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Technical Case Study: Lighting

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Illuminating the Large Library and Music Room

In April 2015 a large Adam style chandelier was carefully installed in the centre of the newly-restored Dance of the Hours ceiling painting in the Music Room, along with three bespoke glass and crystal lanterns in the nearby Large Library.

Stowe Library Lanterns-44

 

Music Room Chandelier-54 (Large)

The design of the new light fittings was based on a review of the historic evidence, including archive photographs, drawings and inventory descriptions for the original lights that furnished the state rooms of Stowe from the 1780s to the sale of 1921.

Created by principal chandelier manufacturers Wilkinson Plc, the new lights provide the final decorative features for both rooms and complete their restoration.

Detailed research

The Music Room was completed by Italian artist Vincenzo Valdrè in the mid-1780s. Documentary evidence assembled by Michael Bevington (Archivist and Historian at Stowe House) showed that the ceiling roundel, the Dance of the Hours was illuminated by a single glass chandelier (‘a glass lustre’) by 1788. This does not necessarily represent the date of its installation, and as the completion of the room can only have been a few years earlier at most, it may well have existed from the outset.

By 1839, the chandelier was identified as having eight lights. That it was documented throughout as being a glass/crystal light supports the 1839 reference as being the same chandelier as that mentioned in 1788. It was sold in 1848 but subsequently returned to Stowe and hung in the Blue Room from the 1870s until the 1921 sale – photographs record it clearly.

A design for three pendant light fittings for the Large Library was agreed following a review of the available historic evidence from drawings of c.1810, a mid-nineteenth century Joseph Nash (1808-1878) watercolour, photographs from 1871 and 1921 and inventory descriptions.

The design was agreed to be the closest working interpretation of the historic evidence, and following formal approval, was refined into a detailed proposal for a historically accurate working light fitting.

Documentary evidence shows that the ceiling roundel, the Dance of the Hours was illuminated by a single glass chandelier by 1788