Friday, June 27, 2014

Viscountess Rothermere at Ferne Park

The entrance (north) front of Ferne Park,
the home of Viscountess Rothermere.
Built 2000 to 2002 to designs by Quinlan Terry.
Image via QFT.
After the sale of Daylesford (see previous posts on the quintessential Cotswolds country house here, here, here, and here) to Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, was Viscount Rothermere left without a proper country seat?  Not for long.  Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere (born 1967, son of Vere and Pat "Bubbles" Harmsworth, see earlier post here), built an exemplary new country house, 2000 to 2002, on the 200 acres known as Ferne Park.

An aerial view of Ferne Park.
Image via QFT.
The present house is the third that had stood on the site with a view to the Dorset Hills.  The second house had been demolished in 1965.  The Harmsworths had been looking for a property with views and old out-buildings that could be developed;  Ferne Park filled those requirements.  The local planning authority had three restrictions that were gladly respected:  the house must be built of local stone, be classical in design, and be no larger than the previous house that had occupied the site.  As of this writing, Viscount Rothermere spends most of his time at his chateau in the Durdogne where he is visited by his wife and children who otherwise live at Ferne Park.

The approach to Ferne Park is on an angle
rather than axial, characteristic of
many Palladian buildings.
Image via QFT.
Claudia Caroline Clemence Harmsworth, the Viscountess Rothermere, was familiar with the work of classicist English architect Quinlan Terry who with his son Francis are principals in the firm Quinlan Francis Terry LLF in Dedham, England; subsequently, the firm was engaged to create a new classical mansion on the property.

The entrance elevation of Ferne Park
drawn by Martyn Winney.
One of the inspirational models for the new house was Came House, built in 1754, in Winterborne Came, Dorset.  Lady Rothermere thought it an imbalance, however, to have the three smaller upper windows between the engaged columns.  So the upstairs windows at Ferne Park are all the same size. (There is no traditional hard-and-fast rule on this, it must be noted.  There are other examples of similar houses of the eighteenth-century that also had all the upstairs windows the same size).

Came House, Dorset, influenced the
design for Ferne Park.
Image via Wikipedia.
The house has views to both Dorset and Wiltshire, both having rich resources of building stone.  Four different stones were used on the exterior of the house with the slight variations adding to the visual interest.

The entrance elevation of Ferne Park.
Photo via QFT.
The principle stone used for the facades was Chilmark stone, a Jurassic oolitic limestone.  In the 13th century, it was used for Salisbury Cathedral; in the 16th century, for Langford Castle; and in the 17th century for Wilton House.

The entrance elevation of Ferne Park
showing the subtle variation of stones.
Portland stone, another local Jurassic oolitic limestone, was used for the rusticated basement story, the columns, the entablature, and the chimneys.  Andrew Tanser carved the Rothermere coat of arms for the pediment, a feature seen in almost all the houses Palladio illustrated in Quattro Libri (The Four Books of Architecture).
The capitals of the engaged columns
are over 6 feet tall and in the composite style.

Quinlan Terry's drawing of the capital
and corner pediment of Palladio's
S.Giorgio Maggiore, Venice,  1564 to 1580,
a model for the capitals at Ferne Park.
A detail of the door surround of the main entrance.

The Rothermere coat of arms, supporters, and crest
fill the  entrance front pediment of Ferne Park.
Upper Greensand sandstone, another local stone but of the post-Jurassic period, was also used.  This pale green-ish gray stone was used as ashlar in many of the important 18th century Dorset buildings.

The long cheek walls of the entrance stairs
was inspired by the Temple of Antionius and Faustina,
Rome, AD 141.  From Palladio, I QUATTRO LIBRI, 1570.
The fourth stone, not local, was York stone.  For durability, it was used for the entrance front staircase and the south terrace paving.

The Garden (South) Elevation of Ferne Park.
Quinlan Terry's drawing of the design
for the south terrace balustrade at Ferne Park.
The balusters of the (south) garden terrace utilize a design of alternating forms in order to meet building safety regulations that would prevent a child from falling through.  A Baroque rhythm, such as that used at Longhena's Ca' Pesaro in Venice, 1649 to 52, provides an appropriate solution to modern demands on classical architecture.

