Chiswick House, Red Velvet Room ceiling J970259
CHISWICK HOUSE, London. Interior. View of the ceiling in the Red Velvet Room.
The ceiling is inset with painted panels attributed to William Kent and has usually been interpreted as an allegory of the Arts. The panels around the edge, for example, incorporate musical instruments, portrait roundels of gods and goddesses (Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Mars, Diana and Apollo) and their appropriate Zodiac signs. In the central panel the messenger god Mercury hovers above a stone arch, below which is a group of figures with further emblems of the visual arts: Architecture is represented by a bare-chested woman with a set square and a cherub with a plan of a Roman temple, Sculpture by a fallen bust of Inigo Jones, and Painting by a woman unveiling a self-portrait of Kent.
The radical alternative interpretation of this symbolism is that it alludes to the ritual of the Royal Arch masonic lodge. Red is the Royal Arch colour, so the red velvet on the walls is symbolic, as is the red drape which is being removed to reveal Kent's portrait in the ceiling. The traditional implements of the architect and sculptor, depicted in the ceiling, are likewise masonic emblems, while the combination of an arch below a rainbow which occurs in the ceiling painting was apparently a common subject of early Royal Arch lodge banners. The suggestion, therefore, is that this room could have been designed by Burlington and Kent - both of whom were certainly freemasons - to function as a masonic meeting place
© Jeremy Young
HMS Ophir BL16520_030
SS OPHIR. Interior of the Saloon from the Gallery. Photographed by Bedford Lemere in 1901 for Anderson Anderson & Co. From 1891 the liner was owned by the Orient Steamship Company and carried passengers to and from Australia via Aden and Colombo. In this year, 1901, she was on temporary service as a royal yacht (HMS Ophir), carrying the future King George V and his wife Mary to open the Australian Federal Parliament in Melbourne. Requisitioned for the war effort in 1915, she was returned to the owners in 1918, but was not refitted and was broken up in 1922
© Historic England
Entrance Hall, Sheffield Town Hall BL13722
Town Hall, Pinstone Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Interior of Sheffield Town Hall showing the entrance hall and grand staircase. The town hall was designed by E. W. Mountford. This photograph shows the grand staircase of the building with decorative planting supplied by the nurseries of Fisher, Son and Sibray, possibly in preparation for the opening of the town hall by Queen Victoria on May 21st 1897. Photographed by Henry Bedford Lemere