Artefactum 12

Godfrey Evans – Charles Stable

The Old State Drawing Room from Hamilton Palace at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh


This article examines one of the most important rooms from Scotland’s largest and greatest private residence, which has been transferred from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and installed as a focal point in the centre of one of the ten new galleries in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. It combines the results of research on the present Duke of Hamilton’s extensive archives and French and Company’s stock sheets at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles with the careful physical inspection of all the parts of the woodwork and dendrochronological analysis of the two capitals. All this was necessary in order to understand the alterations to the room between 1700 and 1990, and to conserve and display the chimneypiece wall in the National Museum. 


The general historical context


Hamilton Palace (Fig. 1), ten miles south-east of Glasgow, was the principal seat of the Dukes of Hamilton, the premier peers of Scotland.[1] It was the pre-eminent “powerhouse” in Scotland and one of the greatest treasure houses in the world. As a result of three centuries of collecting by the Hamilton family, and particularly the highly effective purchasing of Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton (1767-1852), Hamilton Palace contained hundreds of Old Master and later paintings, the finest collection of 18th-century French furniture assembled after the French Revolution, and an almost unbelievable group of key items relating to the Bonaparte family.[2]

FIGURE 1. Photograph of the north front of Hamilton Palace taken by the Glasgow photographer Thomas Annan in the 1860s or ’70s. National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh.

Between 1844 and 1875, the palace was further enriched with a large part of the famous collector William Beckford’s final collection at Bath, which had been bequeathed to his daughter, Susan, the wife of the 10th Duke, and also by many of the contents of the Hamiltons’ two main London townhouses, in Portman Square and Arlington Street. It was a national tragedy that almost all of the Hamiltons’ best paintings, furniture and decorative art – the Scottish equivalent of the British royal collection – were sold in two series of huge sales in 1882 and 1919, and the palace itself demolished in the 1920s and ’30s.


The background to the transfer of the Old State Drawing Room and its unique value to the Museum

In 1991 the National Museums was able to acquire – by direct transfer – the Old State Drawing Room (Fig. 2) from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.[3] It had been donated by the Hearst Foundation in 1956, but the Met had come to the conclusion that it would never have the space to display the room. The initial plan was to include the Drawing Room in the purpose-built Museum of Scotland, which focuses on items made in Scotland and opened in 1999; however – partly for reasons of height – it could not be accommodated in the architects’ final designs.

FIGURE 2. The Old Drawing Room in Hamilton Palace, photographed by Country Life magazine in 1919. Country Life Picture Archive.

This turned out to be a good thing, because we have now been able to incorporate the main part of the Drawing Room in the first of the four new galleries of European art and design, which opened in the old, 19th-century part of the National Museum in the summer of 2016, and to display the elaborately decorated chimneypiece wall as an impressive backdrop to our superb collection of outstanding British and Continental items from Hamilton Palace (Fig. 3). These include the amazing travelling service of Napoleon’s sister, Princess Pauline Borghese (bequeathed by the princess to the 10th Duke of Hamilton in 1825), and half of the stupendous silver-gilt “tea service” supplied in connection with the Emperor Napoleon’s marriage to the Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria in 1810 (bought from King Charles X of France by the 10th Duke in 1830).[4]

FIGURE 3. The central part of the Art of Living gallery, with the chimneypiece wall of the Drawing Room in the background and the case containing most of the Museums’ outstanding items from Hamilton Palace on the left. National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh.

We are extremely fortunate to have the Old Drawing Room, because it is the ideal Hamilton Palace room for the National Museums of Scotland. It enables us to explain that Hamilton Palace was actually the product of two major building campaigns. Facing south was a baroque palace designed by the leading Scottish architect James Smith (Fig. 4). This had been built during the 1690s by Duchess Anne, the daughter of the 1st Duke of Hamilton, and her husband, the 3rd Duke of Hamilton, to demonstrate the revival of the Hamiltons’ fortunes after the deaths of the 1st and 2nd Dukes in the royalist cause during the Civil War and the confiscation of Hamilton lands and other assets by the Parliamentarians.[5] Constructed on the back of this relatively small edifice, and facing north towards Glasgow, was the much more massive and monumental expression of status, power and wealth shown in Figure 1. Designed in the Neo-Palladian style by the 10th Duke of Hamilton and the Glasgow architect David Hamilton, this northern addition – which was, in reality, a second, larger palace – was erected between about 1824 and 1831.[6]

FIGURE 4. The south front of Hamilton Palace, photographed by Country Life magazine in 1919. Country Life Picture Archive.

