A View of Chatsworth House and Park from the south-west with horses and figures in the foreground signed 'P. Tillemans' (lower right) oil on canvas 63.4 x 121.8cm (24 15/16 x 47 15/16in).
PROVENANCE: Probably acquired by William Drury Lowe of Locko Park in the 19th century and thence by descent to the present owner
LITERATURE: J.P. Richter, Catalogue of Pictures at Locko Park, 1901, p. 98, no. 260 J. Harris, The Artist and the Country House (London, 1979), p.233
The present view, which is likely to date from the 1720s, shows the remodelled building as completed for William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire (1640-1707) just before his death and before Sir Jeffrey Wyatville's large North Wing was built for the 'Bachelor' 6th Duke, which now flanks the main entrance to the north. While the south (and east) fronts were built under the order of William Talman and were completed by 1696, the west (and north) fronts are thought to have been the work of Thomas Archer, possibly in collaboration with the Duke himself.
The prominence of the racehorses in the foreground of the present painting reflects the fact that William, 2nd Duke of Devonshire (1672-1729), was celebrated for his stable. The famously never-beaten Flying Childers, for example, was foaled in 1715 and sold as a yearling to the Duke. Indeed, the markings of the two foals depicted respectively third from the left and to the far right suggest the likely paternity of Flying Childers. The social commentator, Lord Hervey, claimed that 'Devonshire was a man who had no uncommon portion of understanding; and as his chief skill lay in painting, medals, and horses, he was more able as a virtuoso than a statesman, and a much better jockey than he was a politician.' It is likely that Tillemans depicted him here to the left of the composition, riding behind the groom who is shown wearing Cavendish livery.
It seems highly likely, therefore, that it was the 2nd Duke who commissioned the present painting. A patron of Tillemans, William was one of the principal art collectors of his day. Indeed, Sir Anthony Blunt described the Devonshire collection's reputation as 'unequalled at the time in England'. Having bought part of Lord Somers's collection at its dispersal in 1717, in 1723 he bought 225 drawings that had belonged to Nicolaes Anthoni Flinck, whose father, Govaert Flinck, had been a pupil of Rembrandt. In addition to Rembrandt, artists represented in the purchase included Rubens, Raphael, Mantegna, Barocci, and Annibale Carracci.
Three other views of Chatsworth are recorded to have been painted by Tillemans, the others being: at Chatsworth; in a Seabright and Bacon sale; and that formerly in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. R. Cavendish, Holker Hall, Cumberland (unsigned, on canvas, 16.3 x 173.1 cm., in sale, Christie's, London, 3 July, 2012, lot 60). Although Harris (op. cit. p. 233) refers to two views of Chatsworth by Tillemans at Locko Park, the 1901 catalogue of the collection only mentions one such work.