Chatsworth House | The Grotto, Painted Hall & Great Stairs

Having been blown away by the magnificence of the Chapel and Oak room, we then went through a corridor and onto the next areas of the house. The Chapel Corridor we went through is where a collection of the Cavendish’s art and historical collection is held. It ranges from Old Master paintings by the likes of Domenico Tintoretto (1560-1635) and Salvator Rosa (1615-1673) alongside antiquities from the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The colossal foot from an acrolithic goddess statue dates from the 1st century BC, while a pair of granite statues of Sekhemet, the Egyptian goddess of war, stand just along the hall; dating from the 18th Dynasty (1386-1349 BC). With all the antiquities and portraits, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d walked into Rick & Evie’s Manor House from The Mummy Returns.

The Grotto was one of my favourite rooms in the entire house. The spaces entirely made of stone that does feel very cave-like but it does also serves as a strong foundation for supporting the great stairs above it. There is a lot of carved work here; consisting of the relief of Diana the goddess on the wall with sea-creatures, fruits and flowers around her as well as the insignia of the order of the garter, The Garter Star on the ceiling. All of which are again carved by Samuel Watson 1689.

One thing that really peaked my interest was the portrait displayed in the centre of the room. Now I know it sounds odd to display a portrait in the centre of a room but this is quite a singular piece at it is two-sided. Painted by Boltraffio, it’s a portrait of a young man called Giovanni Casio and on the opposite side it features a painting of a human skull. Skulls are often used in portraits as symbols of mortality but as Casio had a successful career as a tombstone writer it could be said that this was why the skull was used as a dual side to Casio.

The Painted Hall was our next stop and was, in my opinion the grandest and most opulent room of the entire estate. It is part of the original house that Bess of Hardwick and Sir William Cavendish had built, and was used to welcome and impress all who came. The walls and ceiling are all painted by Louis Laguerre (1663-1721) and depict scenes from Julius Caesar’s life – although it does include the scene of his assassination, as almost a reminder and warning to those in power to not exceed their positions or this could be what their fate holds.

This hall really exudes all things to the highest degree: its decadence at it’s finest and I can totally see why this would have been the room to make those first impressions. While we were visiting, the current Duke and Duchess were showcasing some of their personal art collection throughout the different rooms. In the Painted Hall they had some metal sculptures on display by Sir Anthony Caro and Barry Flanagan which while impressive, was difficult to truly appreciate when I was surrounded by such a rich and opulent room.

As I say, while it was difficult to fully appreciate these elements throughout our visit – it was something I did really enjoy. Chatsworth holds over 500 years worth of history and with it, art from every era. It’s a place where historic and renaissance portraits stand alongside contemporary and modern sculptures. It’s a fusion that depicts the tastes of the Cavendish family through the generations.

After reaching the top of the stairs from the Painted Hall, you realise you need to then proceed up the Great Stairs -not ideal for a spoonie like myself, but there was a very comfy seating area on the landing before we had to proceed further. The Great Stairs lead from the first to the second floor and is one of the earliest uses of a cantilevered staircase in England.

The Staircase definitely exudes a grandeur with its decoration of both painted and sculpted decoration. The stairs are lined by a gilded iron balustrade, made by the Huguenot blacksmith Jean Tijou while the ceiling consists of yet another masterpiece by Antonio Verrio (1639-1707) of the arrival of Cybele. These Baroque-style ceiling paintings, often depicting all types of gods and goddesses with their multitude of meanings, would have any Dark-Academia heart aflutter! I loved every element of them, the symbolism, the warmth of tones, everything -although, I must say Verrio and all the other old masters didn’t consider how hard on the neck it would be!

I will leave that here for today, and stay tuned for the next one coming your way.

*If you haven’t seen my previous posts on Chatsworth House, you can check them out here.

Cheerio for now!

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