Saturday, February 8, 2014

Grinling Gibbons...

Above: Portrait of Grinling Gibbons by Godfrey Kneller

Grinling Gibbons was a dutch born and trained wood carver hailed as England's best craftsman.

Said to be discovered by Diarist John Evelyn on a walk through Deptford one night, Gibbons came to be introduced to Charles II and eventually became the royal carver.

In his hay-day anyone who was 'anyone' wanted to commission his work for their country houses (a bit like everybody wanting a Capability Brown garden).

His realism was created by carving many motifs out of different pieces of wood and then layering them and joining them together with joints and glue in order to create the most amazingly detailed 3D carvings (usually of lime wood) which left shallow traditionally carved pieces (made from a single piece of (usually) oak) in the shade.

I think his most amazing piece is the Cosimo panel, created as a diplomatic gift from Charles II to Cosimo, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Above: Full Panel
Below: Details

Above: The amazing wooden 'lace'cravat that he made for Horace Walpole, who reportedly greeted visitors to his Strawberry Hill dressed up to the nines wearing it.

Below: Some of the ornate boiserie carving that he did for the Duke of Somerset at Petworth House...

There is a great BBC documentary on Grinling Gibbons from their series Carved with Love. If you can find it it is well worth watching.


  1. I have seen a number of Gibbons carvings before, but they always stun and amaze the viewer each time. Even a person with excellent hand-eye coordination cannot imagine achieving the refined work that went into each panel of work.

    But what a great era for Gribbons to move back to Britain. He knew everyone important to know - royals, noble families, architects etc. And I imagine connections became even more important after the Dutch royals took the throne.

  2. Dear David,
    Like Hels, I have seen a lot of Grinling Gibbons' work and each piece amazes me. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have just a very small piece of work?
    He was a hero to my grandfather who was a master carpenter specialized in Jacobean and Stuart restoration work.
    That lace cravat is, I believe, at the V&A which I intend to visit when we are in London next week…
    Bye for now,

  3. Thank you This very interesting. Love the work of Grinling Gibbons


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