The inspiration behind our festive displays
The decorations in the House this year have been inspired by the art within the collection and Waddesdon's rich history. Keep reading to discover the stories behind each room...
Red Drawing Room
In the Red Drawing Room the Christmas tree is hung with hats, fans, mirrors, and other fashion accessories reflecting the two female portraits by Thomas Gainsborough of Sophia Digby, Lady Sheffield and Frances Browne, Mrs John Douglas hung in the room. Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, Suffolk, a centre of the silk industry, and his father was a textile merchant. The painter paid special attention to the depiction of silk, which he created using rapid brushstrokes.
The theme in the conservatory has been inspired by the zoologist Walter, 2nd Baron Rothschild (1868-1937), who founded the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum at Tring (now part of the Natural History Museum). Walter collected specimens of birds, beetles and butterflies for scientific study and famously once drove a carriage pulled by zebras, to show that they could be trained.
The table in the centre of the room is set with a gilded cornucopia (horn of plenty), overflowing with fruit, inspired by architectural details around the Manor. The mirrored tree installations take their foliage from the surrounding wall panelling (boiseries), which is carved with scrolling acanthus leaves, leafy tendrils and berries.
The panels in the Breakfast Room come from two Parisian houses, the hôtel Dodun and the hôtel d’Espréménil, and date from 1720 to 1730. Originally they would have had a painted finish, which has since been stripped.
The inspiration for this room comes from the Elephant Automaton, a remarkable object made in London by the French craftsman and entrepreneur Hubert Martinet. In 1772, shortly after it was made, it was put on show at a jewellers and described as ‘agreeably pleasant beyond description, and cannot fail of giving satisfaction to the curious spectator’. Admittance cost ‘Two Shillings and Six-pence each person’.
Red Ante Room
The Christmas tree in this room, dressed with candles and loops of glass beads, is inspired by the rock crystal and cut glass drops of the 18th-century chandelier which hangs from the ceiling. The traditional decorations echo Christmas trees of the Victorian era. Many of the customs that make up a modern Christmas, such as decorated trees, Christmas cards, parlour games and turkey dinners, were popularized during the 19th century.
White Drawing Room
The Christmas tree is decorated with unconventional baubles including feather dusters and is crowned with a wicker carpet beater. These represent Alice de Rothschild’s (1847-1922) commitment to cleaning and conservation. Alice owned the Manor between 1898 and 1922, making significant contributions as a collector, keeper and curator. ‘Alice’s Rules’ set the standards maintained today.
Blue Dining Room
The Blue Dining Room is set as an icy winter wonderland, reflecting the blue panelling and white gold gilding. The shimmering steel cutlery chandelier, commissioned for this room in 2003, is a focal point of the room and played a prominent role when designing the festive displays. Created by German lighting designer Ingo Maurer (1939-2019), it is entitled Porca Miseria. The title roughly translates as ‘Oh my Goodness!’ – which is what, according to the designer, a group of Italian visitors said on seeing it for the first time.
Christmas at Waddesdon runs 12 Nov 2022- 2 Jan 2023. Book your tickets here >