Jonathan and Claudia Harmsworth,
the Viscount and Viscountess Rothermere.
Photo by Francois Halard for Vanity Fair,
November 2006, via Indy Media.
Although the floor plans were well thought out in terms of proportion and natural light, they might not be suitable to the lifestyles of many American billionaires in terms of expected convenience.

A collage of images of Ferne Park by
Francois Halard for Vanity Fair ,
via Indy Media.
That said, the simplicity of plan does allow some grand Georgian rooms with handsome details.  Interior designer Veere Greeney was brought in early in the design process to help create a comfortable décor compatible with the architecture.

Another collage of images of Ferne Park by
Francois Halard for Vanity Fair,
via Indy Media.
In an article for Country Life magazine, May 5, 2010, David Watkins writes, "Oil paintings, watercolours, drawings and engravings of an exceptionally wide range of dates and styles, create the impression of a collection that has grown over many years.  All the [bathtubs] are old ones that have been refurbished, but there are no coloured marbles or gold taps in the bathrooms, which are plain and discreet."

The Entrance Hall of Ferne Park.
Photo via QFT.
When the house is filled with guests, the Entrance Hall also serves as a Sitting Room.  The doorway behind the folding screen leads to the service stairs and, beyond, the Kitchen.  On the opposite wall, there is a doorway to a vestibule with a coat closet and powder room, with a sitting room beyond.

The Staircase of Ferne Park.
Photo via QFT.
It is difficult to see in this photo of the stairs, but there are 'Venetian' or 'Palladian' windows, an arched head window flanked by a narrow flat head window, on both the first (main) and second floors at each end, as the house was originally built.

The Drawing Room at Ferne Park.
Photo via
The Drawing Room on the center of the south side has a shaped, ornamented plaster ceiling.  On either side is a Dining Room (which later became the Breakfast Room) and the Study.

Veere Grenney's fabric "Ferne Park."
Photo via Veere Grenney Associates
No views of the second floor have been published, but this photo of designer Veere Greeney's fabric "Ferne Park" might offer a glimpse.  It appears to be the corner of tailored bedhangings, the be-ribboned flat-pleated corner of the canopy in a Georgian room.  (T.D.C.'s note:  this detail was later discovered to be from the designer Veere Grenney's own bedroom).

The gardens of Ferne Park were designed
by Rupert Golby.
Paul Highnam photo via
The gardens, designed by Rupert Golby, are occasionally open to the public to benefit charities or non-profit organizations.  Such was the case on at least two occasions earlier this year.

The garden front of Ferne Park
viewed through a gate.
Photo via QFT.
Check the Events website of the Garden Museum for the schedule of Garden Open Days for private gardens that are open on behalf of the Garden Museum Development Appeal which supports the creation of the Garden Design Archive.  It is an excellent way to visit exceptional properties such as this.

Another garden gate view at Ferne Park.
Photo via Southern Spinal Injuries Trust.
There are several entrances to the estate and one still maintains a carriage entrance for the second house that stood at Ferne Park.

Original gateway from the second Ferne Park.
Photo via Images of England.
Architect Quinlan Terry used the original design as a model for a larger, modern entrance that was an interpretation of the historic precedent.

Quinlan Terry's entrance gateway to Ferne Park
based on the design for the previous house.
Photo via Indy Media.
The outbuildings from the time of the second house were made more picturesque in some instances and renovated to suit modern needs of the family.

An outbuilding at Ferne Park that has
been renovated and adapted to modern use.
Photo via MOULDING.
In 2006, an application was made to extend the main house.  Adding a Library on the west and a Dining Room on the east main floor level, plus a Billiard Room and additional service areas on the basement level, the extensions maintained the symmetry and original design concept of the house.