The Drawing Room clearly reflects the activities and achievements of both Duchess Anne and the 10th Duke of Hamilton. After her husband’s death in 1694, the formidable Duchess Anne completed the baroque palace and employed William Morgan, a leading London woodcarver who had worked on Christopher Wren’s new Chelsea Hospital and King James II’s Chapel Royal at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, to decorate the interiors. The result – in the novelist Daniel Defoe’s words – were “very noble” apartments, “fit rather for the Court of a Prince than the Palace or House of a Subject”.[7]

Morgan’s bill dated 13 March 1700, totalling £141 11 shillings and 3 pence, records that he produced carvings for the five State Rooms on the first floor of the west wing and an impressive staircase.[8] The Drawing Room was the second of the rooms in the west wing. It came after the Dining Room, which is now on display in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Fig. 5),[9] and was followed by the State Bed Room and two “Closetts” that became known as the First and Second Dressing Rooms. Morgan’s bill (Fig. 6) is fully itemized and remarkably informative. It reveals that in the Drawing Room, for example, the decoration on the architrave cost £2, the overmantel £12, the central oval frame £2 5 shillings, and the two capitals £2. The two “picture frames” above the two doors came to £2 10 shillings and the two “friezes” above the doors themselves a further £1. Small heraldic motifs and other minor work amounted to 12 shillings.

FIGURE 5. The half-panelled Old Dining Room in Hamilton Palace, photographed between the 1882 and 1919 Hamilton Palace sales. National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh.

Thus, we have a very well documented major campaign of baroque wood carving – arguably the most important surviving Scottish project, following the destruction of the Chapel Royal at Holyroodhouse in the 1680s – and are able to relate the various parts in the Drawing Room to Morgan and tell visitors exactly what each cost. This is wonderful; but the National Museums of Scotland needed a Hamilton Palace room that is directly relevant to the items acquired by the 10th Duke of Hamilton, and that can educate and inform visitors, in very simple terms, about his building and collecting and what motivated him.

FIGURE 6. Detail of William Morgan’s bill, dated 13 March 1700, showing his charges for work on the Dining Room and Drawing Room. National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh.

Here, too, the Old Drawing Room could not be better. The direct Hamilton line ended in 1799, and the 10th Duke’s father, a younger son of the 5th Duke of Hamilton and the uncle of the deceased 8th Duke, succeeded to the titles. Over half a century the 10th Duke pietistically restored and improved the palace of his ancestors. He restored all five rooms in the west wing of the baroque palace in connection with his marriage to Susan Euphemia Beckford in 1810;[10] and turned them into a picture gallery-cum-treasury, using his father’s and his own recent additions to the collection in the first two rooms and a mixture of their items and works from the pre-1799 Hamilton collection in the last three rooms.

By 1825 there were no fewer than sixteen pictures in the Old Drawing Room, mostly densely hung on the long wall to the right of the chimneypiece wall, and opposite the two windows.[11] The largest and most significant were Poussin’s late masterpiece The Lamentation over the Dead Christ (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin) and Jacopo and Francesco Bassano’s The Departure of Abraham for Canaan (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa). Other noteworthy paintings included Rubens’s oil sketch for the silver basin decorated with the birth of Venus which was made for King Charles I (National Gallery, London), King Edward VI by William Scrots (British Royal Collection), The Martyrdom of St Sebastian by Guido Reni (Auckland Art Gallery) and Guercino’s Sibyl (National Gallery, London). In addition to the two pietre dure cabinets now in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles,[12] the Drawing Room also contained one of the pair of colossal tables now in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, with huge porphyry slabs bought by the 10th Duke in Rome in 1817.[13] These massive slabs were mounted on gilt-bronze stands specially commissioned from the Parisian founder Jean-François Denière, which cost the staggeringly high sum of 31,400 francs. They were displayed in the Exposition des produits de l’industrie française held at the Louvre in 1823, and Denière was awarded a gold medal for them.

FIGURE 7. The great cantilevered double staircase of black marble from County Galway made by the London Marble and Stone Company between 1840 and 1845. Country Life Picture Archive.

The 10th Duke continued to improve the Old State Rooms and other parts of the old palace over the next twenty years. He salvaged William Morgan’s carved oak staircase from the old north front, and re-used it. More pertinently as far as we are concerned, he also introduced a very large black marble chimneypiece into the Old Drawing Room, as part of his grand scheme, begun around 1809-10, to use black marble in large quantity and scale throughout the palace.[14] This rather brutal expression of wealth and power included the installation of two colossal black marble chimneypieces and a huge black marble door surround in the 120-foot Long Gallery in 1830. It culminated, fifteen years later, in the completion of a cantilevered imperial or double staircase made of hand-polished Irish black marble (Fig. 7), which cost well over £10,000. During this later period, the 10th Duke also placed his carved arms, as a Knight of the Garter (an honour bestowed on him in 1836), in the central oval space in the overmantel of the Old Drawing Room (Fig. 8). The Drawing Room therefore provides exceptional insights into both Duchess Anne and the 10th Duke.

FIGURE 8. The arms of the 10th Duke of Hamilton added to the overmantel after he became a Knight of the Garter in 1836. National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh.

The added bonus: The American dimension


At the same time, the Drawing Room also allows us to draw attention to the fact that most of the principal rooms in Hamilton Palace were exported to the United States and that many of the best Hamilton items are now in American and Canadian collections.[15] This is something that we were keen to focus upon, partly because it is important in itself and partly because it will be of considerable interest to many of our British and overseas visitors.

