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Notes and background reading for lecture Grinling Gibbons - Carver to the Crown by Caroline Knight


Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) was born in Rotterdam to English parents, and came to England around 1670, having been trained as a woodcarver. His earliest work was carving relief panels with religious scenes, then he developed a virtuoso style of limewood woodcarving, suitable for overmantels and decorative work, which particularly suited the panelled Baroque interiors of late seventeenth century England. With their festoons of fruit and flowers, fish and game, his carvings embellished the interiors of royal palaces such as Windsor Castle, Hampton Court, and Kensington Palace. Other commissions followed, for carvings in country houses such as Burghley, Petworth and Belton. His work was also commissioned for public buildings and parish churches, as well as for the newly rebuilt St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

Less well known are his works in marble, and the lecture will also consider the imposing church monuments he produced, such as that of the 1st Duke of Chandos at Little Stanmore in Middlesex, and the 1st Duke of Beaufort in the parish church at Badminton. In 1685 he went into partnership with Arnold Quellin from the Netherlands, when he was commissioned to make carvings for the interior if the new Roman Catholic chapel at Whitehall Palace. This was short-lived, but various fittings have been reused in other buildings.

He lived in the Covent Garden area of London, and was drawn and painted by three leading artists: Sir John de Medina, Sir Godfrey Kneller, and John Closterman. At his death his collection was sold, some of it being acquired by Sir Robert Walpole, then Prime Minister and rebuilding his country house, Houghton Hall in Norfolk.

Suggested Reading:

David Esterly, Grinling Gibbons & the Art of Carving, London, 1998

(This book came out to accompany the V & A exhibition of 1998-9).

Geoffrey Beard, The Work of Grinling Gibbons, London, 1989

David Green, Grinling Gibbons, his Life as a Carver & Statuary 1648-1721,

London, 1964

H. Avray Tipping, Grinling Gibbons & the Woodwork of his Age, London

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