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James Digman Wingfield (fl.1832-1872)
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James Digman Wingfield (fl.1832-1872)

The Picture Gallery, Stafford House (now Lancaster House), St. James's, 1848

James Digman Wingfield (fl.1832-1872)
The Picture Gallery, Stafford House (now Lancaster House), St. James's, 1848
oil on canvas
45½ x 51¾ in. (115.6 x 131.4 cm.)
Christie's, London, 2 July 1971, lot 113 (700 gns).
A. and A. Gore, The History of English Interiors, 1991, p. 159, pl. 190 (illustration reversed).
Country Life, James Yorke, The work of John Henning Junior at Stafford House, 1 April 1999, p. 47, pl. 4.
J.Yorke, Lancaster House, London's Greatest Town House, 2001, p. 127, pl. 84 (illustration reversed).
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Lot Essay

Stafford House, formerly York House (1825-27), and known as Lancaster House since 1914 was one of the grandest houses ever built in London. 'I have now acquired an idea of the style and splendour of the residence of an English duke' wrote Dr. Waagen, the German connoisseur who compiled a comprehensive survey of British house collections. 'In extent, grandeur of proportions, solidity of materials and beauty of situation, it excells every other mansion in London. It was erected by Wyatt for the late Duke of York, but was purchased and finished after the Duke's death by the late Marquis of Stafford, father of the present Duke. His Grace has, however, added a storey to it. The house commands a beautiful view; overlooking on the one side the whole of the Green Park, and on the other St. James's Park, with lofty trees of the most luxuriant growth, between which the towers of Westminster Abbey rise in the background. Yet the eye always returns to the interior of the apartments, where it is attracted by a variety of objects; for, besides the riches and the splendour which the hangings, curtains and furniture everywhere display, the more noble and refined enjoyment which works of art alone can afford is nowhere failing....a fine gallery, admirably lighted, partly from above and partly from the narrow ends, has been erected, in which the chief of the best pictures are worthily placed'. The magnificent series of rooms in Stafford House, created in the Louis XV style in the 1830s, set a pattern of decoration for grand London interiors that endured until 1914.

The Sutherlands lived on a remarkable scale and owned three other houses, Cliveden, Trentham and Dunrobin. A household list of 1845, for example, shows that fifty-eight servants were employed at Stafford House. Such a household at the time was deemed necessary since the Duchess, as Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria, was frequently required to entertain the Queen and Prince Albert. Such was the opluence of the interiors however that the Queen is said to have remarked on her first visit: I have come from my house to your palace.

The great Picture Gallery formed the climax to a great suite of first floor rooms. 'The picture gallery in Stafford House' wrote Anna Jameson in 1844 'is not only the most magnificent room in London but is also excellently adapted to its purpose, in the management of the light and the style of the decoration.' Certainly, it was both the design of the gallery and its famous collection of pictures which ensured it's reputation as a private palace of art. While both the 1st and 2nd Duke were active collectors, the first duke acquired a number of important pictures in the aftermath of the French Revolution including part of the Orleans Collection. Visible in the present picture, and installed in their lavish bays, specially decorated by John Henning, are two Murillos, Abraham attending to the Angels on the left and The Return of the Prodigal Son on the right. Acquired in Paris from Marshal Soult for 8,000 francs they were the pride of the duke's collection. On the piers is a series of small paintings of saints by artists including Francisco de Zuberan and Giovanni di Pietro, lo Spagna. The picture reflected in the glass and painted in reverse is Guercino's St. Gregory the Great, now on loan from the Mahon Collection to the National Gallery. Sadly these pictures were to leave Stafford House once the 4th Duke sold the remaining twenty-eight years of his lease in 1913. The ceiling of the room still retains Guercino's San Crisogno. John Henning's work is also evident in the lantern where he was employed to decorate the glass with embossed and painted allegorical female figures. The gallery was illuminated with gas from behind the glass which must have made the figures look spectacular when lit up. It has been suggested that the boys playing on the floor may be Lord Albert Levson-Gower (born 1843) and Lord Ronald Leveson-Gower (born 1845).

Wingfield painted two other major views of the Picture Gallery,
The South Part of the Picture Gallery, sold at Sotheby's, 5
November 1969, lot 107 (now in a private collection) and The North Part of the Picture Gallery sold at Sothebys, 11 July, 1990, lot 113, (now in the British Embassy in Paris, see James York, Lancaster House, London's Greatest Town House, London, 2001, p.126, pls. 82 and 83).

Joseph Nash also recorded Stafford House at its zenith with an interior view of the Great Hall, now in the Museum of London. Throughout the nineteenth century Stafford House was a brilliant centre of social and political life. In 1912, the lease was sold to Sir William Lever, later 1st Lord Leverhulme who renamed it Lancaster House and presented it to the Government. For a period between 1915-1919, it was used by the London Museum with the Picture Gallery given over to the display of their costumes.

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