This summer I volunteered with the Collections department at Chatsworth and worked alongside members of staff on a project cataloguing part of the Works on Paper collection. As a student at the Courtauld Institute of Art, the opportunity to work with a whole host of fascinating and varied works of art was really exciting and during my time with Collections we found some unexpected and interesting pieces.

For the project I made a record of the works, which included watercolours, drawings and photographs, recording information such as artist, date, size, medium and provenance. I also photographed each item to attach to the record as a visual aid.

A number of pieces I catalogued over the summer were particularly memorable. Here are some examples of a few of the works that I found particularly interesting:

This portrait of the 10th Duke of Devonshire when he was Marquis of Hartington is a lovely example of John Singer Sargent’s work in charcoal. The engaging portrait shows the Duke at nineteen, just a year before he would serve in the First World War. Other works by Sargent can be seen at Chatsworth, including the group portrait of ‘The Acheson Sisters’.

There were also many drawings, prints and watercolours of landscapes, including this watercolour, Boats and a Barge on an Estuary, attributed to Peter de Wint. The simple sketch-like depiction of a calm scene on the water was one of my favourites. The faint suggestion of light, fluffy clouds in the background adds to the tranquil look of the landscape.

Some of the works I catalogued went back as far as the 18th Century. Some surprising and unexpected subjects were hiding in store; this interesting large-scale ink drawing of a gorge with a bridge and a ferry was one such piece. Figures are standing at either side of the gorge pulling a small boat across the water using ropes. This was an intriguing subject to produce on such a large scale and one that I did not necessarily expect to encounter amidst other typical landscape drawings.

The collections at Chatsworth are very diverse and this project gave me the opportunity to handle and study a wealth of artworks that were certainly beyond what I thought I might see. Helping with this project and working with the Collections department proved to be an invaluable experience.

Polly Atkinson
Third Year History of Art Student at The Courtauld Institute of Art

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