1698 Leonard Knyff

1698 Leonard Knyff

by Mark Wardell

Engraved by Johannes Kip: The House at Chis Wick in the County of Middlesex, 1698–9

The House at Chis Wick in the County of Middlesex, one of the seats of the Rt. Honble Charles Boyle, Baron Clifforde of Londerburgh and Earle of Burlington …

This is a rare view, created around 1698-99, of the old Chiswick House, a Jacobean mansion purchased by the first Earl of Burlington in 1682. The house is the gabled building in the centre, with the fine new stables as an L-shaped range close by the house, just right of centre. As well as the stables this building included kitchens, bakery, laundry and brewery. The field being harvested at the top left corner is part of the then much more important Sutton Court estate. Burlington bought this in 1727, extending his parkland and giving him control of the stream to create his lake and cascade.* Just peeping in on the right-hand side is Moreton House, which belonged to the neighbour, Sir Stephen Fox. In 1812 the 6th Duke of Devonshire (1790-1858) would buy Moreton House, knock it down and create the Italian garden and conservatory, keeping only the walled garden intact, now the Kitchen Garden behind the Camellia Conservatory.**

The Duke also managed to acquire the piece of church land immediately in front of his house in exchange for what became the Glebe Estate (thanks to the Chiswick Parish Enclosure Act of 1814). This enabled him to re-route the line of what is now Burlington Lane further away from his property; this image shows how the old road ran straight in front of his courtyard. It also shows how the House could be seen from the river across the flat farmland, with fine views of the river from its upper floors, a connection that has been lost by the building of the A316 and the housing developments along the river.

The Palladian Chiswick House, as we know it today, was built in 1726–29 in the middle of the little garden shown to the left of the Jacobean House on this engraving, where four paths quarter the rectangle. The Jacobean House was demolished in 1788, and two wings that had been added to the Palladian villa were removed in 1951 on the grounds that they were not original to the 1729 villa, and that they were riven with woodworm. The stable block shown in this engraving was knocked down by Brentford and Chiswick Borough Council in 1933.

Leonard Knyff or Leendert Knijff (1650–1722) was a Dutch draughtsman and painter, brother of Jacob Knyff. Both brothers moved to London and made their careers there. While Jacob focussed on landscapes and marine scenes, Leonard specialised in bird’s eye views, as though drawn from a balloon many years before this was technically possible. He worked in partnership with Jan (Johannes) Kip (1652/3-–1722), a fellow Dutchman.

Initially their plan had been to create the equivalent of a crowdfunded ‘subscription publishing project’ for which landowners would sign up in advance. For £10 each nobleman would have his estate and coat of arms included, and would eventually get a full set of prints. However, take up was not as speedy as they had hoped, and the commissions dribbled in. Eventually, Britannia Illustrata: Or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces, as Also of the Principal seats of the Nobility and Gentry of Great Britain, Curiously Engraven on 80 Copper Plates, was published in 1708–09, but by then other print-sellers had become involved. Knyff would draw the image, Kip would transfer it to a copper plate by copying it into a mirror image. This plate could then be used to create several hundred copies.

The images were much prized as they revealed the extent and substance of the houses and lands of the patrons in an appealing way. Beyond the well-maintained grounds at Chiswick lie rolling fields and orchards, and a bustling river. Historians also prize these images as they are amongst the earliest and most accurate depictions available.

Acknowledgement: With thanks to Val Bott.

* With many thanks to Val Bott.
** John Harrison, The Palladian Revival: Lord Burlington, His Villa and Garden at Chiswick, Yale University Press, 1994, p.52; Gillian Clegg, Chiswick House and Gardens: A History, McHugh Publications 2011

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