Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Anne Damer at Strawberry Hill House

Posted in Anne Damer and Strawberry Hill House by sheelanagigcomedienne on November 10, 2014

I visited Strawberry Hill House which was Horace Walpole’s ornate Gothic home. I got free entry with my Art Fund pass. It was a wet day. I was reminded that the house was renovated and refurbished by Andrew Graham Dixon’s Gothic series.  I was delighted that there was also an exhibition about Anne Damer and her work. strawb house

Horace Walpole son Of Prime Minster Robert

Horace Walpole son Of Prime Minster Robert

The house and land had been purchased for St Mary’s College in 1923 which then comprised about 250 students. St Mary’s University College has a long and distinguished history as a Catholic college for the education of teachers. The College at Strawberry Hill was officially opened in 1925. The Vincentian Fathers lived in the house until the early 1990s and at one point the Gallery was used as a lecture hall. Over time living accommodation and classrooms have been built and the College buildings enlarged to meet the present day needs of over 3,500 students.

The Gallery all red and gold

The Gallery all red and gold

Created by Horace Walpole in the 18th century, Strawberry Hill is internationally famous as Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic revival architecture. It also inspired the first gothic novel The Castle of Otranto. Inside he created elaborate decorations to house his collection of antiquarian objects.  Strawberry Hill was filled with art, antiquities and curiosities of every period from the ancient to the modern.  Walpole wrote and printed his own catalogue of his collection, A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole in 1774, which he revised and enlarged in 1784. A copy of this was given to us.

Lovely light in the hallway

Lovely light in the hallway

Skylight

Skylight

The castle (or villa) became a tourist attraction in Walpole’s life-time.  He allowed four visitors a day and published rules for their guidance (no children allowed). His house-keeper frequently showed them round while Walpole retired to his cottage in the grounds.  It was also a place for parties and Walpole delighted in entertaining foreign ambassadors and royalty as well as the English aristocracy, several of whom were near neighbours.  ‘Dowagers like flounders inhabit all around,’ he wrote.

In 1811 it passed to his great niece, Elizabeth Waldegrave. In 1839, her grandson, John, married the 18 year old Frances Braham, the daughter of a famous Irish opera singer, but he died within a year of the marriage.She then married his brother, the Seventh Earl Waldegrave, but within seven months of this marriage, he was sent to prison for ‘riotous behaviour’. When he was released he felt bitterly that, as it was the Twickenham Bench which had committed him, he would sell Walpole’s precious collection and let Strawberry Hill rot, as a reproach to the ingratitude of Twickenham. He arranged the Great Sale of 1842 which dispersed Walpole’s Collection. Much of the collection was bought by an American Wilmarth Lewis who gathered together as much Walpoliana as he could find and later bequeathed his collection to Yale University to form the Lewis Walpole Library.lady_waldegrave

Lady Waldegrave went on to marry 4 times and expanded the house and certainly left influence on the house and seemed very suitable person to continue Walpole’s extravagant house and lifestyle continuing the Whig /Liberal connections. Strawberry Hill | About the House | History | LadyWaldegrave  She had an interesting and colourful life. She  was an extraordinary figure in Victorian society. With her origins in the theatre, she was herself an intensely theatrical, larger-than-life individual.Frances, Countess Waldegrave, was an extraordinary figure in Victorian society. With her origins in the theatre, she was herself an intensely theatrical, larger-than-life individual.

 

But it is Anne Seymour Damer that has fascinated me.  She was the only daughter of Henry Seymour Conway (later Field-Marshall) and Lady Caroline Campbell daughter of the 4th Duke of Argyll, Anne Conway spent much of her childhood at Park Place, near Henley-on-Thames. Her parents being abroad for much of the time and Horace her cousin assumed some responsibility for her care as guardian. Anne Damer family

 

Anne Damer and her dog

Anne Damer and her dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thie above family portrait is in the blue bedchamber.

