Summary


This work is the companion piece of View of Copped Hall in Essex, from across the Lake (Tate T07556). The manor of Copped Hall was first recorded in the Middle Ages. The original owner was the huge monastery at Waltham but the Hall and estates passed to the Crown during the years of dissolution under Henry VIII. His daughter, Queen Elizabeth I granted the estate to Sir Thomas Heneage of Lincolnshire, who built the old hall shown in the Lambert views, between 1564 and 1595. The ownership of the Hall passed through several hands until it was purchased (probably in 1739) by Edward Conyers of Walthamstow, Member of Parliament for East Grinstead. His son, John Conyers (1717-75), who commissioned the Lambert views in 1745, was Member of Parliament for Reading (1747-54) and for Essex (1772-5). Copped Hall remained with his descendants until 1869 when the house and contents was sold to George Wythes.The house caught fire in 1912 but the contents were saved: the ruined house is still standing.

Lambert's two views of Copped Hall subtly allude to the history of the estate and connect the house with its previous ownership. John Conyers had inherited the Hall on his father's death in 1742, the year in which he was also elected a Governor of the Foundling Hospital, where he would have met both Lambert and Hayman. Magnificent and historic pile though the old Hall was, it was derelict and uninhabited. By the time Conyers commissioned the pictures in 1745, he had already made plans for the erection of a new Palladian house. It seems that the paintings were not simply the statement of a wealthy young man with a fine estate, but a record of his original inheritance and a commemoration of the grand old mansion before its destruction.

Lambert's paintings of Copped Hall are the only country house portraits by him to have remained intact as a pair. In both views, Lambert has made the building play a subordinate role within the landscape by distancing it on the horizon, perhaps so as not to show its parlous state. As well as showing two different angles of the house, one from across the park, the other from over the lake, Lambert has taken the innovative step of depicting them in contrasting weather conditions: the heat and calm of a summer's day in the parkland view complements the breezy freshness of the windswept lake in the other. Lambert's innovation in combining contrasting atmospheric effects with different aspects of a property was to prove highly influential on later artists, particularly Richard Wilson (1713?-82).

Although the overall designs and execution of the landscapes was the work of Lambert, the paintings were the result of a collaboration with Francis Hayman who was employed by John Conyers to add enlivening staffage to the scenes, such as the elegant figure groups.

Further Reading

Elizabeth Einberg, 'A Portrait by Francis Hayman Identified', Burlington Magazine, March 1973, pp.157-8, ill. 12 & 13
John Harris, The Artist and the Country House, Yale 1979, pp.247, 264, ill. 281a & b

Diane Perkins
December 2000