William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain by Susan Weber (ed) - review by Christopher Woodward

Christopher Woodward

Putti in His Hands

William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain


Yale University Press 688pp £60

I’ve never forgotten the prince’s cradle I saw in a palace in Rome, carved at the height of the early-18th-century Baroque. It was as deep and as long as a beer barrel sliced in two, its exterior gilded and encrusted with shells. At one end a cherub on tiptoes shhhhed through puffed cheeks; at the other a woman’s breasts rose over the rim, her uplifted arms transforming into wings. Imagine the view of a child, whose world came into focus rocked by candlelight below a ceiling painted with gods and legends. It was a cradle that could so easily topple over.

For a few years in the 18th century Britain was seduced by the Baroque, with Italy’s finest painters and sculptors travelling north to the new rich of a new empire to paint fleshy skies in Grosvenor Square and sculpt demigods in weightless plaster in the cold chapels of country estates.

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RLF - March