Updated: Sep 12, 2021
I took my pocket sketchbook and paints to Chatsworth House, the seat of the Duke of Devonshire. The grand house holds major collections of paintings, Old Master Drawings, neoclassical sculptures and books.
I stayed with friends in Derbyshire, a beautiful county, especially to visit Chatsworth. It's been a place I've wanted to see for a long time.
Louis Laguerre, Triumph of Diana, 1689-1692. Oil on plaster. State Bedroom
I first heard of Chatsworth when reading about Deborah Mitford, who was the Duchess, then Dowager Duchess, of Devonshire until her death in 2014.
There is a world famous (and utterly gruesome) portrait of Deborah by Lucian Freud, an artist I love, in the house which I was delighted to see in real life. Freud's paintings with their thickly applied oil paint are always fascinating to see up close. He often stayed at Chatsworth as he was a close friend of the Duke and Duchess.
I was intrigued to read more about Deborah after reading Love in a Cold Climate, a brilliant and hilarious novel, written by her sister Nancy Mitford.
Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love (which was Nancy's break-through book that preceded it) are fictional retellings of the early lives of the real (and much less believable) Mitford Sisters.
The fascinating sisters are summed up rudely by Diane Shipley in The Guardian;
“Unity, Diana, Jessica, Nancy, Pamela and Deborah. Or, if you prefer: a Nazi with a self-inflicted brain injury, Oswald Mosley's wife, a communist muckraker, an infamous snob/talented novelist, a muse of John Betjeman turned late-in-life lesbian and the Duchess of Devonshire.”
Back to The House
It was pure bliss to wonder around the beautiful house and grounds. There were wonderful examples of the worlds finest artworks, from the handsome bust of Antinous (2nd c. AD ancient Rome) to a perfectly placed gold Saint Bartholomew by Damien Hirst, a center piece of the family chapel.
The artistic highlight of the visit for me was the wonderful ceiling paintings throughout the great house. They meld seamlessly with the architecture so much that you can't think of them as two separate creations.
Antonio Verrio, Triumph of Cybele, 1687-1689. Oil on plaster. Chatsworth House
I loved my visit to Chatsworth and highly recommend it, I haven't touched on all the wonders their. The current Duke and Duchess are great modern art lovers so there are always changing pieces from leading artist's not only in the house but also the 105-acre garden. Although even if all the art wasn't there the house, furniture and gardens are marvels!