Carved with Love - The Genius of British Woodwork: The Glorious Grinling Gibbons
The second programme celebrates Grinling Gibbons, the genius who transformed wood into pure art at the end of the seventeenth century.
The film begins in the Netherlands, where Gibbons was born to English parents, and explores his training in Amsterdam under the tutelage of the most famous sculptors of the day, the Quellin family. These early experiences had lasting impact on the fine quality of Gibbons’ woodcarving, as well as the realism of the imagery he carved throughout his career, which included highly detailed renderings of musical instruments, cherubs and flowers.
Following Gibbons to London, the film shows how he sought to make his fortune, while the city battled to rebuild itself after the Great Fire. Although, at first, he languished in relative obscurity, carving decorations for ships in Deptford, Gibbons’ skilful handling of limewood, a lighter, crisper alternative to oak, was revolutionary in late seventeenth-century England. Key projects, like the Cosimo Panel and the Carved Room at Petworth House, showcase how he invested woodcarving with fluency and breathtaking realism. The film also explains how Gibbons’ weathered the political uncertainty of the late Stuart period, producing high-profile royal commissions for a quick succession of monarchs, including the Modena Panel for the Catholic James II and, a few years later, the King’s Apartments at Hampton Court Palace for the man who deposed him, the Protestant William III.
Contributors include David Esterly, Jenny Uglow and James Campbell, alongside V&A curators and contemporary practitioners in wood.