The extended garden front at Ferne Park.
Photo from private collection.
False windows of the north face in the added rooms conceal a fireplace and chimney.  Venetian/Palladian windows look out to the garden.

The extended east end of Ferne Park
showing the Library addition.
Photo via MOULDING.
The main house won The Georgian Group award for the Best Modern Classical House in 2003.  In 2008, The Georgian Group cited the added Pavilion, also designed by Quinlan and Francis Terry, with the award for Best New Building In The Classical Tradition.

The Pavilion at Ferne Park.
A loggia spans this side of the new building.
Photo via The Georgian Group.
William Kent's Praeneste at Rousham in Oxfordshire was given as the inspiration for the new Pavilion.  A seated statue of the influential philosopher Immanuel Kant is placed in the ornamental pool.

The Pavilion at Ferne Park.
Photo via MOULDING.
There has been much speculation in the British Press that the Viscount's French residency status is a scheme to avoid paying British taxes.  As there are several other countries that would have a much more favorable tax structure than France, that theory is inconclusive.  In any case, the new construction at Ferne Park is a great monument to new classicism in residential design and what can be accomplished with talent, taste, and a lot of money wisely spent in the concentrated effort.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza at Villa Favorita

Villa Favorita, Lake Lugano, Switzerland
Photo by Derry Moore for
Architectural Digest
Continuing the series with topics that have a connection to the quintessential Cotswolds house, Daylesford, here is Villa Favorita, the Lugano, Switzerland, residence of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, a one-time owner of Daylesford.  (The Renzo Mongiardino décor for the baron at Daylesford may be seen here). 

A view of Villa Favorita from Lake Lugano.
Photo from Wikimedia.
In 1985,the baron married his fifth wife, Carmen Cervera, a former "Miss Spain" who had been married to Lex Barker of "Tarzan" films, at Daylesford.  At the time of the photography by Derry Moore that appeared in the July, 1988, issue of Architectural Digest the villa was a residence for both, and one of several.  But it was around this time that Daylesford was sold to Carole and Anthony Bamford (see here) as the Cotswolds did not appeal to the Baroness.

Baron and Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza
in a detail from a photo by Derry Moore
published 1988 in AD.
Bonnard's "Portrait de Misia Godebska," 1908, and Toulouse-Lautrec's "Gaston Bonnefoy," 1891, are among the works of art in the pine paneled English Room, one of a series of reception rooms installed by the baron's father.

Another view of the English Room
at Villa Favorita.
Photo by Derry Moore for AD.
"Mademoiselle Duthe" by Fragonard, circa, 1771, hung between the windows of the English Room while a 1730 Meissan monkey by Kirchner joined Ming and Kangxi piece decorating the marble chimneypiece.

The French Room at Villa Favorita.
Photo by Derry Moore for AD.
"La Toillette" by Boucher, 1742.
Now at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.
Image via Wikimedia.
"La Toilette" by Boucher, 1742, hung in the French Room near a Riesener commode with a Clodion figure group.  An eighteenth-century bureau plat may be seen in the mid-point of the image from the 1988 article.

The Bar at Villa Favorita.
Photo by Derry Moore for AD.
A small medieval style room used as a bar is located adjacent to the English Room.  Decorated with 19th century paintings in the form of heraldic wall hangings below a painted frieze of open colonnades with stylized urns of flowers, simple chairs and a 16th-century Italian octagonal table contrast with the curves of the walnut tall-case clock from Amsterdam, circa 1720.

The baron's Study at Villa Favorita.
Photo by Derry Moore for AD.
When he was in residence at the villa, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza spent most of his time in his Study looking over the constant stream of in-coming transparencies and catalogues from art galleries and dealers showing works for sale.  The portrait is of the baron's grandfather August Thyssen; although not a collector, he commissioned a number of sculptures from his friend Auguste Rodin.  Tapestry covered chairs flank a 16th-century French walnut table used as a desk.  An eighteenth-century Pompeian style frieze provides a colorful perimeter above the dark paneling.

