Thomas Hope & the Regency style

Greek krater-style copper vase patinated to imitate bronze, designed by Thomas Hope, England, 1802-03. Museum no. M.33-1983

Greek krater-style copper vase patinated to imitate bronze, designed by Thomas Hope, England, 1802-03. Museum no. M.33-1983


'The Egyptian Room', Plate 8, 'Household Furniture & Interior Decoration', by Thomas Hope, London, UK, 1807. NAL Pressmark 57.Q.1

'The Egyptian Room', Plate 8, 'Household Furniture & Interior Decoration', by Thomas Hope, London, UK, 1807. NAL Pressmark 57.Q.1


'The Statue Gallery', Plate 1, 'Household Furniture & Interior Decoration', by Thomas Hope, London, 1807. NAL Pressmark 57.Q.1

'The Statue Gallery', Plate 1, 'Household Furniture & Interior Decoration', by Thomas Hope, London, 1807. NAL Pressmark 57.Q.1


'The Vase Room', Plate 1, 'Household Furniture & Interior Decoration', by Thomas Hope, London, UK, 1807. NAL Pressmark 57.Q.1

'The Vase Room', Plate 4, 'Household Furniture & Interior Decoration', by Thomas Hope, London, UK, 1807. NAL Pressmark 57.Q.1


'The Aurora Room', Plate 7, 'Household Furniture & Interior Decoration', by Thomas Hope, London, UK, 1807. NAL Pressmark 57.Q.1

'The Aurora Room', Plate 7, 'Household Furniture & Interior Decoration', by Thomas Hope, London, UK, 1807. NAL Pressmark 57.Q.1

Thomas Hope (1769–1831) was influential as a designer, design reformer and collector. A Dutchman, born in Amsterdam, Hope inherited from his family a tradition of collecting as well as vast wealth from the family bank. He was a collector on a grand scale and also an innovative designer of great genius who helped define what we understand as the Regency style.

His extensive Grand Tour travels in Europe, Greece, Turkey and Egypt inspired his interest in antiquities as a source of designs for Regency interiors, furniture and metalwork. He was determined to reform contemporary taste by returning architecture and the arts, including interior design and furniture, to what he conceived as the spirit of classical purity.

In 1799 he bought a house designed by Robert Adam in Duchess Street, Portland Place, London, which he remodelled with a series of themed interiors. The colourful interiors of Duchess Street and of Hope's country house, Deepdene in Surrey, played a unique role in the history of collecting, interior design and display. Both were open to select visitors, but his furniture reached an even wider public through his book, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration. Published in 1807, this book introduced the term 'interior decoration' into the English language.

Hope's influence continued long after his death, partly because of his book. His designs appeared in trade journals and books on interior design, and though the Duchess Street house was demolished in 1851, its contents were taken to The Deepdene where they remained accessible to the public.

In 1917 his collection was dispersed in a great sale at The Deepdene. This led to a renewed interest in Hope's achievement, for objects designed by him were bought by collectors and museum directors in Europe and the USA, so reaching a wider public. Hope's style influenced the Regency Revival of the 1920s and '30s, and even Art Deco design. The novelty and quality of his furniture and interior design have been admired from his death to the present day.

Duchess Street

The interiors created by Hope at his London house in Duchess Street, off Portland Place, were the fullest expression of his mission to transform modern British taste.

He opened the house in 1802, with a grand party attended by the Prince of Wales. To the surprise of his contemporaries, he then issued admission tickets in 1804 to members of the Royal Academy. Subsequently there were numerous other visitors to the house, including leaders of society, artists, scholars and designers.

Hope's startling juxtaposition of styles included Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Indian elements, as well as his own version of the French Empire style. Classical sculpture and vases were displayed alongside modern paintings and sculpture. Most striking of all was the inventive and exotic furniture that Hope designed specifically for the house.

