This new addition to our collection has been purchased with help from the Art Fund. In the heyday of our palaces every audience chamber was fitted-out with a canopy like this one, along with a high state chair, stools and a dais (small platform), collectively known as ‘the state’. These were made for the exclusive use of the monarch to receive important guests. Even when the king or queen was absent you were expected to bow to the empty chair!
The handful of early royal canopies surviving in situ all remain at Hampton Court, and like most other palaces, Kensington had lost its canopies over the centuries to the ravages of light and fashion. When this canopy was offered for sale from a country house we saw a unique opportunity to return this essential piece of ceremonial kit to the palace. It was made by the royal upholsterers and embroiderers for Queen Anne’s ambassador in Holland, Viscount Townshend, who would have hung it with a portrait of the Queen below, at his official residence in the Hague. It shares the Hampton Court pattern damask with King William III’s canopies, but is updated with Anne’s new coat of arms which reflect the union with Scotland in 1707. When Townshend’s appointment ended he took the canopy with him as a ‘perk’ and having no practical use for it, converted it into a four-poster bed, which is how we found it. It is now in the expert hands of our textile conservators who are working to turn back the clock over two hundred years (we have kept the spare pieces of the bed, for those who are interested!)
The conservation team dismantled the throne canopy/bed from its country house location and brought it to our conservation studios, where the long process of documentation and planning has begun.
Sebastian Edwards, Deputy Chief Curator and Head of Collections
Next post – Introducing the Project: A Conservator’s Perspective
Acquired with the assistance of the Art Fund. Conserved with assistance from Lord Barnby’s Foundation, Idlewild trust, The Radcliffe Trust and the Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers alias Wire Workers. We are grateful for their support.