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Title: A history of the Leicester Family, Tabley House, and its collection of paintings
Author: Chun, Dongho
ISNI:       0000 0004 2687 4822
Awarding Body: The University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2000
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Sir John Fleming Leicester, first Baron de Tabley (1762-1827), was widely acclaimed in the early nineteenth century as the first serious patron and collector of contemporary British art. In the words of his obituary in the Gentleman's Magazine, he was "the greatest patron of the native school of painting that our Island ever possessed". As Colonel of the Cheshire Yeomanry, he was also a member of one of the most ancient landed families in Cheshire. This thesis is a case study concerned with the Leicesters' patronage of the visual arts with a particular emphasis on Sir John Fleming Leicester. However, the thesis does not attempt to catalogue the Tabley collection in detail (this has been carried out by other scholars), nor is it aimed to eulogise the family and individual paintings in the collection. Instead, based on unpublished archival materials as well as on published sources, the present study examines the cultural politics of the family's patronage and collecting in order to locate the reception of the visual arts in an internalised historical context. In other words, the purpose of the thesis is to critically investigate how the visual arts were socially consumed by a traditional aristocratic landed family in relation firstly to the externally conditioned historical contingencies- social, political, and economic- and secondly to the question of human interventions- individual desires and dynastic ambitions. In a word, this thesis argues for the indissolubility of specific historical circumstances and private human aspirations in appreciating the polemics of art patronage and collecting. Structurally, the thesis is divided into six chapters. The first chapter chronicles the family history of the Leicesters down to Francis Leicester, who was the last Leicester in the direct male line. A substantial use of probate inventories is made to illustrate the ways in which the collection of pictures was mobilised to display the power, status, and wealth of the Leicesters. The second chapter interrogates Tabley House both as an architectural entity and a symbolic power house within its eighteenth-century context. Contemporary images depicting Tabley are analysed with a view to uncovering ideological dimensions, personal and social, of seemingly topographical paintings. Chapter three surveys the life of Sir John Leicester, the key figure in this thesis. However, it is not my intention to present a colourful biography of him nor is the chapter intended to delve into his psyche per se. Rather, it is an exploration of representations of a man drawn from material remnants he left behind, especially his amateur paintings. The fourth chapter investigates Sir John Leicester's patronage and collection of British art. Starting with an examination of Sir John's scrapbooks, the cultural politics of collecting is critically interrogated in this chapter. Chapter five further examines what it meant to support British art in public and how such altruistic commitments were inseparably interlocked with Sir John's private agenda. The polemics of his gallery of British art in London and his role in supporting art institutions are fully explored. The sixth and final chapter relates the saga of the sale of Sir John's collection after his death and charts concisely the fate of the family and the house up to 1990.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available