Villa Millbrook art collection in the 1960s

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The drawing room

This article by Robert Innes-Smith was first published in Jersey Life magazine in 1967

Today, when private patronage of the arts on a grand scale is dying, Jersey, with its reasonable fiscal system, is still a haven for the arts and the island contains two of the world's great collections of pictures.

Geoffrey Hart

One of these collections is that amassed by the late Geoffrey Hart, a financier from the mainland. His widow moved to Jersey some years ago and bought Villa Millbrook which admirably suited the splendid collection of pictures and fine furniture and objets d'art. The house is in the Jacobean style and was built for the first Lord Trent, the founder of the Boots empire. It holds a commanding position and has views over the sea.

Each piece of furniture at Villa Millbrook is of the highest quality and the whole effect, far from being museum-like, gives a homely and friendly atmosphere.

This is due not only to the great works of art and magnificent items of furniture themselves. Added to these there is the catalyst of personal taste. Mrs Hart's own personality is used to marshal her possessions so that they make the best of their surroundings, and their surroundings bring out the best in them.

This is an instinct which few people have. Mrs Hart has it and her judgment and unerring eye for detail and the 'rightness' of things makes the house what it is — a stately home and art collection equal to any on the mainland.

As an example of the furniture at Villa Millbrook, there are several fine examples of English and Spanish work of the 16th and 17th centuries, including a fine inlaid table in the entrance hall, which came originally from the vanished palace of Nonsuch. Also at the house is a Louis XVI armchair which formerly belonged to Marie Antoinette.

The Flemish room

Also in the entrance hall, hanging at the bottom of the staircase, is an exceptionally beautiful painting, Girl at the Virginals, by Hendrick Sorgh, a Dutch painter of the 17th century.

Music room

One of the most attractive rooms in the house is the music room, with its chimney of blue-green malachite and pale blue ceiling. In this room hangs a very fine Constable, Lock on the Stour, and an enchanting portrait of a woman by Allan Ramsay. The chimney strikes the keynote of the colour scheme of the room. The ceiling, the intense blues of the Constable and the duck egg blue of the woman's clothes in the Ramsay are echoed in the subtle hues of the carpets.

One of the items of furniture which most catches the eye is a round Empire table inlaid with different marbles and supported by gilded sphinxes.

In this room are also portraits by Romney and Pompeo Battoni. The latter's picture is of a young soldier in the characteristic elegant Battoni stance.

Of great local interest is a competently painted picture by James Carmichael of shipping off the coast of Jersey near St Helier.

It is impossible in a short space to appraise a collection of the extent and importance of that housed at Villa Millbrook. One of its chief attractions is that it is an intensely personal collection which reflects the personalities and good taste of its creators.

Perhaps the most celebrated item in a collection of great works of art is the painting by Joachim Patinir of Virgin and Child in a Landscape. This artist lived in Antwerp and was born in 1490, and his work is rare. This is a particularly fine example of it and the pride of Villa Millbrook, which is specially rich in Dutch pictures.

This is to be found in the Flemish Room, which has all the heavy splendour to match its name. The panelling, the subtle lighting, the magnificent triptych and the Holy statues and other religious pictures all give the room the atmosphere of the drawing room of some Belgian nobleman.

Among the many fine examples of English and Continental furniture in the house is a mahogany marquetry commode dating from the latter part of the 18th century. This is an example of the high perfection reached by craftsmen of that time in England, for this is thought to be the work of George III's cabinet-maker John Cobb.

Though everything at Villa Millbrook is of the highest standard as demanded by the good taste of Mrs Hart, from the chandeliers to the carpets, the real glory of the house is the collection of paintings. As has already been stressed, the overall flavour is of Dutch old masters and one can but mention a few names to give some idea of the importance or the collection:

Adriaan van de Velde, de leem, Seghers, Marc Gheeraerts and Abraham Storck. That ubiquitous and fashionable French portrait painter of the 16th century, Francois Clouet, is represented by a portrait of the Comtesse de Moret and there is also a portrait by Anthonis Mor, whose most famous picture is probably his sour-faced painting of Queen Mary, the half-sister of the first Elizabeth.
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