By great good fortune, the Drawing Room is connected with an American titan and other interesting individuals. Very briefly, Robersons of Knightsbridge, in London, which specialised in selling historic interiors, acquired many rooms from Hamilton Palace at or shortly after the 1919 Hamilton Palace sale.[16] They advertised their purchase of “The Complete Collection of Seventeenth-century, Oak-panelled Rooms, etc.”, from Hamilton Palace in Country Life magazine in January 1920.[17] During January they must have been negotiating to sell some of these interiors to French and Company, the leading firm of antique dealers and interior decorators in New York, because one of French and Company’s stock sheets, dated 6 February 1920, records the payment of $136,940 (equivalent to £41,000) to Robersons for “Rooms” from Hamilton Palace. Later stock sheets reveal that this payment covered all five rooms on the first floor of the west wing, the woodwork and two chimneypieces from the Long Gallery, and William Morgan’s carved staircase balustrading, and that French and Company spent a good deal of money altering and adapting the woodwork and making other changes.[18]

The notorious newspaper proprietor William Randolph Hearst (Fig. 9), who inherited about $11 million from his mother in 1919, bought at least eleven Hamilton Palace rooms – including the Old Drawing Room (which cost him $18,383) and the adjoining last three rooms in the Old State Rooms.[19] It seems most unlikely that Hearst had a clear idea of what he was going to do with these rooms. He was a compulsive, avaricious collector, who spent vast sums on acquiring buildings and parts of buildings, as well as paintings and smaller items, and stockpiled most of his enormous accumulation in warehouses.

FIGURE 9. William Randolph Hearst. National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh.

By the summer of 1937 Hearst had managed to run up debts of $126 million, and was forced to relinquish half of his collection to the Hearst corporation.[20] A welter of sales took place over the next three years. In 1941 Armand Hammer and his brother Victor attempted to sell the bulk of the surrendered collection at Gimbel Brothers department store and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. Over eighty period rooms were on offer,[21] and at least twenty, and possibly as many as thirty, were re-erected on the fifth floor of Gimbels, at 32nd/33rd Street and Broadway, to entice possible purchasers and also provide impressive settings that would help sell smaller items.[22] Eight rooms from Hamilton Palace were definitely available for purchase, and it appears that at least one was installed at Gimbels.[23]

Unfortunately, there were few potential purchasers for such period rooms, mainly because of the changes in taste and the Second World War, and the Old State Drawing Room did not sell. It was returned to the Hearst company and ended up being presented to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1956.


Investigating, understanding and conserving this large artefact


In 1991 the Drawing Room was shipped across the Atlantic and laid out at our Collection Centre and in the Museum itself in order to enable us to understand exactly what had arrived and how the various parts fitted together (Figs. 10 and 11). We quickly realized that many of the pieces of black marble were missing, but these were quickly found in a sub-basement in the Met and reunited with the rest of the chimneypiece.

FIGURES 10 & 11. The chimneypiece wall of the Drawing Room being loosely assembled in the Royal Museum, Edinburgh, shortly after its arrival from New York in the early 1990s. National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh.

Our other main finding at this time was that French and Company had turned the Drawing Room from a half-panelled room into a fully panelled room – just as they had done the Dining Room now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston – using large panels from the Long Gallery of Hamilton Palace, which they had also purchased.[24] Furthermore, there were no windows and many wooden parts of the three less important walls were either missing or damaged. We therefore knew that we would not be in position to conserve and redisplay the entire room without massive “restoration” and almost creating a brand new room; and we eventually reached a consensus that we would only use the principal wall – the chimneypiece wall – in any new exhibition or display.

Preparing the wall for the new Art of Living gallery was a huge time-consuming and expensive undertaking. As we did not know exactly how to assemble and mount the woodwork and the chimneypiece, or how much time would be required to add replacements for missing or defective parts, both the woodwork and the chimneypiece were reconstructed at our Collection Centre and then re-erected in the new Art of Living gallery. This was a wise decision, because, as things transpired, we had only a few weeks in which to finally install the chimneypiece and then the woodwork in the new gallery before a German firm arrived to assemble all the display cases and then quickly move on to construct dozens of other cases in another nine new galleries.

FIGURE 12. The finished trial reconstruction of the woodwork at the National Museums Collection Centre at Granton by Charles Stable, assisted by the independent cabinet-maker Mark Zygadlo. National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh.

The work on the woodwork took over 500 man hours, and included the assistance of an external wood specialist for some of the time (Fig. 12), while the 44 parts of black marble which make up the chimneypiece, and weigh almost a ton, necessitated the employment of a specialist masonry firm for both the trial assemblage at the Collection Centre (Fig. 13) and its actual reconstruction in the gallery itself.

FIGURE 13. The completed trial reconstruction of the chimneypiece by Simon Ebb and Derren Rose from the Skillington Workshop Ltd, Grantham, Lincolnshire. National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh.

The principal findings


The preparation of the room at the Collection Centre allowed us the opportunity to study the construction, condition and surface finishes of the woodwork and the marble chimneypiece, and to link all this close inspection to documentary evidence and to establish a timeline of interventions. Here we would like to focus on three main aspects.

