A Gothic symbol of welcome, or wealth

Posted by Peter Lindfield on December 17, 2015 in Blog, Peter Lindfield tagged with , , , ,

The pineapple is thought to have been discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 in the Caribbean. In Georgian Britain the fruit was a symbol of wealth — given the expense needed to import or grow it — and the fruit’s distinctive form was placed at the entrances to estates. Its importance as a centrepiece in this regard is ably illustrated by Charles Williams’ The cabinet dinner, or, A political meeting : an illustrious way of enjoying a friend (1804).

Charles Williams' The cabinet dinner, or, A political meeting : an illustrious way of enjoying a friend (1804)

Charles Williams’ The cabinet dinner, or, A political meeting : an illustrious way of enjoying a friend (1804)

Probably the most spectacular, though little known, example of a pineapple’s use to articulate breeding (pedigree), wealth and station, is the Countess of Pomfret’s genealogical and heraldic pedigree, now at the Lewis Walpole Library, and on which I have written a piece that came out in Country Life: ‘A Passion for Gothic’ (18 March, 2015) (https://www.academia.edu/9010068/A_Passion_for_Gothic_Country_Life_18_March_2015_pp._110_11). The Black Letter scrip in this manuscript underscores the Countess’s ancient pedigree, and Horace Walpole thought it better than any other pedigree produced by 1750.

 

Countess of Pomfret's Pedigree, 1750. Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library.

Countess of Pomfret’s Pedigree, 1750. Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library.

 

Title page to the Countess of Pomfret's Pedigree, 1750. Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library.

Title page to the Countess of Pomfret’s Pedigree, 1750. Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library.

 

Architecturally, the most bizarre example of pineapple-based architecture in Georgian Britain is the Dunmore Pineapple, only a short distance from Stirling. Dunmore House no longer stands, however the Pineapple is the architectural centrepiece to the house’s surviving walled garden.

The Dunmore Pineapple, 1761. © Peter N. Lindfield.

The Dunmore Pineapple, 1761. © Peter N. Lindfield.

It was built in 1761 for John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore, however the reason for the Pineapple’s construction has not been traced. In scale it professes the earl’s status and wealth (and would have certainly been a talking point given its visibility from the house). And today one can stay in the pineapple (a Landmark Trust property) for a handsome figure.

 

But what has this got to do with the Gothic imagination? It is certainly an imaginative structure in form and scale. The ground floor is thoroughly Palladian — composed from a Venetian/Palladian window, with an entrance door flanked by paired ionic fluted columns supporting a broken pediment. Once again, this is clearly not Gothic and almost entirely consistent with early Georgian Classical architecture. It is the upper accommodation level of the Pineapple, however, that makes this a Gothic pineapple. Unlike the Classically-styled ground floor, this upper register, just below the pineapple ‘proper’, has Gothic widows with ogee-arch heads that are pure Batty Langley, and mirror the openings on plates such as LVI, Gothick Temple, from his well-known pattern-book Ancient Architecture: Restored and Improved (1741–2). This model is highly appropriate given both structures are of a circular plan.

 

Detail of the Dunmore Pineapple, 1761. © Peter N. Lindfield

Detail of the Dunmore Pineapple, 1761. © Peter N. Lindfield.

 

Batty Langley, Plate LVI, Gothick Temple, from Ancient Architecture, Restored and Improved (1741–2). Author's collection.

Batty Langley, Plate LVI, Gothick Temple, from Ancient Architecture, Restored and Improved (1741–2). Author’s collection.

 

But unlike Langley’s design that features a typical, roughly medieval-style, final, the finials on the Dunmore Pineapple are instead expressed through C- and S-scrollwork, akin rather to contemporary Rococo-Gothic furniture designs promoted by, amongst others, Thomas Chippendale and Ince and Mayhew in their furniture pattern-books: The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director (1754, 1755, 1762) and The Universal System of Household Furniture (1762) respectively.

Thomas Chippendale, Design for a Gothick Cloths Chest. © www.metmuseum.org.

Thomas Chippendale, Design for a Gothick Cloths Chest. © www.metmuseum.org.

 

Thomas Chippendale, Pier Glass Designs. © www.metmuseum.org.

Thomas Chippendale, Pier Glass Frames. © www.metmuseum.org.

 

The Dunmore Pineapple, thus, is an expression of fashionable Gothic design from the early 1760s. It is a highly catholic combination of architectural styles, nevertheless, and it is representative of mid-Georgian fashions for this reason in particular, which were criticised broadly:

 

FROM a thousand instances of our imitative inclinations I shall select one or two, which have been, and still are notorious and general. A few years ago everything was Gothic; our houses, our beds, our book-cases, and our couches, were all copied from some parts or other of our old cathedrals. The Grecian architecture […] which was taught by nature and polished by the graces, was totally neglected. (H.S. 1752: It Is a Great Abuse of Language. The World 12, p. 68).

 

This combination of styles was also represented and poked fun at in S. Hooper’s A common council man of Candlestick Ward and his wife on a visit to Mr. Deputy at his modern built villa near Clapham (1771). The Dunmore Pineapple, consequently, is a ‘North British’ expression of fashionable London design 430 miles removed from the metropolis.

 

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S. Hooper’s A common council man of Candlestick Ward and his wife on a visit to Mr. Deputy at his modern built villa near Clapham (1771). Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library.

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