The Harvest and the Vintage
William Collins I (London 1721 – Tothill 1793)
Plaster in gilt frame, The Harvest and the Vintage, William Collins (London 1721–1793), c.1765-69. A pair of plaster medallions depicting the harvest and the vintage by William Collins; installed above the west end doors of the Dining Room at Kedleston Hall. NT 109025.1, The Harvest, depicts a pastoral scene with classicised figures harvesting wheat. Sitting beneath an acorn tree at right is a semi-nude woman wearing a wreath of wheat; she is Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture. Ceres gestures with her proper right hand towards the kneeling man before her, who presents a bundle of wheat at her feet with a sickle in his proper right hand. At left a young man standing by the wheat field takes a break from harvest. He stands, looking towards Ceres, holding an amphora in his proper left hand and a sickle in his proper right. A maiden with loose drapery can be seen in the background. With her proper right hand she supports a bundle of wheat atop her head and with her proper left she holds the hand of a putto. NT 109025.2, The Vintage, depicts classical figures harvesting grapes to make wine. At right is Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, wearing a wreath of vine, a chlamys, and holding the thyrsus: a staff topped with a pinecone. With his proper right hand Bacchus holds up a bunch of grapes from the barrel before him. The maiden at left, dressed in billowing drapery, tips more grapes into the barrel from a basket. A woman in the foreground picks grapes from an ancient vine and two putti frolic nearby, eating grapes greedily and gleefully. Mounted on a pedestal in the background is an adaptation of Michelangelo's statue of Bacchus which is in The Bargello, Florence. Bacchus raises a drinking cup with one hand and cradles a baby faun at his side with the other.
William Collins was a sculptor in marble and modeler in plaster renowned for his pastoral, mythological and religious scenes. A pupil of Sir Henry Cheere (1703-81), Collins was one of the founding members of The Society of Artists, Britain's first exhibiting society. In 1763 he set up his own workshop in Westminster which specialised in decorative sculpture for country houses. At Harewood House and Kedleston Hall he worked under Robert Adam, producing for Kedleston five medallions on the North Front portico (c. 1760-63) and this pair of medallions depicting two of the themes he had used on the North Front, the vintage and harvest, reinterpreted for the appropriate setting of a Dining Room. The medallions feature Bacchus, Roman god of wine, and Ceres, Roman goddess of agriculture, who appear in two of the three statues mounted on the pediment of the North Front portico. Ceres also features on the Scarsdale coat of arms. The medallions were commissioned to replace a pair of circular over-door paintings described in the 1758 Kedleston catalogue as the 'Sacrifices to Hygeia'. The paintings can be seen in NT 109448, a 1762 design by Robert Adam for the west end of the Dining Room. A later design (c.1765; NT 109477), which shows two plaster roundels instead of paintings, is inscribed, supposedly by Lord Scarsdale (1726-1804), 'Vintage' and 'Harvest', suggesting that plans were by then afoot to replace the over-door paintings with plaster medallions. William Collins' ink and wash designs for the Dining Room medallions are still held at Kedleston: see NT 109253 for 'The Vintage', much closer to the final design (NT 109025.2), and NT 109254 for 'The Harvest', considerably different from the final medallion (NT 109025.1). A near-identical plaster medallion for 'The Vintage' is held at Sir John Soane's Museum, London, where over 80% of Robert and James Adam's office drawings can be seen (inv.no. H14). Alice Rylance-Watson March 2019
Purchased by Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Baron Scarsdale (1726-1804); identifiable as 'Vintage .. Basso Relievo' and 'Harvest .. Ditto [i.e. Basso Relievo]' in the 'Catalogue of the pictures, statues, &c. at Kedleston', 1769 (p.21); purchased with part of the contents of Kedleston with the aid of the National Heritage Memorial Fund in 1987 when the house and park were given to the National Trust by Francis Curzon, 3rd Viscount Scarsdale (1924-2000).
Kedleston Hall, The Scarsdale Collection (acquired with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and transferred to The National Trust in 1987)
Marks and inscriptions
Makers and roles
William Collins I (London 1721 – Tothill 1793), sculptor