Knyff at Clandon Park

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Leonard Knyff’s bird’s-eye view of Clandon Park was painted in 1708. It shows the Jacobean house that previously stood here, and the surrounding gardens, pleasure grounds and parkland.

The estate

Sir Richard Onslow bought the Clandon estate in 1641 from his neighbour Sir Richard Weston III. The elaborate house and stables had been built in the 16th century and expanded in the 17th century. The gardens were laid out later, probably by Richard’s grandson, the 1st Lord Onslow.

Leonard Knyff

Leonard Knyff – pronounced ka-knife – came to England in 1681, becoming an English citizen in 1694. By 1702 he had finished 69 topographical drawings and paintings of country houses including Hampton Court Castle, all engraved by Johannes Kip. This work introduced him to wealthy house owners who gave him further commissions. Richard, 1st Baron Onslow, asked Knyff to paint the Clandon estate in 1708.

The big picture

This finely detailed painting tells us much about Clandon during the period. You’ll see a grand avenue leads to the house. The oval shape to its right is an orangery at the centre of a wilderness garden; to the left is a key-shaped lake and a scene showing haymaking. West Clandon church is just visible, hidden in a grove of trees.

Formal gardens were planted close to the house with a more elaborate parterre further east. The bowling green, flanked by flower-beds, has a raised terrace with a fountain at one end. Terraces and raised walks were popular; they provided views of the complex garden designs and spectators could watch the bowls.

To the north you can see stables, servants’ quarters and a laundry. The entire pleasure ground was surrounded by parkland grazed by deer and sheep.

An odd perspective?

Clandon appears to have been viewed from above, but there are no hills here and flying definitely wasn't an option. Knyff achieved this effect using one-point perspective. You may notice that most lines run from the bottom of the canvas to meet at a single distant point just above the horizon.

A different view

Clandon looks very different today, although you might still see the tower of West Clandon Church from the window of the Earls of Onslow Room, where the painting now hangs.