Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Been there too !

When I saw the trailer for the new film "The Duchess" ; where Keira Knightley runs up an imposing marble staircase , it reminded me that on first seeing it Ashley and I recognised that very hall way instantly and squeaked "we've been there !" That's because this scene was filmed at Holkham Hall in Norfolk , and I stayed in nearby Holt just weeks ago !
I love to get in to Norfolk when I can , and just breathe in those wide , flattened landscapes . Holt is such a quaint little market town , and a great base for forays in to the surrounding area ( and here you were thinking I was working for the Bath Tourism Council!!) Holkham Hall ; a grand Georgian house , had been on our "to visit" list for ages .

The photo above shows the deer park of the estate - I forget what the monument commemorated now . The house exterior , it has to be said , is not particularly attention grabbing ; like a lot of Georgian architecture it's slabby and pared down , but the interior! It was eye-popping !

Back to the scene in the trailer.... the hallway is a spectacle of red marble pillars flanking a sweeping , grand staircase . Totally impossible to photograph I'm afraid , but we do like to look up don't we ?

The upper , galleried level is festooned with marble statues .
I've since read that five different locations make up one house in the film , which is about Georgiana , Duchess of Devonshire and her unconventional life .

Amazingly , Holkham Hall is still privately owned by the original family ; the Cokes .... which is pronounced "Cook" , and the three of us were impressed by the fact that photos were even allowed , and also the genuinely friendly guides in each breath-taking room were so eager to offer as much information as anyone could ever ask .
Now , the real reason I've wanted to post this experience up is this - in one of the rooms I was struck by a beautiful painting , of a lovely young lady and her sweet tiny dog .

I asked the cheery guide if he knew what the dog was - no , he didn't , so I gained a childish delight in telling him it is unmistakably a Phalene ; the drop-eared version of a Papillon which was the preferred conformation in the 17th and 18th century . The word means "moth" , as opposed to "Butterfly" in the perked ear shape , like my own little Lilah . These delicate little dogs were also called "Continental Spaniels" , and were the beloved company of aristocrats and royalty : Marie Antoinette was besotted with hers as was Madame de Pompadour !
From the close up detail it is easy to see the "hare-like" feet which characterise the breed .

What a gorgeous little face !
Occasionally Papillons/Phalenes are mis-identified in paintings as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels so I hope that won't ever happen now with this beautiful , serene portrait .
I wonder if there are any Papillons in the film ? I guess I'll just have to go and see it to find out !

Ta Ta For Now ,
Ruth x

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