DESIGNS FOR THE DECORATION OF THE SUMMER SMOKING-ROOM AT CARDIFF CASTLE, William Burges, ARA and Axel Haig

DESIGNS FOR THE DECORATION OF THE SUMMER SMOKING-ROOM AT CARDIFF CASTLE, William Burges, ARA and Axel Haig

c. 1827 to c. 1921 United Kingdom

Offered by Charles Plante Fine Arts

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The wonderful fantasy and colours for which Burges is renowned excite the viewer with his own version of le style Troubadour, only equalled by Schloss Neuschwanstein and the Chateau de Pau. The conceit of a smoking-room in medieval style, let alone a summer one, is undoubtedly partly based on orientalist studies, particularly of Ottoman court life. The divans, the medieval chimney piece in miniature, galleried upper floor in which no minstrel ever sang, are all more redolent of dark private pleasures than the well-known tawny leathery smoking rooms of the late nineteenth century.

Cardiff Castle was rebuilt 1866-1928 for the third Marquis of Bute, the reclusive Catholic convert peer who was one the richest industrial magnates of the mid nineteenth century. William Burges' fantastic scheme was depicted for his patron in equally stunning watercolour perspectives. The Cardiff Castle Summer Smoking Room was exhibited at the 1870 Royal Academy as 'Designs for the Decoration of the Winter and Summer Smoking-rooms at Cardiff Castle' (RA No 744) .

This watercolour is the companion to Burges' well-known Winter Smoking Room (RA 1870, no 752) in the collection of Lady Heathcote Amory on display at Knightshayes, Devon (National Trust), which has been published previously. From the context, it is clear that they are renderings of Burges' proposals by his collaborator Axel Herman Haig (1835-1921), who worked as his perspectivist from 1866-67. The importance of this Cardiff Castle drawing in the history of a work of genius is emphasised by its emergence as a previously unpublished and unknown work, representing a major discovery in Victorian architectural and decorative arts studies. It was not known to the Burges scholar Professor JM Crook, author of the authoritative biography of his work (1981), nor to the great Burges collector and authority Charles Handley-Read.

The watercolour also shows the intended position of the medieval vases now in the Victoria and Albert Museum Collection and has since been used as a source for further research into the presentation and decoration of Cardiff Castle. The National Museum of Wales purchased this drawing from Charles Plante Fine Arts in 1994.
Matthew Williams. 'Gorgeously Arrayed in Blue and Gold', Country Life, March 5, 1998
The Charles Handley Read Collection, Victorian and Edwardian Decorative Art, Royal Academy 1972
JM Crook and C A Lennox Boyd, Axel Haig, London, 1984
J Mordant Crook, William Burges and the High Victorian Dream, London, 1981
Dimensions
Height 381.00 mm (15.00 inches)
Width 534.00 mm (21.02 inches)
Medium
Watercolour with traces of pencil
Charles Plante Fine Arts

Charles Plante Fine Arts
50 Gloucester Street
London
SW1V 4EH

+44 (0)20 7834 3305
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