This week, four of the museum’s paintings by the celebrated Tuscan artist, Giovanni Battista Cipriani, will move to a new home at Audley End House.
The four paintings are part of a six-part frieze painted by Cipriani in 1770-1. The paintings were commissioned for the Library at Audley End House, which was remodelled as part of Robert Adam’s renovations for Sir John Griffin Griffin. The museum holds a copy of the receipt given to Griffin by Cipriani, which reads:
“December 31st 1771 / Received of Sir John P. Griffin, hundred and / ten pounds been the remainder of three / hundred and fifteen, which makes the full / price agreed for six frizes that I have / painted by his order for his library / at Audley End / by G. B. Cipriani”
The 1797 inventory for Audley End House mentions the frieze, describing each part as follows:
- A Sacrifice to Jupiter, showing a priest throwing water on the sacred fire, the Sacrificer with the ram intended to be sacrificed, a boy holding a box of incense, another with the musical instrument and several attendants carrying various offerings. This is intended to represent religion.
- Urania with the other Muses asking protection of Minerva. This represents Arts, Sciences and Learning.
- Apollo in his chariot followed by the Hours and preceded by Aurora and Lucifer, an old man Somnus sleeping on the side of Morphus. This is intended to represent Day, Night and Air
- Vulcan with the Cyclops, showing the arms of Aeneas to Venus accompanied by Cupid and the Three Graces. This is intended to represent Fire.
- The Triumph of Neptune and Amphitrite, with Sea Horses, Tritons and Nymphs. This is intended to represent Water.
Cybile accompanied by the Four Seasons, Spring represented by Flora, Summer by Ceres, Autumn by Bacchus and Winter by Saturn, with their proper attributes Centaurs and Satyrs. This is intended to represent Earth.
The frieze was donated to Saffron Walden Museum by Jane, Lady Braybrooke of Audley End House in 1839, after the library had been dismantled and subdivided into a bedroom suite. The books from the library were moved to a newly-designed room on the first floor. In 1997, two of the paintings were loaned to English Heritage for display at Audley End House. Last year it was agreed by the trustees of Saffron Walden Museum Society that the remaining four paintings, which have been on display in the museum’s Ceramics gallery, should also be loaned to English Heritage for display in their original home. They will be redisplayed close to their original locations, in the rooms which formed the Library in the eighteenth century. They will be available to view soon after Audley End House reopens to the public.
Please note that whilst the paintings are being removed from the museum, the Ceramics gallery and the Worlds of Man gallery will be closed for the duration of Thursday 3 March and Friday 4 March 2016. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.