Page images
PDF
EPUB

ORNAMENTAL STONE-CARVINGS.

315

said buildings”; and again, in the accounts for the years 1694 to 1696, a large sum is entered as payable to “Grinlin Gibbons, Ma" Carver, for carving cornishes, moldings and picture frames; for architrave, freeze, sub-base and other carvers worke by him done in and about the sa Buildings.”

What were all the precise portions of the carver's work “in and about the said buildings ” which emanated from Gibbons's chisel, it would be futile to endeavour to discover now. But we shall probably be correct in assigning to him the

very fine and vigorous heads on the key-stones of the arches of the Fountain Court; while the second of the two entries just cited seems to prove that, besides the carying in wood of cornices and picture frames, he executed most of the decorative stonework of the central compartment of the East Front—the frieze, in truth, betraying in an unmistakable manner the influence of his well-known style in wood, being carved with vases and baskets of flowers and fruits. The fine bas-relief, however, in the great pediment over the architrave is not from his hand-his lack of skill in composition or with the human figure doubtless accounting for the assignment of this task to another artist.

That other sculptor, who received £400 for “Insculpting the Relievo on the Timpan of the Great Frontispiece, with Iconologicall figures, and for sev" Journies of himself and men to look after the performance,” was Caius Gabriel Cibber, "statuary,” father of the celebrated Colley Cibber; and he executed the work in question between the month of April, 1694, and the same month in 1696. It represents “The Triumph of Hercules over Envy,” and seems to have been intended as a sort of compliment to King William III. -though in physique, at any rate, his Majesty was anything but a Hercules, and “Envy” was scarcely an apt emblem under which to personify the feelings of a dethroned monarch towards his usurping nephew and son-in-law, who had ejected him from his kingdom, robbed him of all his possessions, and seated himself in his place.

Nevertheless, as a work of art it is admirable, and must be reckoned among the very best works of Cibber, who has hitherto been chiefly known to amateurs of sculpture by what he did at Chatsworth, and by his excellent figures of Melancholy and Raving Madness, formerly before the front of Bedlam, and immortalized by Pope in that scathing couplet on his son, Colley Cibber:

Where o'er the gate by his famed father's hand

Great Cibber's brazen, brainless brothers stand.” Much other carving about the palace was done by Gabriel Cibber, and in fact to him seems to have been intrusted most of the finer sculpture as distinguished from the decorative embellishments. Thus there is, in the old accounts, an item annexed to his name : “For carving two coates of armes in Portland stone, sev" statues and Figures in metall, and for carriage of the statues and other charges-£530. The “coates of armes ” are evidently the beautiful pieces of stonework, which surmount the small pediments over two of the windows on the first floor in the South Front, and which exhibit cupids supporting shields with the royal arms crowned. The statues and figures were doubtless some of those that formerly served to decorate the top of the palace and the gardens, but were removed to Windsor by George IV.

Gabriel Cibber, we also find, carved for Hampton Court a great Vauze of white marble, enricht with divers ornaments, with a pedestal of Portland stone, also enricht for a sum of £134; and there was a companion vase sculptured by one Edward Pearce, and described as

a great Vauze of white marble, all the figures enriched with leaves and festoons of shells, and Pedestal of Portland stone likewise all members enricht.” It was evidently to these that Defoe refers, when, in his account of Hampton Court in 1724, he says : At the entrance gate into the garden stand advanced, on two pedestals of stone, two marble Vases or FlowerPots of most exquisite workmanship, the one done by an Englishman, the other by a German.” Their pedestals still remain as formerly, but the vases are now at Windsor. Similar urns, vases, and statues were placed about the gardens in formal opposition to each other at measured points, on pedestals, on terrace walls, and on flights of steps.

In decorations of this sort, and in designing and planning extensive schemes of gardening, rather than in the minutiæ of botany and flower-beds, lay William III.'s predilection.

[ocr errors]

STONE-CARVINGS BY GABRIEL CIBBER.

317

And what with levelling of ground and raising of terraces, cutting of drains and making of fountains, building of walls and erecting of iron gates, he had almost as much on hand, at this period, in the gardens, as in the new buildings.

One of the ornamental works, which we owe to him, deserves special notice. We refer to the splendid gates or screens of exquisitely wrought iron, which were made to inclose the gardens, and which remained in situ till some twenty-five years ago—the admiration and delight of every appreciative visitor to Hampton Court.

[graphic]

PEDIMENT OF A WINDOW IN THE SOUTH FRONT, SURMOUNTED

BY WILLIAM AND MARY'S COAT-OF-ARMS.

They were designed by a Frenchman named Jean Tijou, as appears from a book of copper-plate engravings published by him in 1693, entitled “Nouveau Livre de Desseins, Inventé et Dessiné par Jean Tijou" ("A New Booke of Drawings Invented and Designed by John Tijou "), and described in French and in English as “ Containing severall sortes of Ironworke as Gates, Frontispieces, Balconies, Staircases, Pannells, etc., of which the most part hath been wrought at the Royal Building at Hampton Court.”

From this work we reproduce the annexed plate, showing one of the best screens and a pair of gates, from which the reader can judge how magnificent an embellishment they formed to the gardens of Hampton Court, and how excellent was the workmanship lavished upon them. Indeed, they are the finest specimens of decorative ironwork ever executed in England, and it is doubtful whether that metal has ever, in any country or in any age, been moulded into forms more exquisitely delicate and graceful.

The graceful curves of the foliated scroll-work, and the lightness and delicacy of the leaves, stems, and tendrils of the forged and beaten metal, are truly admirable, and reflect the greatest credit on the handicraftsman, whose artistic hammer and chisel wrought it into these beautiful shapes.

The name of that handicraftsman is, as it happens, preserved to us. He was one Huntingdon Shaw, of Nottingham, who is buried in Hampton Church. Formerly the designing, also, of these beautiful screens was attributed to Shaw; but a suspicion that this was not altogether in accordance with fact suggested itself to the author when, on searching among the old Treasury Papers for Shaw's name, he failed to come across any reference to him-although the names and wages of all the artificers engaged on the works, from the great artists such as Cibber, Gibbons, Verrio, and Laguerre, down to the commonest labourers, are frequently mentioned. And this suspicion was confirmed, when among

“ List of Debts in the Office of Works in 1701," preserved in the Record Office, an entry was found, under the heading of “Hampton Court Gardens," of " £1,982 os. 7d. due to John Tijou, Smith”—the conclusion being that in Tijou we must recognize the real author of these magnificent works of art. The clue thus afforded resulted in the discovery of the rare and curious book of Tijou's above cited, whereby the correctness of our surmise was demonstrated.

To Shaw, however, there may still remain the honour of having, with unequalled skill and art, carried out the designs of the master, under whose immediate supervision he probably worked.

The twelve superb screens themselves unfortunately no longer decorate the gardens for which they were made. They were removed to the South Kensington Museum in 1865, a time when Hampton Court was also denuded of Raphael's cartoons, and of much furniture and tapestry, to stock that institution, then in its struggling infancy. Their removal

a

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

SCREEN AND GATE OF WROUGHT IRON FORMERLY IN THE GARDENS AT HAMPTON COURT.

(Designed by Jean Tijou.)

« PreviousContinue »