The Visualisation

It was a problematic undertaking to visualise the hang of three rooms from a lost palace using only a contemporary inventory and fragments of architectural information. There is no surviving visual evidence as to the rooms' appearance (Whitehall Palace was destroyed by fire in 1698) and their exact size and shape is subject to debate. The surviving plans are for the ground floor and these rooms were on the first floor. As such, the visualisation can only ever be a 'best guess' approximation, and offers an informed reimagining of the hang. It is a tool for understanding the collection more than a full-scale historical reconstruction.

The challenges

The two principal sources for the visualisation are van der Doort's inventory and the work undertaken by historian Dr Simon Thurley, who has published extensively on the architectural history of Whitehall Palace: for instance, his Whitehall Palace: An Architectural History of the Royal Apartments, 1240–1698 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999). As part of his scholarship, Thurley devised conjectural plans of the first floor of the palace where these rooms appeared. These plans have acted as a guide for our reconstruction. In addition, several contemporary plans and views of the palace survive from which certain architectural details, such as the number of windows or placement of chimneys, might be deduced, albeit very roughly.

There were still a number of decisions that had to be taken. Apart from two minor instances, the hang of paintings follows the order in which the paintings appear in the inventory. Although van der Doort helpfully makes a note of when a painting is hung above a door or is double-stacked one on top of the other, he does not note the number or position of doors, windows or fireplaces in these rooms. Similarly, we have no firm evidence as to where van der Doort begins his listings – this had to be guessed, as well as presuming that he then proceeded around the room in a logical, consistent fashion.

As the rooms were on the first floor, all that can be gleaned from the archaeological record is the outline footprint of the building; the existence of dividing walls, passages and doorways is therefore difficult to deduce. Nor is there any evidence about the height of the rooms. This had to be concluded from looking at the height of the largest paintings hanging elsewhere on Whitehall Palace's first floor, such as van Dyck's Charles I and Henrietta Maria with their two eldest children, Prince Charles and Princess Mary which occupied the end of the Long Gallery.

It seems logical that the rooms were a continuous suite, and major features such as window bays and fireplaces would have aligned between the floors. Beyond that, the actual footprint of the rooms was unclear. Knowing van der Doort's measurements for the paintings in these rooms, as well as their order in the inventory, allows for an educated guess to be made of the scale of the rooms. It is worth noting that we have use current dimensions for the artworks rather than those given in the inventory in order not to distort any of the image reproductions – in general, items have grown in size through minor additions made over time.

We went through numerous iterations of the hang and room layout, before arriving at the version presented here, which is currently a 'best fit' between the different sources that we have available to us. 

Dressing the rooms

Architectural details are borrowed piecemeal from contemporary examples ranging from Hampton Court Palace to Ham House in Richmond. The Privy Lodging Rooms we visualise were built in the sixteenth century and would presumably retain their original Tudor architectural features (such as fireplaces) but include additions of early seventeenth-century Stuart interior decoration (for example, curtains). 

In the inventory, van der Doort gives fairly detailed information on the appearance of frames, if they are 'all-over gilded' or 'ebony' for example, which we have tried to reflect. We based our frame designs on contemporary examples still in the collection. Apart from the stone table in the third room, which is mentioned in sources, no furniture is recorded and the rooms are kept bare. This has led to the somewhat unrealistically barren appearance of the rooms but will hopefully focus attention on the arrangements of the paintings themselves.

Explore the rooms