One moment, you’re on bustling York Avenue in Manhattan – and the next, or at least it seems, you’re deep in England’s Peak District touring the venerable Chatsworth House.
Yes, “Treasures of Chatsworth: The Exhibition,” which continues through Sept. 13 at Sotheby’s in Manhattan, is that transportive.
There are tiaras and silver, paintings and sculpture, furniture and period clothing, all presented in a multimedia experience created to inform, entertain – and yes, inspire.
In a setting designed by award-winning Broadway designer David Korins (“Hamilton,” “Dear Evan Hansen”), the fruits of nearly five centuries of collecting by one of England’s most respected noble families, the Cavendish family, come to vivid life.
All of what’s on display has been brought over from England for this limited-run show, many of the items never before seen out of their home country.
From the opening welcome by the current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire through the final gallery, which spotlights the green initiatives of the famed estate, the exhibition is sumptuous, to say the very least.
WAG was lucky enough to have a one-on-one tour with a charming Chatsworth guide named Martin; docents here in New York (first names only, please) are actual Chatsworth employees flown over for two-week stints, a lovely touch as Martin’s incredible knowledge plus his personal connection and observations added quite a bit of depth to the tour.
Everyone will likely find favorites among the 45 masterworks that were chosen to represent the breadth of the Devonshire Collection, considered to be one of the leading collections of art and objects in Europe.
What might surprise some visitors is the range of work, but, we learn, it represents the tastes – and times – of those adding to the holdings. There is art, for example, by Canaletto, Rembrandt van Rijn – and Lucian Freud. And that’s not to mention a Pablo Picasso drawing or Leonardo da Vinci’s “Leda and the Swan.”
There are Regency-era brocade chairs and starkly modern contemporary furniture from Ireland. As expected, there are also garments and jeweled accessories – everything is well explained from creation to materials to use – with ties to royal occasions. There are also ties to the worlds of politics (letters from John F. Kennedy, whose sister Kathleen had married into the Cavendish family) and entertainment (Raffaelle Monti’s “A Veiled Vestal Virgin” was prominent in the 2005 version of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice,” starring Keira Knightley, a photograph adjacent to the sculpture showing a still from the movie).
“Everything at Chatsworth’s got an interesting little story,” Martin, the guide, shared – and that proved more than true.
And while he assured that all was just on loan – “We’d like to keep all of it, thank you very much” – those who can’t get enough of Chatsworth will want to be sure to stop by the galleries adjacent to the “Treasures” exhibition.
That’s where Sotheby’s – which is celebrating its 275thanniversary and has just opened its expanded and reimagined New York galleries – is showcasing “Inspired by Chatsworth,” a private selling exhibition that continues through Sept. 18.
– Mary Shustack