This spectacular and impressive view bears witness to the ancient hunting forest of Savernake, home to the Bruce family, whose ancestors had been Hereditary Wardens of the forest since the Norman Conquest. Tottenham Park, which lies at the heart of the Savernake estate, was originally built in 1721 for Charles, Viscount Bruce, by his brother-in-law 'the Earl Architect', Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, following Bruce's marriage to Burlington's sister, Lady Juliana, in 1720. Tottenham was the first major house that Burlington designed, and is one of his most important contributions to architecture, as well as one of the key works in the development of Neo-Palladianism in Britain. More drawings for the plan of Tottenham survive than for any other house by Burlington, except Chiswick, and as such the history of its evolution can be accurately traced.
The frontage of Tottenham was inspired by the famous towering façade of Wilton House, associated with Inigo Jones, whilst the rear portico was based on the central part of the loggia of Queen's House in Greenwich, also designed by Jones. As a whole the original house, with two towers on the entrance front, was modelled on Palladio's Villa Pisani in Bagnolo, but what makes Tottenham special is the upper part of the towers, which are demarcated from the parts below by a full entablature and punctuated by windows. In 1737 Lord Bruce decided to add four pavilions, and a further two towers, enlarging the house, and Burlington was again employed to draw up plans. The present painting, which shows the house in its extended form, must therefore post date 1737, and may well have been commissioned to commemorate Burlington's extension.
The present work is one of three views of Tottenham Park by Rysbrack, the earliest of which predates Burlington's reworking of the site, whilst the other two comprise the present painting and a smaller view showing the Inigo Jones inspired rear portico (sold London, Sotheby's, 8th April 1998, lot 14). The artist had arrived in England in about 1720, and soon entered the circle of Lord Burlington, who commissioned him to paint two sets of views of the gardens at Chiswick between 1728 and 1732, one of which survives intact at Chatsworth. Rysbrack's innovative approach, and his great contribution to English landscape painting, was to concentrate on and magnify segments of the landscape, in order to focus on the activities of the gardeners and household staff, as well as polite society, thus introducing French influences into English painting and adding an element of social discourse. Among Rysbrack's distinguished views of eminent English houses, in 1735 he painted 'An Exact Draught and View of Mr Pope's House at Twickenham', thus becoming one of the first, possibly the first artist to paint Pope's Villa from across the river, placing him at the beginning of a long tradition of artists which leads through Scott and Marlow, ultimately to Turner.
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