Six paintings in the collection at Capesthorne Hall in Shropshire will be restored with funding from the Historic Houses Foundation. The paintings at Capesthorne are extraordinary for their depth and range as a family collection accumulated over centuries.
Collecting at home
The Bromley-Davenports of Capesthorne Hall trace their ancestry back Ormus de Davenport at the time of the Norman Conquest, subsequently an Elizabethan Davenport managed to raise 11 sons, so securing the family succession. Since then the Davenports, who acquired Capesthorne Hall through marriage in 1748 and added Bromley in 1822, have conducted themselves as local squires and landowners. They improved the house in the 18th century, building a neo-classical brick mansion, again in the 19th century when Edward Blore created an exterior enlivened with tiers of pinnacles, domes and towers and rebuilt the interior with the help of Anthony Salvin after a fire in 1861. The house has been quietly employed as a repository for paintings and works of art, enhancing the interior and recording the family history through the generations.
Family, religion and great artists
The 6 paintings which have been allocated funds by the Historic Houses Foundation reflect the eclectic nature of the collection and the variety of taste and period that it represents. One is an old master – a section of a larger Deposition of Christ by Luca Signorelli (1450-1523), painted in Italy and showing Joseph of Arimathea, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and one other female saint. One is 20th century – a view of Capesthorne Hall by the Lancashire artist LS Lowry.
Four are portraits, two almost certainly of members of the family. A portrait of a richly attired lady in a full ruff and an embroidered dress dates from the late Elizabethan period is unidentified and attributed only to the school of William Larkin. A portrait of ancestor Sir Thomas Bromley shows the Lord Chancellor to Queen Elizabeth I, who conducted the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots. He wears his lawyer’s robes while the purse which held the Great Seal dominates the foreground; protecting the Royal Seal was one of the hereditary roles of his office.
Two other portraits feature prominent 18th century thinkers and came to Capesthorne through the Davenports of Wootton Hall. Richard Davenport of Wootton Hall was a French speaker who played host to Jean Jacques Rousseau during the philosopher’s exile in England in 1766. The Capesthorne portrait of Jean Jacques Rousseau may be a contemporary copy of the portrait by Allan Ramsay at the National Portrait Gallery for Scotland. The second portrait is of the controversial theologian Pierre-Francois de Courayer who lived in exile in England from the 1720s until his death in 1776.
The six paintings and their frames will be restored and returned to public display at Capesthorne Hall.