Welcome back to an A to Z of discovery with Kiplin Hall and Gardens. Today we explore the letter P. P is for Pietra Dura. From the Italian meaning “hard stone” Pietra Dura is an art form, creating scenes and patterners from cut stone, inlaid and polished, on a flat surface. You may recall our last article, O is for Oak, in which we talked about Christopher Crowe and his family legacy at Kiplin Hall. This cabinet is another item for which we have Christopher Crowe and his family to thank.
Crowe owned Kiplin Hall from 1722-1749 and his family continued to live there for around 100 years. Christopher Crowe was a wealthy man following his work as British Consul at Livorno in Italy. He was also a successful merchant trading in wine and oil in the Mediterranean as well as an art dealer, shipping paintings and sculptures back to England for wealthy clients.
The stone scenes in the cabinet, currently displayed in the Drawing Room on the ground floor at Kiplin Hall, depict the Italian countryside and are made of marble and other coloured stones. The centre panel depicts Livorno, where Crowe lived and worked.
The cabinet itself is a Chippendale; built by the workshop of famed furniture maker Thomas Chippendale. It seems to have been built specially to house the stone landscapes. Dated to around 1755 the cabinet was probably commissioned by Christopher Crowe the younger (Crowes’ son). The Chinese Chippendale style with fretted gallery and urn finials seems a little at odds with the Italian landscapes. But Chippendale was a highly fashionable maker and this style was popular at the time. His work remains famous and valuable all over the world today.
There are two other examples of Pietra Dura in the collection at Kiplin. One is a circular table from the 19th Century. In this example the table is made from slate, not timber, with the inlaid pattern on the table top. The Pietra Dura cabinet is often a favourite among visitors who are surprised to learn the landscapes are created from polished stone and not wooden inlay.
Visitors to Kiplin Hall enjoy unlocking these and other secrets of the past through conversations with Volunteer Room Stewards who bring the rooms to life. Following the isolation of lockdown many are enjoying the personal interactions that can be had at the museum. While no longer required by law face coverings are still strongly encouraged indoors at Kiplin to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Along with social distancing measures and a one-way system. Kiplin Hall is open to visitors 6 days a week, closed on Thursdays.
Kiplin Hall is currently running a recruitment programme for new volunteers. Described as the fifth family, after the four families who owned Kiplin Hall over 400 years, volunteers play a key role in the museum and gardens. Volunteer Room Stewards can enjoy learning and sharing the history of Kiplin Hall with visitors, as well as the other social aspects of being involved. Which under normal circumstances include outings and social events, as well as an annual celebration event. Find out more about volunteering and register your interest HERE or call Rosie, Volunteers Manager, on 01748 818 178.