Restoration Intern Vincenzo Valdrè

29 July 2015

Vincenzo Valdrè worked at Stowe for ten years during which he designed and painted the beautiful State Music Room under the direction of the Marquess of Buckingham for his wife, Lady Mary Nugent’s, birthday.

Its walls recall classical scenes in a playful take on Pompeian paintings but were also said to be modelled on Raphael’s loggias in the Vatican. On one wall, we believe that the music-loving Lady Buckingham herself is painted, receiving a lyre from Apollo, the god of music, in his temple.

Opposite her, we find another romance from Stowe. Many suggest that the featured image depicts Valdrè’s own wife. It is believed that while in Italy he witnessed a wedding in which the bride was jilted at the altar. But, endearing, charismatic and undeniably talented, (and true gentlemanly style) Valdrè stood up and offered to marry the lady himself. He was accepted, to save both their embarrassments perhaps, but also to create this wonderful fairy tale of courage and love, qualities that these beautiful paintings so vividly and effortlessly evince.

Because walls, and this artwork was all painted directly onto the walls, could not physically be sold off, these paintings survived the sales of 1848 and 1922. In 2012 the paintings were painstakingly conserved. This was SHPT’s first major conservation project, which is distinct from restoration in that it aims only to protect something from further harm rather than return it to its original state. Paintings that had suffered more light-damage than others, for example, remain less distinguished and colourful.

This room, which was still in remarkably good condition, remains alive with age and history.