Sir John Vanbrugh: Storyteller in Stone

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726) was by turns a businessman, soldier, playwright, herald and the architect of some of the most important country houses of his era. In this engaging and beautiful book architectural historian Vaughan Hart draws on these diverse interests to examine afresh Vanbrugh's surviving, destroyed and unrealised buildings as well as his designs executed in collaboration with Nicholas Hawksmoor. It was the fate of these buildings to be at first maligned and then misunderstood. Hart outlines the contemporary political and social events which influenced Vanbrugh, and shows how his strikingly original houses such as those at Seaton Delaval and Grimsthorpe can be interpreted through reference to classical mythology, renaissance fortifications and medieval houses. In explaining why Vanbrugh's buildings look the way they do, his novel architectural forms are understood for the first time as expressions of the visual and psychological theories of his friend and fellow Whig, Joseph Addison. Hart also demonstrates that true to the principles of architectural decorum and heraldry, Vanbrugh attempted to celebrate the character and achievements of his patrons through these forms and their ornament. New interpretations are offered of two of Vanbrugh's most famous works, Castle Howard and Blenheim. As a dramatist it was Vanbrugh's declared intention for those visiting Blenheim to read the Duke of Marlborough's story through the form and iconography of the house, and in consequence Vanbrugh emerges here as an accomplished storyteller in stone.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon, U. K.
PublisherYale University Press for The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
Number of pages288
ISBN (Print)9780300119299
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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