First, we found evidence that some of the damage – such as staining and woodworm (Fig. 14) – were physical indicators that corresponded with documented historical maintenance problems of leaking roofs, water ingress and general dampness reported in the palace This damage had affected hidden areas on the backs of panels and the softwood carcass, and for this particular room we have a fair indication of where the water was coming from. It is almost certainly linked to the neglect of Hamilton Palace by the 8th Duke of Hamilton, who died of alcoholism, without a legitimate male heir, in 1799, at the age of only 43. In 1808, after a new roof had been constructed, the 10th Duke’s Edinburgh lawyer, Alexander Young, described the old palace roof as “ruinous” and threatening “destruction to everything contained in the house”.[25] Young later asserted that, “at top and bottom”, the palace had been “admitting water sufficient to turn a mill wheel” – that it is to say a water mill wheel![26]

FIGURE 14. Physical evidence of water damage, woodworm and rot to the reverse of upper cornice panelling, attributable to documented late-18th/early 19th-century damp problems in Hamilton Palace. National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh.

Secondly, the growth rings and dendrochronological research carried out in Scotland by Dr Coralie Mills and others over the past few decades has revealed that part of one of the capitals (Fig. 15) was made from an oak tree that had ceased to grow in the nearby Cadzow oak forest in 1682/83.[27] This is particularly interesting because there was a shortage of good-quality native oak in Scotland after 1450 and a consequent shift to foreign imports after this date.[28] It seemed likely that the oak would have come from either Scandinavia or the Baltic countries, but part of the capital definitely came from Cadzow forest (for which there is good dendrochronological data from at least 1444 to 1994).

FIGURE 15. The capital (A.1992.107.6) partly made from an oak tree in Cadzow Forest that ceased to grow in the growing season of 1682. National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh.

How we interpret this is a moot point. William Morgan may simply have been exploiting the availability of a small quantity of local oak timber. That said, it seems likely that the 3rd Duke and Duchess Anne decided to reduce the logistical difficulties and the cost of building and fitting out Hamilton Palace by felling oak trees and that Morgan was given some of this timber to carve. Cadzow had been a royal hunting forest for the medieval kings of Scotland, and could be compared to Windsor Great Park in England. This potent parallel was appreciated by the 10th Duke of Hamilton and others in the 19th century. However it is not clear if the 3rd Duke and Duchess Anne were using “royal” oak to reflect their family’s long-standing claim to the throne of Scotland, based on the marriage of the 1st Lord Hamilton to a daughter of King James II of Scotland in the 15th century and the fact that the 2nd Earl of Arran (the head of the Hamilton family in the 16th century) had been heir presumptive and Regent of Scotland during the minority of Mary Queen of Scots in the mid-16th century. More research will have to be undertaken to clarify this intriguing aspect.[29]

Undoubtedly, our most interesting finding is that the black marble chimneypiece was not the one installed by the 10th Duke and removed from Hamilton Palace at the end of 1919 or beginning of 1920. Photographs of the chimneypiece in situ in the palace (Fig. 16) show many small white inclusions in the black marble, whereas the chimneypiece that has come across from America is made of a deep, dense, almost flawless black marble (Fig. 17), which looks like Belgian black marble. Moreover, the carving does not exactly match the carving recorded in the photographs of the Drawing Room taken between 1882 and 1920.

FIGURE 16. The Drawing Room chimneypiece photographed by Country Life magazine in 1919. Country Life Picture Archive.
FIGURE 17. The chimneypiece made by the Miller-Druck Company for French and Company in 1921. National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh.

Fortunately, the records of French and Company, which are now in the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, reveal that French and Company decided that the original chimneypiece was made of insufficiently good black marble and commissioned a replacement copy in superb black marble. French and Company’s stock sheet for the Drawing Room[30] (Fig. 18), which was renamed the Morning Room in the 19th century, records that the firm employed the Miller-Druck Company – a New York masonry company – to work on a “mantel” – in other words a chimneypiece – and paid them the large sum of $1,884 in July 1921. There can be no confusion here with the woodwork, because Peters and Erdman were paid $125 for “rough construction” and $346 for “recasting” the wooden parts that same month.

FIGURE 18. French and Company’s stock sheet recording expenditure on the Drawing Room in 1921 and its sale to William Randolph Hearst in 1924. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.

This was a remarkable intervention. It reflects the need to “improve” an old room for rich American buyers in the early 20th century, and shows the astonishing extent to which French and Company were prepared to alter the Hamilton Palace rooms – and presumably other period rooms. It sharpens one’s appreciation of American practices between the Two World Wars, and the need for very careful visual inspection and thorough archival research. We can only urge curators and conservators to be very cautious and careful when embarking on the acquisition and restoration of “period rooms”!


The way ahead: Future investigation and assessment


Although our work has led to a much clearer understanding of the history of the Old State Drawing Room and the alterations to it over the course of 300 years, there are at least three aspects that require further investigation.

