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Elegant Company Playing a Game of Lawn Bowls

The oldest painting in the Museum’s collection dates from between 1600 and 1610 and depicts a group of figures playing Troco, a form of lawn bowls, which involved hitting a wooden ball through an iron ring. The painting was acquired as a visual record of the style of gardens at the time when John Tradescant began his career; it is not known whether it was a topographical view – very rare at this time – or a visualisation of an ideal garden.

In the background we see formal gardens of parterres and gravel paths. The gated entrance was another feature of the new properties being built around this period, and the ivy-covered pergola provided a perfect space for a group to enjoy lunch al fresco. Arbours could be found in some of the most renowned gardens of the time, at Nonsuch, at Kenilworth Castle and at Wilton House. Thomas Hill, who wrote one of the earliest treatises on gardens in 1577, tells us that they might be covered with cucumbers, melons and grapevines; others favoured jasmine, roses and honeysuckle. The pergola scene in this painting is based on a contemporary print, suggesting the artist was assembling a picture of what the loveliest garden might look like from existing sources. Examination during conservation work revealed that this painting was once part of a decorative panel for a room, indicating that this may have very well been the case.

Ref: 2008.015




Oil on panel





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