Springtime at The Vyne

Yesterday we took a trip to The Vyne in Hampshire. Standing on medieval foundations it’s only a fragment of a much larger Tudor house, which was created in the early 16th century from a number of free-standing medieval buildings by William, 1st Lord Sandys - Henry VIII’s Lord Chamberlain, who died in 1540. Here’s one of the busts of Henry VIII we saw in the Oak Gallery.

After the Sandys family was finally broken by the Civil War in 1653 the estate was sold to Chaloner Chute, the Speaker of the House of Commons, who, with the help of Inigo Jones modernised the house and added the classical portico – the first of its kind on an English country house. When we entered the Tomb Chamber we came across this monument to the speaker reclining on a woven straw mattress looking serene as the afternoon sunlight filters through the window.

There was a lot to see inside the house. Here is the chapel, a scene in the Saloon, and a marble bust of Mary Queen of Scots.

The whole house is crammed full of beautiful things and each room tells its own story - from the extensive Library to the Tapestry Room, Print Room (decorated from floor to ceiling in scores of fascinating prints), and on to the Drawing Rooms, Dining Parlour and much more.
Later we walked around the grounds. Someone on the estate obviously enjoys making large images out of felled tree trunks. Here are a couple:

...and a reclining swan near to a ‘talking tree’.

This summer–house was built in the mid-seventeenth century.

Yesterday happened to herald the start of a Medieval Weekend at The Vyne, which delighted the many children we saw dressed up as tiny Princesses, sturdy Knights, and miniature Robin Hoods. Talking of Robin Hood, one of the many activities spread around the lawns was the chance to indulge in a bit of archery. I’m sure it was meant for children, but as I’m a big kid at heart anyway I decided to have a go. Not having pulled a bow since my schooldays very many moons ago my score was quite low, but there was a vicious cross-wind blowing at the time. (Incidentally, soon after I joined our school archery club I invented a machine to ensure that all the arrows I made were of exactly the same weight, and even dressed in Lincoln Green for weekends away with my fellow archers!) So here’s my pathetic score.

Last Tuesday I was asked to give a one-hour talk to the residents of Thamesfield – a local retirement home in Henley. The request was triggered by the recent article in the Henley Standard about my Spitfire painting. It seems there’s a thriving interest in art at Thamesfield. I took along a few miniatures, a large drawing I made of Rolf Harris, and a few portraits of local people that some of the residents would probably know. The talk seemed to go well – only a couple of people fell asleep – but they started off that way I think! Here’s a not very flattering photograph taken during the afternoon.

I hope the photograph taken by the professional photographers in Henley’s Old Fire Station Gallery on Thursday is better as I have been chosen to be one of the ‘100 Faces of Henley’. This charitable project will culminate in an exhibition of the ‘Faces’ in September accompanied by a book, I believe.
I’m currently working on a miniature commission of a little girl and hope to finish it by about Tuesday. After that I intend to indulge myself in a large portrait of the chimney sweep. It’ll probably become my biggest project of the year. Here, however, is a sepia miniature portrait I completed last week of my second cousin Jane. (Last year I made a similar painting of her but at a normal size).