Blue room fireplace

Blue room fireplace

 

 

 

 

Hallway

Hallway

Although attracted to the stage early on, she embarked on a career as a sculptor, encouraged by David Hume, her father’s under-secretary during 1767, and with some instruction from the sculptors Giuseppe Cerracchi and John Bacon.

-Anne_Seymour_Damer by Giuseppe Ceracchi

Anne as Sculptor by Robert Cosway

Anne Conway married, on 14 June 1767, the Hon John Damer, eldest son of Lord Milton. He, in the expectation of inheriting an income of £30,000 a year managed to spend the money in advance, much going on gambling and clothes: he was reputed to pester his wife by appearing in three different new outfits each day. The marriage foundered after seven years and, having squandered his patrimony he terminated his life with a pistol in the Bedford Arms, Covent Gardenin 1776, leaving his widow childless and the proprietor of a wardrobe which fetched no more than £15,000 at auction!

NPG 4469; Elizabeth (nÈe Farren), Countess of Derby by Anne Seymour Damer (nÈe Conway) Mrs Freeman as Isis  Kittens

After the death of her husband she resumed her career in sculpture, encouraged now by Walpole who, in 1780, wrote of her:  “Mrs Damer, daughter of General Conway, has chosen a walk more difficult and far more uncommon than painting. The annals of statuary record few artists of the fair sex, and not one that I recollect of any celebrity. Mrs Damer’s busts from the life are not inferior to the antique; and theirs, we are sure, were not more like. Her shock-dog, large as life, and only not alive, has a looseness and softness in the curls that seemed impossible to terra cotta; it rivals the marble one of Bernini in the royal collection. As the ancients have left us but five animals of equal merit with their human figures, namely, the Barberini goat – the Mattei eagle – the eagle at Strawberry Hill- and Mr Jennings’s, now Mr Duncombe’s dog – the talent of Mrs Damer must appear in the most distinguished light.”

Lord_Nelson_by_Damer
He greatly championed her work. During the period 1784–1818, Damer exhibited 32 works as an honorary exhibitor at the Royal Academy. Her work, primarily busts Neoclassical in style , developed from early wax sculptures to technically complex ones in works in terracotta, bronze and marble. These were largely drawn from friends and colleagues in Whig circles, included Lady Melbourne, Nelson, George111, Mary Berry aithor, Charles James Fox and herself. She executed several actors’ portraits including her friend Sarah Siddon. Another major architectural work was her 10-foot statue of Apollo now destroyed, for the frontage of Drury Lane theatre.

The Three Witches of Macbeth Viscountess Melbourne, Georgina Duchess of Devonshire and Anne Damer by Daniel Gardner

The Three Witches of Macbeth Viscountess Melbourne, Georgina Duchess of Devonshire and Anne Damer by Daniel Gardner

 

Dog     Poodle in terracotta

Her biogrpher Richard Webb: subjected to an arranged marriage, in 1767, to a husband she neither knew nor liked. Without him, she enjoyed the high life and with Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire became one of the It girls of swinging London 1775. 1776 brought abrupt change. As the age of revolution gathered pace, Anne’s husband John Damer went bankrupt, and committed suicide. Anne turned to sculpting. She modelled friends and family, their animals, and public heroes including Admiral Nelson. Living through a further half century of revolution, she mixed sculpture, with acting, writing, and travel. Her friends included leading members of the political, arts and theatre world. Her descriptions of people, travel and life in differing countries of revolutionary Europe are fascinating. Nelson gave her his coat, Napoleon, a diamond encrusted portrait of himself.

 

Mrs Damer biography by Richard Webb

She produced keystone sculptures of Isis and Tamesis for each side of the central arch on the Henley bridge.

Tamesis

Her mother Lady Aylesbury

Her mother Lady Aylesbury

 

The Life of Anne Damer: Portrait of a Regency Artist by Jonathan Gross  https://www.facebook.com/annedamerregency?ref=hl

So, after this exhibition and two biographies the name Anne Damer, sculptor, should become more familiar to a wider audience.

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