried out at Lady Burlington’s own expense. The ceiling painting includes owl motifs which were part of her family crest, clearly marking the room as her space.

In the late 18th century, after the construction of the wing buildings, Chiswick House was redecorated to reflect the 5th Duke and Duchess Georgiana’s taste. The new furnishings, some of which can be seen in the Bedchamber, were in the Anglo-French, neo-classical style, and created an impression of lightness and elegance.

For more highlights of the collections https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/chiswick-house/collection/

Our Archive

Chiswick House and its Gardens have a long, varied and exciting history. We have set up an archive managed by our volunteer archivist who can be contacted at info@chgt.org.uk. The information held on site represents just a fraction of the documents, drawings and records that exist. The Chatsworth archive, English Heritage and the London Borough of Hounslow also hold substantial material.

50 years on…

On May 20th 1966, that the four most famous people on the planet strolled into a public park in West London to create two ground-breaking mini films which were to change the course of music history.

Learn more about when The Beatles came to Chiswick House and Gardens.

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Peter Adjaye

Peter recorded a three-part audio artwork inside Chiswick House for Bring Into Being in 2021.

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Jaimini Patel

Jaimini’s artwork for Bring Into Being was created in residence at Chiswick House in 2021.

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Mark Wallinger

Mark’s piece British Summer Time was part of 2021’s Bring Into Being exhibition.

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Our Gardens are open to visitors every day. Find out more about tickets and opening times.

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