After a quick, or in my case not so quick shuffle down what I presume was once a staff stairwell, we arrived in the Library and Ante Library. Housing one the most significant private book collections in Britain, Chatsworth holds around 40,000 volumes in its collection. It was the 6th Duke of Devonshire who is responsible for most of the growth of this collection, having merged four separate book collections whilst also adding his own volumes over time.
One of the ‘libraries’ to which the 6th Duke refers is that of Henry Cavendish, the eminent scientist and great eccentric. His manuscripts and library of scientific and other books are still at Chatsworth, each stamped with ‘H.Cavendish’ on the back of the title pageDuchess Deborah
The ceiling shows plasterwork by Edward Goudge and paintings by Antonio Verrio (1636-1707), these are the only features from the 1st Duke long gallery that have survived. The carpet was also designed to mimic the rounds of the ceiling. There are around 17,000 books, spanning through six centuries in the Library and Ante Library. These range from the 17th Century autographed writings of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679, the scientific manuscripts of the man who calculated how to weight the Earth Henry Cavendish (1731-1810), as well as medieval illuminated manuscripts and early printed books from the 15th and 16th Century. The Old Master drawings and sketches were also stored here until the mid 20th century – when moved to preserve them better.
The Dome Room
The Ante Library then leads into the Dome Room which is the connector between the Baroque house and the 6th Duke of Devonshires North Wing. The centre of the room holds a 19th century bronze copy of the Renaissance statue of Mercury, messenger of the gods by Giambologna (1529-1608).
To one side of the room you will see Natasha Daintry’s installation ‘Sowing Colour’ (2018) in the form of multiple coloured vessels. Opposite it, kneels ‘a veiled Vestal Virgin’ by Raffaelle Monti (1846-7). The figure holds a flame before her. This was commissioned a mere 6 days after the 6th Duke visited Monti’s studio in Milan. I love sculptures like this – the delicate veil and draping of the garment. Just astonishing! It is so finely carved, the fabric almost appears translucent. I also love the ancient symbols of the the Vestal Virgins and find their role in Ancient Rome so fascinating. Their role of keeping the flame alight for the safety of Rome while considered sacred, could also be considered superstitious in todays age. It does make me wonder if Monti wanted to make the 6th Duke of Devonshire his own immortal Vestal, to keep the prosperity of the Cavendish line prosperous.
*If you haven’t seen the previous posts on Chatsworth House, you can check those out here.
Cheerio for now!