Thursday, May 28, 2015

Late 1600s Gardens at Burlington House in Piccadilly London

Burlington House in London was begun by Sir John Denham, Charles II’s Surveyor of the Office of Works & a poet, whose wife was the mistress of James II. The house was one of the earliest of a number of very large private residences built on the north side of Piccadilly, previously a country lane, from the 1660s onwards. He started construction of an eleven-bay mansion designed by Hugh May in the mid 1660s. Denham had leased a site on the north side of Piccadilly in London. In 1667, the house was sold before its completion to Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Burlington, who carried on the construction. His grandson, the 3rd Earl, replaced his mother’s favorite architect, James Gibbs, with the Palladian enthusiast, Colen Campbell 1676 – 1729.  Working closely with Campbell, Burlington refaced the house’s southern façade, drawing upon the work of Inigo Jones & Andrea Palladio.

Burlington House from Jan Kip and Leonard Knyff's Britannia Illustrata, 1707 Actual view probably 1698-99 

The Knyff-Kip engraving depicts a comprehensive picture of the layout, showing the house with its forecourt & attendant buildings in the foreground, & the garden stretching away to the north over the Ten Acre Close, later to be built over. North & west of the office block were walled kitchen gardens, with a range of outhouses built against the west boundary wall. South of the stables was a yard, & to the north was another kitchen garden.The large garden behind the great house is laid out in a simple formal style. Three wide gravel walks extended northwards—one from the doorway in the middle of the house, & one near to each boundary wall. These walks were linked by cross walks, dividing the south part of the garden into four equal rectangular lawns, each furnished with a central statue on a pedestal. The north part of the ground is shown set out as a tree-lined flower garden, further divided into triangular plots by diagonal paths, each one bordered by high cut hedges, or enclosed by green tunnels, like those round the sunk garden at Kensington Palace. Practical espaliered fruit trees are shown planted against all the garden walls.

Burlington House in Piccadilly London from Beeverell's Grande Bretagne. (Borrowed from Kyp & Knyff) Publisher Pieter Van der Aa (1659-1733)

Burlington House, shown about 1700, in a later depicion.

The Man of Taste, William Hogarth 1697-1764 pokes fun at the subject of fashionable taste. Atop the gate of Burlington House is a statue of Lord Burlington’s favorite architect, William Kent (being admired, if not worshiped, by Raphael & Michelangelo at his feet). On a scaffold below, the tiny figure of Alexander Pope — who annoyed Hogarth with his poem, popularly known as Of False Taste — furiously whitewashes the gate. At the time when Pope dedicated his Epistle on Taste to Lord Burlington, his lordship was in his 36th year & engaged in ornamenting his gardens. Here, in his frantic compulsion, Pope splatters white paint on both passers-by & the coach of the Duke of Chandos.