News. Crowning glory
2nd of May, 2019
With the celebrated Adam brothers completing work on Ayrshire’s Dumfries House back in 1759, it’s little surprise that within its four walls lie a number of enchanting historic tales. One of the key draws for the many visitors who pass through each year is its vast collection of storied furniture, with its collection by acclaimed artisan Thomas Chippendale particularly prominent. However, a glance upwards reveals further beauty in the form of several striking Murano glass chandeliers.
Stemming from the Venetian island of the same name, the Murano method of glassmaking was developed in the Middle Ages and has barely changed since, characterised by highly decorative styles and the addition of elements such as copper, cobalt and manganese for added sparkle. Typically, classic Murano chandeliers are richly coloured and feature festive design elements – something that can certainly be said for the chandelier found in the Blue Drawing Room. Dating back to about 1760, it is believed to have been brought to the house by the 4th Marquess of Bute in 1909 whereupon it was electrified, with Dumfries House one of the first properties in mainland Scotland to have electricity at that time.
Elsewhere, the rococo charm of the Pink Dining Room is crowned by its Murano glass chandelier – a fittingly beautiful design for one of HRH Prince Charles’s favourite rooms. Weighing 35 kilograms and consisting of 18 arms, the chandelier features scrolled branches and a series of beautifully ornate Murano glass flowers, including tulips, carnations, orchids, camellias and roses – making it hard to believe that in 2007 it was found in pieces in the Dumfries House basement.
Since this surprising discovery, the historical piece has been lovingly brought back to life by Kentish chandelier manufacturer and glass restorer Wilkinson Ltd. “This beautiful antique chandelier had been looked after but just needed some TLC to get it back to its former glory,” says director Jodie Wilkinson. “A few elements needed either restoring or replica pieces made for parts that were broken beyond repair or missing.”
One of the major challenges for Jodie and her team was in producing replacement parts for a 250-year-old chandelier. “The Pink Dining room chandelier had a broken receiver bowl that had many small coloured leaves and flowers that were wired onto the Venetian bowl,” she says. “Unwiring all of the leaves and flowers and rewiring in the same format on the replica bowl was a time-consuming and fiddly process. Wherever possible we tried to conserve the original pieces for each of the chandeliers. I think we were successful in supplying good replica pieces as well – to look at the chandeliers now you would not be able to easily tell, if at all, the pieces that are original and replacements.”
Today the chandelier’s 18 candles are lit for special occasions during candle-lit Christmas tours and – thanks to a sensitive restoration job – will continue to burn bright for many years to come.
Words: Ben Olsen
Images: Simon Brown, Christies