The first is the need to follow up on the discovery that part of one of the capitals was made using wood from the nearby old royal oak forest at Cadzow. This ran counter to the general belief that virtually all the oak used in Scotland after about 1650 would have been imported, rather than native oak. Consequently, we need to find out if the four other Old State Rooms on the first floor of the west wing of Hamilton Palace, and in the very closely related, almost exactly contemporary first room on the first floor of the east wing, also incorporate oak from Cadzow or the surrounding area.

This is not going to be easy because it seems likely that accurate dendrochonological readings will only be possible if we study large, thick pieces of wood. It follows that – in the short term at least – we are probably only going to be able to obtain reliable results from the capitals in the five other rooms and from any of those in the Long Gallery that were not replaced by later copies during the enlargement and refurbishment of Hamilton Palace in the 1820s.

At present only two of all these capitals are accessible: the pair on the chimneypiece wall in the Old State Dining Room, now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The Museum of Fine Arts has only recently completed the installation of this “period room” and will be loath to dismantle the main part, especially as it is now being used as the setting for a major display of outstanding 18th-century English silver.

We had hoped to investigate the two capitals that flanked the carved overmantel in the first room of the east wing (Fig. 19), which is now in Dallas, Texas, but they seem to have become separated from the rest of the woodwork.[31] In years to come, it may be possible to investigate the capitals associated with the Old State Bedroom and the two adjacent closets or dressing rooms that were on the first floor of the west wing, but their whereabouts are unknown and it seems likely that all three have been considerably altered. The bedroom was purchased by William Randolph Hearst in 1924 and might conceivably be in storage with the Hearst Foundation, but the other two rooms, which were also bought by Hearst and were with Madame Jacques Balsam between 1936 and 1957, have since passed to an unknown owner.[32]

FIGURE 19. The first room on the first floor of the east wing, photographed by Country Life magazine in 1919. Country Life Picture Archive.

Having said all this, the most important item that needs to be examined is undoubtedly William Morgan’s carved oak staircase of about 1699-1700. This was removed from its original position prior to the construction of the new north front of Hamilton Palace by the 10th Duke in the 1820s and was subsequently installed in a different location (Fig. 20). It is not clear how much alteration and replacement took place during the 10th Duke’s time, but the carved balustrades and posts should include a large quantity of original, thick oak timbers suitable for dendrochronological assessment. The only problem is that nobody seems to know where the staircase has got to. It was purchased by William Randolph Hearst in 1930, but was apparently sold to an unknown entity on 2 August 1968.[33] Possibly you know where it is, or can help us to locate it?

FIGURE 20. William Morgan’s staircase, photographed in its 19th-century position by Lafayette’s in the late 19th or early 20th century. National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh.

Although it is unlikely that we – or anybody else – will be able to undertake any of this dendrochronological research in the near future, we can all start considering the broader question of the business activities of Charles Lockhart Roberson of Knightsbridge, who apparently bought as many as thirty rooms from Hamilton Palace in November and December 1919 and sold at least six of the main ones to French and Company, in New York, the following year. John Harris has assembled a large amount of information about Roberson and many of the rooms that passed through his hands in Moving Rooms: The Trade in Architectural Salvage, which was published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press in 2007; but Roberson’s archive has not survived, and we need to find out much more about how he bought and sold rooms to French and Company and how and why he ran his own American workshop at 484 Van Alst Avenue on Long Island. It is also important to appreciate that Roberson did not confine his business to old rooms. The clerk’s copy of Christie’s catalogue of the sale of the “Remaining Contents of Hamilton Palace” on 12-14 November 1919, which is preserved in Christie’s archive in London, reveals that – in addition to buying three Hamilton Palace rooms and William Morgan’s carved staircase balustrading at the auction on the last day[34] – Roberson also purchased a wide variety of decorative art items. These included the following lots:


  • 72      A figure of an elephant, carved in black marble, dated 1850 – 10½ in. high. £12   12s
  • 78      A black marble model of a Roman sarcophagus – 4½ in. high; six red marble models of cisterns; a hexagonal lava dish; two yellow marble columns; and four other pieces. £8 8s
  • 145    Four columns, of veined black and white marble – 8 ft. 3 in. high. From the Entrance Hall. £9 19s 6d
  • 185    A Chippendale gilt-wood centre table, elaborately carved with festoons of flowers, grapes and scrollwork, surmounted by a black marble slab – 7 ft. 2 in. long. From the Smoking Room. £220 10s
  • 224    A metal-gilt reading-lamp, with branches for six lights, and shade – 27 in. high. £9 9s
  • 234    A pair of Italian painted wood figures of negroes – 32 in. high. From the First-Floor Landing. £22 1s
  • 237    A pair of Italian carved and painted wood figures of a negro and negress – 6 ft. 5 in. high. From the Corridor, First Floor. £73 10s
  • 244    Two Adam gilt tables, with fluted frieze and legs carved with rosettes, the tops formed of slabs of veined brown marble with white marble borders – 36 in. wide. From the Duchess’s Boudoir. £52 10s
  • 246    A pair of Italian torchères, carved with figures of negroes and painted in colours – 37 in. high. From the Duchess’s Boudoir. £17 17s
  • 259    Eight Georgian gilt side-tables, supported by figures of eagles and surmounted by veined black marble slabs – 5 ft. wide. From the Picture Gallery [i.e. the Long Gallery]. £504
  • 281    A walnut centre-table, carved with foliage, and with mosaic marble top – 4 ft. 7 in. wide. From the Old State Morning Room [i.e. the Old State Drawing Room now in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh]. £50 8s
  • 337    Four Empire torchères, carved with caryatid Egyptian figures, painted black and partly gilt – 6 ft. 5 in. high. From the New State Dining Room. £57 15s
  • 338    A pair of gilt torchères, carved as the stems of palm-trees, supporting Classical vases – 5 ft. high. From the New State Dining Room. £19 19s
  • 349B A pair of gilt semi-circular console-tables, of Adam design with white marble tops – 6 ft. wide. From the Hamilton Library. £105
  • 353    A steel grate; a ditto fender – 5 ft. 3 in. wide; a set of fire-implements; and an iron lamp-stand. From the Ante-Room. £15 15s.
  • 354    A gilt side-table, with frieze of honeysuckle ornament, surmounted by a dove-grey marble slab – 4 ft. 5 in. wide. From the Ante-Room. £15 15s
  • 355    A pair of columns, of veined brown marble – 6 ft. 6 in. high – on square pedestals of black marble. From the Ante-Room. £7 7s
  • 491    A pair of flowered crimson silk damask curtains, with cornice and holders; and a gilt window cornice. From the Princess’s Suite. £25 4s
  • 512    A bedstead with fluted pine posts, red watered silk head and foot, and red and gold brocade curtains, cornice, &c., and bedding. From the New Wing Bedrooms. £39 18s


The National Museums of Scotland would very much like to know how many of these items were acquired by French and Company, and how many remained in Britain? We would also, of course, like to know where they are now? But, more generally, scholars and curators should take note of Roberson’s purchases at the 1919 Hamilton Palace sale and begin to address the questions of what other smaller-scale items did he buy at auctions between about 1910 and 1930?, and who did he sell them to? Research by investigators in a number of different countries is bound to lead to many interesting discoveries and to new insights into the activities of some of the leading antique dealers in Europe and North America.

Finally, the second big surprise of our work on the Old State Drawing Room has been the extent to which French and Company were prepared to alter it. Not only did they change it from a half-panelled into a fully panelled room, but they were prepared to commission a copy of the original black marble chimneypiece, in much better black marble, at very considerable expense. It is evident from their stock sheets and old photographs that French and Company were prepared to strip woodwork completely, double the size of rooms, reduce their height so that they could be installed in American buildings, and even to cannibalise old rooms and create totally different, unrecognisable interiors; but we would like to know if there are other clearly recorded instances of French and Company, or any other comparable firm, commissioning a copy of an original chimneypiece as part of an upgrading? We are inclined to think that this was an exceptional act, which was thought necessary because of the very imperfect black marble of the original chimneypiece, but are there any other directly relevant parallels?

Understanding a very important but much altered room from the Baroque period involves a very lengthy process of combining countless, carefully researched and assembled pieces of specific information with a much broader knowledge of changing tastes and attitudes over the centuries. We want to unite both the “small facts” and the “wider picture” and to ensure that our visitors fully understand and appreciate the remarkable history of the Old State Drawing Room from Scotland greatest but now, sadly, lost palace.



[1] For a wide-ranging, well-illustrated introduction to Hamilton Palace see the Virtual Hamilton Palace Trust’s website at

[2] For further information see the following publications by Godfrey Evans: French Connections: Scotland and the Arts of France (Edinburgh: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1985), pp. 71-93; “The Hamilton Collection and the 10th Duke of Hamilton”, Journal of the Scottish Society for Art History, 8 (2003), pp. 53-72; and “The 11th Duke and Duchess of Hamilton and France”, Journal of the Scottish Society for Art History, 14 (2009-2010), pp. 7-17.

[3] The room was the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s inventory number 56.234.37. We would like to record our thanks to the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for agreeing to transfer the room and also to Mr William Rieder, the curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, who acted as the liason officer and arranged the shipment. We are also most grateful to Justin Hobson of the Country Life Picture Archive for all his help with the 1919 Country Life magazine photographs of Hamilton Palace.

[4] For further information and illustrations see Julia E. Poole, “A Napoleonic Silver-gilt Service by Martin-Guillaume Biennais”, The Burlington Magazine, 119 (1977), pp. 388-96; Evans, French Connections, pp. 88-90, 152-56; and Anne Dion-Tenenbaum, L’orfèvre de Napoléon: Martin-Guillaume Biennais (Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2003), pp. 47-72.

[5] For a discussion of the Duke and Duchess’s “Great Design” see Rosalind K. Marshall, The Days of Duchess Anne: Life in the Household of the Duchess of Hamilton 1656-1716 (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 2000), pp. 189-208.

[6] The new addition is discussed in Godfrey Evans, “The Restoration and Enlargement of Hamilton Palace by the 10th Duke of Hamilton, 1806-32”, Review of Scottish Culture, 21 (2009), pp. 35-66.