The Egyptian Room
The Egyptian Room was one of the most inventive interiors of its date in Europe. Here Hope displayed his belief in the importance of the ancient Egyptians to the origins of western culture.Mingling genuine pieces of Egyptian sculpture with exotic furniture designed by himself in an Egyptian manner, he also exploited his novel colour theories. The walls and furniture, he explained, were in the 'pale yellow and bluish green of the Egyptian pigments, relieved by masses of black and of gold.'

The Statue Gallery
In the Statue Gallery, Hope placed his finest pieces of antique sculpture. The design was austere, with top-lighting, a coffered ceiling and yellow-painted walls. To avoid 'interfering' with the contour and purity of the white marble statues, Hope left the walls 'perfectly plain'. Although Hope believed that many of the sculptures were Greek, they are now recognised as later Roman versions. In the past, critics decried these works as copies, but today Roman sculpture is seen as having value in its own right, as do the interventions of 18th century restorers. These restorations, seen in many of Hope's antique statues, were the work of dealers catering for the Grand Tour market.

The Vase Room
There were four Vase Rooms at Duchess Street, in which Hope displayed his vast collection of Greek figured vases. The vases, he wrote, 'relate chiefly to the Bacchanalian rites connected with the representations of mystic death and regeneration'. He therefore designed shelves and cabinets decorated with carved heads of the bearded Bacchus. Also, since many vases had been discovered in tombs near Naples, one room had 'recesses, imitating the ancient Columbaria, or receptacles of Cinerary urns'. The exhibition features an interior that evokes the Vase Rooms at Duchess Street. The bronze lamp and mahogany display cupboard in this recreated interior came from the Third Vase Room, where furnishings 'of a quiet hue and of a sepulchral cast' matched the vases.

The Aurora Room
This theatrical interior was one of Hope's most inventive and colourful creations at Duchess Street. Mirrors reflected the central feature - the statue of Aurora, goddess of dawn. The walls were hung with 'satin curtains ... of the fiery hue which fringes the clouds just before sunrise', below 'a ceiling of cooler sky blue.' The colours used in the display are an attempt to reproduce faithfully the original decorative scheme. They are also based on surviving contemporary rooms, including those created by Sir John Soane, who visited Duchess Street in 1802.

The Deepdene

In 1807, the year after his marriage, Hope bought The Deepdene, a large house set in a hilly wooded landscape of great natural beauty near Dorking in Surrey. Just as he had challenged conventional urban taste with his novel interiors at Duchess Street, he now rethought what a modern country house should look like.

The Deepdene was a red-brick Georgian mansion, dominating not adapting to the scenery of the valley in which it stood. Hope remodelled it with a loggia-topped Italianate tower on which to pivot the whole composition and added a wing shooting out at an angle of 45 degrees on a sloping site. This asymmetrical grouping blended the house into its irregular landscape as recommended by recent theorists of the Picturesque.

There is less record of the interiors of The Deepdene than of Duchess Street, but its exteriors were depicted in enchanting watercolours, shown together here for the first time. These watercolours provide a vivid record of The Deepdene's delectable mingling of architecture and nature, of its conservatories, terraces, garden steps and sculpture galleries.

They were commissioned by John Britton for a book on The Deepdene as an expression of Picturesque theory in the country. This was intended to parallel the book that Britton published in 1827 on Sir John Soane's house, which showed the Picturesque in town. Unfortunately, the book on The Deepdene was never completed.

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Thomas Hope: Designer and Patron in Regency London (Hardcover)

Thomas Hope: Designer and Patron in Regency London (Hardcover)

The son of the wealthiest merchant bankers in Europe, Thomas Hope (1769-1831) was a major catalyst in the arts of Regency England. At the age of 18, h…

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Event - The Pharaohs’ Influence on Art & Design

Tue 03 March 2015 14:00

Join V&A guide Margaret Raffin as she delves into European art and design inspired by travellers to Egypt in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the revival of interest after the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.

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