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20th Century Design

Inside the State Music Room at Chatsworth

Formerly called the Second Withdrawing Room or the Green Velvet Room, the changes made in the 1820s by the 6th Duke of Devonshire (1790–1858) caused it to become known as the State Music Room. He inserted the central door on the wall opposite the windows to connect the space to the new gallery behind, improving the communication around the second floor. One of Chatsworth’s most famous works of art, the trompe l’oeil painting of a violin that appears to hang from a real metal peg on the door itself, was placed inside the new opening in 1836. Painted by Jan van der Vaardt (circa 1653–1727), the work survived a disastrous fire that destroyed old Devonshire House, the family’s London residence in Piccadilly.   

The stamped and gilded leather now covering the walls replaced the 18th-century green velvet which originally decorated the room. Different generations of the family have either liked or disliked the leather, and in the early-20th-century, Duchess Evelyn covered it over with green fabric hangings. In the frieze at the top of the wall the 6th Duke had his portrait set in repeating roundels, something he later regretted, considering it to be too vain.   

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Today, the room celebrates the 6th Duke’s influence, bringing together much of the furniture by, or in the manner of, André-Charles Boulle, the French cabinet maker who worked for King Louis XIV. Boulle’s distinctive technique of decorating the surfaces of furniture with veneers of pewter, brass and turtle shell with gilt-bronze mounts enjoyed a revival in the 19th century, when the 6th Duke was redecorating Chatsworth. Some of the pieces have been in the collection since they were made, others he purchased as antiques.   

The majority of the paintings here in the State Music Room belonged to the 3rd Earl of Burlington and formed part of the inheritance of the 5th Duke. To the left of the violin door is the Blind Belisarius Receiving Alms, once believed to be by Anthony van Dyck, but now attributed to Luciano Borzone (1590–1645). To the right of the door is the mythological subject of Acis and Galatea by Luca Giordano (1634–1705).    

Text adapted from Your Guide to Chatsworth (© Chatsworth House Trust 2016)

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