[7] Daniel Defoe, A Tour thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain, 3 vols. (London: G. Strahan, W. Mears, R. Francklin, S. Chapman, R. Stagg, and J. Graves, 1724-27), III, 2, p. 92. Defoe visited Hamilton Palace in 1706. He immediately goes on to remark: “the Pictures, the Furniture, and the Decoration of every Thing is not to be describ’d, but by saying that every Thing is exquisitely fine and suitable to the Genius of the great Possessors”.

[8] Hamilton Archive, Lennoxlove, F1/691/2, p. 1.

[9] The Old State Dining Room from Hamilton Palace was acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts in 1924 (inv. no. 24.25) and was installed in 1928. Conserved and cleaned in 1999, it was reinstalled by the specialist interiors firm Traditional Line after the enlargement of the Museum of Fine Arts by Norman Foster and Partners was completed in 2010. We would like to thank Thomas Michie, the Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Art of Europe, for all his assistance with the room at Boston and with the conservation of our Drawing Room.

[10] Payments relating to the restoration and improvement of the Old State Rooms are recorded in the Hamilton Estate papers in Hamilton Town House Library, Hamilton, in Hamilton estate vouchers and accounts, 17-27.

[11] The 10th Duke’s use of the Old State Rooms is discussed in Godfrey Evans, ‘“Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself”: The Dukes of Hamilton and Titian’, in The Reception of Titian in Britain from Reynolds to Ruskin, ed. by Peter Humfrey (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 135-52.

[12] Gillian Wilson and Catherine Hess, Summary Catalogue of European Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), pp. 11-12

[13] For further details and the relationship of the tables to other French commissions see Godfrey Evans, “The 10th Duke of Hamilton’s Commissions to French Founders and Sculptors”, Journal of the Scottish Society for Art History, 18 (2013-2014), pp. 15-27.

[14] The working theory is that the Duke’s original chimneypiece was the “A full Black Marble Chimney Piece with a Black Marble Hearth and Covings for Drawing Room” supplied by David Hamilton and Company in 1810, along with three other black marble chimneypieces and “Six Black Marble Tables for the Gallery”: Hamilton Town House Library, Hamilton, Hamilton estate vouchers and accounts, bundle 20/6, bill from David Hamilton and Company to the Marquis of Douglas and Clydesdale (later the 10th Duke of Hamilton), dated 1 August 1810.

[15] Most of the major American museums and galleries contain items from Hamilton Palace. Indeed, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, could be renamed the Hamilton Palace Museum. Among the outstanding Hamilton works now on display there are the colossal altarpiece of The Madonna and Child with Four Saints by Girolamo dai Libri, the famous pietre dure Farnese Table, the black lacquer secretaire and commode made by Jean-Henri Riesener for Marie-Antoinette’s cabinet intérieur at Versailles, the giltwood lit à la duchesse by Georges Jacob, and the best of the Met’s four tapestries from Hamilton Palace representing scenes from Tasso’s epic poem Gerusalemme Liberata, which were commissioned by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, the Vice-Chancellor of the Papal State, for his official residence, the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome.

[16] In 1927 Charles Roberson claimed that Robersons had “secured no less than 30 panelled rooms” from Hamilton Palace, including “all the great reception rooms and the Grindling Gibbons staircase”: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, departmental file for the Old Dining Room from Hamilton Palace, letter from C.L. Roberson to the curator Edwin Hipkiss, dated 17 March 1927. The clerk’s copy of Christie’s catalogue of the sale of the “Remaining Contents of Hamilton Palace” on 12-14 November 1919, which is preserved in Christie’s archive in London, reveals that – at the sale on 14 November 1919 – Robersons bought the oak panelling and woodwork of the “Music Room” (the first room on the first floor of the east wing), the “Old State Breakfast Room” (the first room on the first floor of the west wing, which was originally the Old State Dining Room), the “Old State Dining Room” (the third room on the first floor of the west wing, which was actually the Old State Bedroom) and William Morgan’s staircase balustrading, lots 558, 561, 564 and 569 respectively, for £945 (lot 558), £7,000 (the sale of lots 561 and 564 together) and £5,040 (lot 569). All the other interiors and chimneypieces went to other bidders. “M Harris” bought four rooms from the Duchess’s suite on the first floor of the east wing of the palace, which were said to comprise the boudoir, bedroom, ante-room and dressing room (lot 557), and the “Morning Room”, the second room on the first floor of the west wing, which was originally the Old State Drawing Room (lot 562), for £367 10s, and £262 10s respectively; while “H. & J. Simmons” secured the oak panelling in the 120-foot-long Picture Gallery for £2,047 10s (lot 559). An added final lot, pasted into the clerk’s copy, consisting of “The Pine Panelling of the five Gallery Bedrooms, carved with Key Pattern and Foliage, and painted”, was sold to “Hester” for £262 10s “privately after the sale”.

[17] See the illustrations of Roberson’s advertisements in John Harris, Moving Rooms: The Trade in Architectural Salvage, New Haven and London, 2007, p. 112.

