Corsham Court lozenge

Click here to return to the home page

Return home for Corsham Court contact details, opening times, admission charges and disabled access arrangements.

Please note that photography is not permitted in the house.

Images of the art works at Corsham Court may only be reproduced by prior consent for which a charge will usually be made. Applications should be made in the first instance to either:

(* for black and white transparencies)

A selection of post cards and slides, showing some of the art treasures, is available from the cash desk in the Staterooms. A new full colour guide book and list of the paintings is also available to visitors.

Corsham Court is pleased to acknowledge that the Betrayal of Christ by Sir Anthony Van Dyck is part of Bristol's City Museums and Art Galleries collection. More about Bristol's City museums and galleries is available by clicking here.

Grant assistance, received for the restoration of paintings in the house from the Heritage Conservation Trust of the Historic Houses Association, is gratefully acknowledged. More about the Historic Houses Association is available by clicking here.

The painting "Tobias and the Angel", which normally hangs in the Cabinet Room (Cat. no. 18), is currently on exhibition at the National Gallery in London, and will then be exhibited in Dublin and Edinburgh, returning to Corsham Court in September 2017. We apologise for any disappointment caused to visitors .

Click here to return to the home page

Return home for Corsham Court contact details, opening times, admission charges and disabled access arrangements.

Click here to see enlarged image

The Picture Collection

A Brief History

Sir Paul Methuen (1672 - 1757) was an experienced diplomat. As an adolescent he showed all those characteristics which would prove invaluable at Court and on the political scene. He had mastered French, Italian and Spanish by the age of 15 and, at the age of 20 had entered the diplomatic service shortly to be appointed Minister at Turin. He succeeded his father as Ambassador to Portugal in 1706 and went on to become a Member of Parliament, Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty, Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, Ambassador to Spain and Morocco, Privy Councillor and Principal Secretary of State. His brilliance and tireless dedication to duty made him a celebrated figure.

Sir Paul enjoyed a privileged position and travelled extensively throughout Europe. He came to appreciate the fine paintings of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries and was inspired to piece together his own collection. Italian masters, Flemish, Dutch and French paintings were bought by him (mainly at auction from 1720 onwards) and hung in his house in Grosvenor Street, London.

"The Betrayal of Christ" by Sir Anthony Van Dyck was one Sir Paul's more notable aquisitions and remains on display at the Court today. The painting was accepted by H.M. Government "in lieu in situ" of Estate Duty tax and presented to Bristol's City Museums, Art Galleries, and Archive in 1984. By clicking on the picture above, an enlarged image of this painting can be seen.

Sir Paul died in 1757 and, never having married, had bequeathed all of his treasures to his cousin and godchild, Paul Methuen. It was Paul who acquired Corsham House in 1745 with a view to better displaying the magnificent art collection there. (A history of Corsham Court on this web site explains how Paul Methuen engaged the finest craftsmen of the time to perfect his picture gallery.)

Click here to see enlarged image

A second collection of paintings came to Corsham in 1844 when Frederick Henry Paul Methuen (subsequently second Lord Methuen) married Anna Horatia Caroline Sanford, only daughter of the Rev. John Sanford. Following the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars and while in residence in Florence, the Rev. Sanford was able to buy Italian Masters, whose work was then fashionable. This beautiful painting of three Children (attributed to Sofonisba Anguisciola) is one from the "Sanford" collection and an enlarged image of the portrait can be seen by clicking on the picture of the three infants.

The Collection Today

As wealthy Eighteenth Century landowners, the Methuens were able to supplement their collection of art treasures through deploying the most eminent talents of the day. Furniture by Chippendale and mirrors by Adams were commissioned to adorn the Picture Gallery, itself hung in the finest crimson silk damask. The Gallery today retains its air of Georgian grandeur and appears much as it would have done over two centuries ago. The Sixth Lord Methuen wrote (in 1993):

"The general character not only of Corsham, but other fine houses, is derived from their paintings, furniture and other objects of art and vertu, which reveal the taste and sense of fitness of various ages and together give interest to the whole."

His Lordship was conscious that, through their passion for collecting and diplaying art, his forbears had demonstrated a position of wealth and power and in doing so were symbolic of Georgian aristocracy.

Click here to see enlarged image

Family portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds were commissioned by Paul Methuen and those of his children now hang in the State Dining Room. This painting is of the youngest boy Thomas and shows the family's fondness for animals (mentioned by various commentators visiting the house and confronted by a menagerie of dogs, parrots and other birds). Thomas died young and records show the revolting potions prescribed to abate his ultimately fatal illness. Click on the portrait for an enlarged image of Reynolds' work.

Thomas' illness is closely observed by Reynolds and the boy is portrayed as a weak and pale child. Reynolds himself wrote to the Methuens advising that Thomas was not strong enough to endure further sittings in his London studio.

Over the years, paintings have been sold from the collection. Three pictures were sold from the Picture Gallery to pay for Bellamy's reconstruction and alterations to the Court. The Agricultural Depression of the late Nineteenth Century impacted on Estate rents of the time. Various commitments had to be met and conspired to prompt the sale of a number of very important paintings. Notably, significant sales were forced in 1899 and 1920. Latterly, Field Marshal Third Lord Methuen was appointed Govenor and Commander-in-Chief of Malta. He equipped the island with hospitals and staff for the Dardanelles Venture and it is widely believed that much of this good work was at his own personal expense.

Some of the other more important paintings remaining in the collection at Corsham Court are&;58;

  • Christ in the house of Simon the Pharisee by Carlo Dolci (1616 - 1686)
  • Two coastal scenes by Salvator Rosa (1615 - 1673)
  • The Annunciation by Fra Filippo Lippi (1406/09 - 1469) Click here to see enlarged image
  • An allegorical portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (English School c.1610) - click on it to see an enlarged image.

(This portrait of Elizabeth I illustrates the difficulties she encountered during her troubled reign. For example, conflict between Protestants and Catholics was rife and the re-drafting of the Book of Common Prayer (held in her left hand) was a sensitive issue of the time.)

Click here to return to top of page.

| Home |

| The Court | The Pictures | The Gardens | The Park | Publications |

| The Estate | Garden Diary |