Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Discobolus, Dunscombe, Cumberbatch and Me.

Titian's Venus and Adonis, now at the Getty in California, was apparently at Dunscombe House in 1829. Getty's webpage gives the provenance and indicates the painting was in Yorkshire, but doesn't specifically site Dunscombe. A Mr. Fitzhugh owned it.

Da Vinci's, Titians, Rubens's.

The grand salon at Dunscombe House, in Helmsley, North Yorkshire, apparently, was home to a fine collection of high-end paintings.

This is according to the most precious of  little books I discovered yesterday on archive.org: A Description of Dunscombe Park, Rivalx Abbey and Helmsley Castle, by Kirby Moorside (if that's a name)1829.

The place had great statuary, too!

The author goes into great detail describing Discobolus, because Bugs Bunny hadn't been invented yet and no one knew the work.

"The collection contains many genuine antigues, including a Discobolus, which is esteemed, I believe, the first statue in England.

It exhibits (what few statues are able to exhibit) on every side, the justest proportions and a most pleasing attitude.

But what chiefly attracts the attention is the expression. It is a great beauty in any figure to have an object in view. which always gives an animation to it. I mean not strong degree of action, as in Laocoon, but easy action, in opposition to none at all."

End of art lesson.

Reading this, I wondered if my grandfather, Robert Nixon, a footman in Helmsley in 1911, ever saw this statue or the other paintings?

(A year later he'd be off to Malaya. Family lore has it that 'the Earl's daughter' fell in love with him it was the father who packed him off. My most recently genealogical forays into the Nixon Clan of Helmsely have discovered that a Reverend Robert Forster, father to Robert's future wife, Dorothy, was posted in Helmsley, 1912-14. Robert would return to England in 1916, likely to secure a good British wife, and Dorothy would be off to Malaya in December, 1921 to join him. (During the war she worked as a land girl in forestry, leading the giant Clydesdales through the forest.)

But, soon I discovered that Dunscombe House had a great fire in 1879, in their salon, destroying many paintings.

Discobolus, too, bit the dust, apparently.   "In the destruction of Dunscombe House one of the finest mansions in Yorkshire has been converted into a mass of ruins and paintings worth in some instances 5.000 pounds each have been destroyed.

Rievaulx Abbey in the book. It's even more dilapidated today, but has its many charms. Robert's mother, Mary-Ellen Richardson, was from Rievault, the daughter of a tailor.

I just read on Wikipedia that Dunscombe was used in the Benedict Cumberbath mini-series Parade's End. I have that show on my PVR. I watch it often.

Here's the Helmsley Town Blog. www.helmsley.info  I must go there, maybe before my planned trip to Aix en Provence and Florence.