Harewood House: Neoclassical Excellence

Harewood House: Neoclassical Excellence

July 23, 2016

'I would not exceed the limits of expense that I have always set myself. Let us do everything properly and well, mais pas trop.' - Edwin Lascelles to Robert Adam, c. 1765.

When Edwin Lascelles started building Harewood House in 1759 he wanted nothing but the best for his new home. He employed the finest craftsmen of the time: York-born architect John Carr, fashionable interior designer Robert Adam, England’s greatest furniture maker Thomas Chippendale and visionary landscape gardener Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

Harewood House, the Hall. A noble ante-chamber rather than a place in which to linger. Robert Adam designed the ceilings, friezes and chimneypieces throughout the house, everything being part of a unified design. Remarkably, the centrepiece of the Hall is titled ‘Adam’ - perhaps, to celebrate the genius of the 18th century designer? 

Carved by Sir Jacob Epstein from a single block of alabaster, between 1938 and 1939, the sculpture caused much controversy in the puritan English society, and it was not until 1961 when its beauty and significance was adequately appreciated: bought by the 7th Earl, ‘Adam’ was installed at Harewood, where he stands proudly in his full glory.

Harewood House, the Hall. Although not listed in Chippendale’s bill, this magnificent set of eight painted hall chairs, designed to match the grandeur of Adam's Hall, was almost certainly supplied by his firm. The superbly carved console table occupies the spot where the second fireplace used to be.

Harewood House, the Old Library. The room has remained relatively unchanged since its design by Robert Adam; it incorporates many of his typical design features, such as an elaborate ceiling, classical pilasters and a pastel colour scheme.

Harewood House, the Old Library. The painted armchairs are by Chippendale, circa 1771, described in an inventory of 1795 as ‘8 blue painted Cabriole Chairs covered in yellow Morocco leather’. Details in the carving on the chairs is echoed in Robert Adam’s ceiling design, thus contributing to the creation of a harmonious room scheme.

Harewood House, the Old Library. A superbly carved mid-18th century padouk card-table (one of a pair).

Harewood House, the Watercolour Room. A detail of the fireplace and ornate handle, used to summon a servant.

Harewood House, the State Bedroom. State Bedrooms were a fashionable addition to country houses in the 18th century despite often being infrequently used. At Harewood the State Bedroom welcomed two very important guests, the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia in 1816, and young Princess Victoria in 1835.

Harewood House, the State Bedroom. During the Victorian period this room was converted into a sitting room. Chippendale’s magnificent State Bed was dismantled and put into storage for 150 years. Painstaikingly restored to its former glory, it now stands as one of Chippendale’s most extraordinary creations, and, perhaps, the most expensive one: Chippendale charged Lord Harewood £250 for it, and further £150 for three mattresses.

Harewood House, the State Bedroom. One of a set of eighteen George III period giltwood open armchairs supplied by Thomas Chippendale for the house.

Harewood House, the State Bedroom. The Diana and Minerva Commode, flanked by giltwood open armchairs (above). Also featured is one of a pair of giltwood oval mirrors, supplied by Chippendale in 1773 for this room. These two glasses, decorated with finely carved scrolls of leaves, swags of flowers, cherubs and urns, are described in Chippendale’s bill as ‘2 oval frames with treble branches and rich Carved Antique ornaments highly finished in Burnished Gold’. 

Harewood House, the State Bedroom. A detail of the Diana and Minerva Commode, originally designed for the State Dressing Room (now the Spanish Library), which, with its intricate ivory inlay, elegant lines and drawers that whisper shut is often referred to as Chippendale's greatest single work.

Harewood House, the State Bedroom. A detail of the window shutters decorated in the Neoclassical taste.

Harewood House, the East Bedroom. It features Thomas Chippendale's extraordinary green and gold-japanned commode and clothes press, and the Chinese hand-painted wallpaper, all supplied by Chippendale, in c. 1769.

Harewood House, the East Bedroom. The main feature of this room is the Chinese wallpaper. Originally hung by Chippendale’s men in the Chintz Bedroom in 1769, early in the 19th century it was cut from the walls, rolled up in linen and put away in an outbuilding, where it lay for nearly 200 years. That it survived for so long is remarkable; that it survived in near perfect condition is astonishing.

Harewood House, the East Bedroom. A painted and gilded pier glass by Thomas Chippendale, made to complement the Chinese wallpaper. Note the magnificent Adam ceiling, reflected in the glass.

Harewood House, The Main Library. The original Robert Adam ceiling, together with his chimneypieces and plaster overmantels with their round, sculptured reliefs, marry beautifully with Charles Barry’s modernisation.

Harewood House, The Main Library. Known as the Saloon in the 18th century. Since Barry’s transformation of the building, this has been the central living room of the House.