The Gothic Room at Villa Favorita.
Photo by Derry Moore for AD.
Linen-fold oak paneling and carved limestone trim decorate the Gothic Room.  "The Annunciation" by Jan de Beer, 16th-century, was paired with Andrea Riccio's terra-cotta "Madonna and Child," circa 1520.  The painting is now at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.

Details of the Master Bedroom at Villa Favorita.
Photo by Derry Moore for AD.
In the Master Bedroom, Manet's "L'Amazone de Face," 1882, and Degas' "Chez la Modiste," 1883 were displayed.  Both "Horsewoman, Full Face" and "At the Milliner's" are now at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.

The baron's Dressing Room at Villa Favorita.
Photo by Derry Moore for AD.
Striped silk wall hangings in the baron's Dressing Room provided a backdrop for Pissarro's "Rue Saint-Honore, Effet de Pluie: Apres-Midi," 1897, and a Louix XVI bureau a Gradin.

The Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza
poses by her bathtub at Villa Favorita.
Photo from Hola magazine.
The swimming pool at Villa Favorita.
Photo from Hola magazine.
In the article by Peter Lauritzen, the baron is quoted, "My father [Henrich] acquired the seventeenth-century Villa Favorita from Prince Friedrich Leopold of Prussia in 1932, and brought [his collection of] the old-master paintings there.  He had first shown them publicly in Munich only two years before."

Baron Hans Heinrich's father, Heinrich,
in the Gallery at Villa Favorita, 1947.
Photo from ThyssenKrupp AG.
Until his father's death in 1947, the collection was seldom seen by the general public although his father had added a large gallery to Villa Favorita to display the art.  The baron added to the collection, at one time second only to that of the Queen of England.

Baron and Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza
pose on the terrace of Villa Favorita
with Picasso's 1923 "Harlequin with a Mirror"
now at the Museo Thyssen-Borenmisza, Madrid.
Photo from
Starting in 1960, select paintings from the collection were loaned out or travelled in special exhibitions of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.  In addition, the villa's gallery was open to the public on weekends seven months of the year, and more often when special exhibitions were held at Villa Favorita. 

A composite showing the extent of the addition
proposed by British architect Robert Stirling.
Image via Ticino Tessin, The Swiss Castles blog.
When the design for expansion by British architect Robert Stirling of the firm Stirling & Wilford failed to meet acceptance from local officials, offers from outside the country were considered to provide a home for the stars of the collection so that they could be viewed by larger numbers.  Despite persuasive talks with the Getty Museum in California, and a personal visit by Prince Charles on behalf of British museums, the government of Spain won with the offer of the Villahermosa Palace, to be refurbished to the specifications of the Baroness, opposite the Prado in Madrid.  That is now the location of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, filled mostly with art taken from Villa Favorita, opening in 1992.

A distant view from the lake showing the context.
Image via Ticino Tessin, The Swiss Castles blog.
Another view from the lake showing the
extent of  the shorefront property of Villa Favorita.
Image via Ticino Tessin., The Swiss Castles blog.
The remaining collection at Villa Favorita was reorganized and the gallery was again opened to the public for some years before closing.  Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza died in 2002.  Carmen "Tita" Cervera, as the dowager baroness is now usually referred in the press, opened the Carmen Thyssen Museum in Malaga in 2011.  Her museum contains art from her collection on a long term free loan, with many of the paintings previously displayed at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum during the previous 12 years. That same year of the museum opening in Malaga, she decided to sell "The Lock" by John Constable from her private collection to raise funds; in 2012 it sold for an artist record GBP 22.4 million.  In 2013, Carmen Cervera came into the international spotlight again when it was discovered that she was using a complex offshore structure as a tax haven; her spokesman said it was only used to move art from country to country.

Carmen Cervera, the dowager baroness,
at Villa Favorita.
Photo from Hola magazine.
Carmen Cervera still holds a Swiss passport according to press reports.  As Switzerland does not tax art, it is believed that the villa still holds a significant collection, the primary source of her wealth.
This series of posts of The Devoted Classicist with a connection to Daylesford continues with the next essay.