Catalogue entry

T03465 A Representation of the Liberal Arts: Ceiling Design for the State Dining Room at

Grimsthorpe Castle c.1724

Oil on canvas 613×762 (24 1/8×30)
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
PROVENANCE ...: anon. sale Sotheby's 19 February 1975(91 as by Amiconi) bt Lawrence Riolfo of Venice, sold by him to Sarawood Antiques, bt R.I.H. Paul, by whom sold through Harari & Johns to the Tate Gallery
LITERATURE H. A. Tipping & C. Hussey, The Work of Sir John Vanburgh and his School, 1928, p.317, fig.463 (as by Thornhill); Croft-Murray 1970, pp.277–8, fig.24; J. Lees-Milne, English Country Houses: Baroque 1685–1715, 1970, pp.190–2, figs.313–14

Vanburgh completed Grimsthorpe Castle for Peregrine Bertie, 2nd Duke of Ancaster, in 1724, which is presumably when work on the interior decorations of the State Rooms was begun. These have been previously attributed to Sir James Thornhill and to Antonio Bellucci, but this seems unlikely both on stylistic grounds and in view of the fact that Bellucci is now known to have left England in 1722. Croft-Murray, who recognised the true nature of this sketch in 1975, attributes the Staircase and the State Dining Room ceilings to Sleter on grounds of style.

The final version of this composition as executed at Grimsthorpe is somewhat different from this sketch, having been made into a broader design, with more figures and with some of the groups differently disposed in relation to each other. For instance, the scholar writing in front of the figure holding up a light, probably emblematic of Knowledge, is transposed from the lower right here to the lower left corner of the finished version, with Knowledge now holding up the light with her other arm, making it more the focal point of the entire composition. She is flanked there by the additional winged figure of Time, who further emphasises the light by pointing up towards it. In the final painting the composition is made wider still by the addition of two extruded semicircular ends, while the architectural surround, shown in the sketch here, is abandoned.


Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988