[18] French and Company’s acquisition from “Roberson Ltd.” of all five rooms on the first floor of the west wing, the oak panelling and two colossal black marble chimneypieces from the “Picture Gallery”, William Morgan’s carved staircase balustrading and other material from Hamilton Palace is recorded, under “Date 4-30-20” (30 April 1920), on stock sheets 23742 – 23755 in the company’s archive at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. However, stock sheet 22156 records that the payment to “Robersons, Ltd.” for “Rooms” from the ”Hamilton Palace Coll.” was made on 6 February 1920 and amounted to $136,940, or £41,000 at a conversion rate of $3.34 to the £. Although they bought all of the above and other items from Robersons, French and Company obtained the four rooms from the “Duchess’s Suite” on the first floor of the east wing, along with six chimneypieces and “steel grates”, from Henry Symons and Company: see stock sheets 23756 – 23763, dated 7-28-20 (28 July 1920). The stock sheets in the French and Company archive reveal that French’s did much more business with Symons than with Robersons, and seem to have entered into a 50:50 partnership with Symons to buy some Hamilton Palace rooms: see stock sheet 7572.99, dated 22 November 1919.

[19] French and Company sold the Old State Drawing Room to William Randolph Hearst on 12 January 1924 for $18,383: Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, French and Company Archive, stock sheet 23743. For more information on the other Hamilton Palace rooms acquired by Hearst see Christopher Maxwell, “Sale of the Century”, Apollo, 181, 627 (January 2015), pp. 52-57.

[20] Ben Proctor, William Randolph Hearst: Final Edition, 1911-1951 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 213.

[21] Hammer Galleries, Art Objects and Furnishings from the William Randolph Hearst Collection (New York: William Bradford Press, 1941), pp. 323-26.

[22] “Hearst Art Sale put off to Feb. 3”, New York Times, 18 January 1941, p. 13. The exact wording of the report is: “Twenty paneled rooms from European castles and palaces are set up and ten others are to be erected”.

[23] Hammer Galleries, op. cit., pp. 323-24. Eight rooms are stated to have come from Hamilton Palace, but the two sets of entries are followed by “A Magnificent George I, Panelled Pine Room, from Palace, English, XVIII Cen.” and “French Princess Room – Carved Antique Oak Woodwork” (the latter with a consecutive reference number), which suggests that they may also have come from Hamilton Palace.

[24] As well as turning the Old State Dining Room and the Old State Drawing Room into fully panelled rooms, French and Company extended the Old State Bed Room (which came after the Drawing Room) from its original length of 22 feet to 54 feet, and fitted double doors on the wall opposite the windows: see Christie, Manson and Woods, Hamilton Palace, Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland: Catalogue of the Remaining Contents of the Palace, including Woodwork and Fittings, 14 November 1919, p. 51, lot 564, and Hammer Galleries, Selected Art Objects from the William Randolph Hearst Collection: Private Auction for the Benefit of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, 25 March 1941 (New York: William Bradford Press, 1941), p. 21, lot 96 (wrongly identified as the Old State Dining Room in both catalogues).

[25] Hamilton Archive, Lennoxlove, bundle 603, Alexander Young to the Marquis of Douglas and Clydesdale (later 10th Duke of Hamilton), dated 13 December 1808.

[26] Hamilton Archive, Lennoxlove, bundle 1706, Alexander Young to Robert Brown (the 10th Duke of Hamilton’s principal factor), dated 1 March 1818.

[27] National Museums Scotland commissioned Dr Coralie Mills to examine the woodwork and to write a report on the oak capitals. Her report, entitled “Dendrochronological analysis of oak capitals from Hamilton Palace”, was submitted in March 2014.

[28] It is worth noting that the last native oak timber identified in any Scottish structure up until now was from trees felled in 1667 and subsequently used in a townhouse in Jedburgh: information from Dr Coralie Mills contained in an email to Charles Stable sent on 2 December 2013.

[29] As a tangential aside, we should mention that X-Ray examination of the construction and analysis of the applied varnish coatings by FTIR determined that the panelling and capitals have not been changed structurally and that the applied coatings are consistently Shellac-based throughout.

[30] Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, French and Company Archive, stock sheet 23743. We are most grateful to Tracey Schuster, Head of Permissions and Photo Archive Services at the Getty Research Institute, for all her help with this stock sheet.

[31] The carving and panelling from this room was subsequently used to decorate a dining room in a private residence in Dallas. It was removed prior to the recent demolition of this house, and the plan is to install it in the final building of a business campus near the downtown district of Dallas.

[32] See French and Company stock sheets 23747, 23746 and 57708, along with French and Company photograph 28427 and endnote 24 above.

[33] Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, French and Company Archive, stock sheet 23744, annotated “Duplicate”.

[34] See note 16 for details about these purchases.



Dr Godfrey Evans is the Principal Curator of European Decorative Arts at the National Museums of Scotland and is currently writing a book on Hamilton Palace and the stellar collections of the Dukes of Hamilton from 1600 to the present.

Charles Stable is an Artefact Conservator based at the National Museums of Scotland's Collection Centre, with twenty-five years of experience working on items in the national collections.

Helsinki • Artefacta • 28 November 2019