Politics and Decorative Arts: the Influence of Daniel Marot
From the United Kingdom’s historic Brexit vote to the Presidential inauguration in the United States, discussions of politics seemed unavoidable during our English Design History trip. Many of the curators with whom we met, grappling with Brexit, sought to underscore the significance of the vote and the contributions that immigrants have historically made to British design.
One figure who loomed large in my mind was the architect, designer, and engraver, Daniel Marot (1661-1752), who spent the early part of his career working for Louis XIV in the French Court. Marot was a Huguenot who fled France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. The Edict of Nantes, decreed in 1598, gave French Protestants the freedom to practice their religion without fear of persecution by the Catholic state. Following the revocation of the act, Marot first sought refuge in the Netherlands where he began working for William of Orange, whom he later followed to England after William and Mary were enthroned there.
William of Orange turned to Marot to help design the interiors of Hampton Court Palace, which William hoped would rival Versailles. While the WPAMC Fellows didn’t make it to Versailles to compare the two, we were all very impressed by Hampton Court Palace!
An engraving of a design for a State Bed by Daniel Marot in Second Livre d’Appartements, c. 1702.
A canopy, topped with ostrich feathers, featuring an iteration Marot’s design at Hampton Court Palace.
Marot is often credited with bringing the Baroque style to England and facilitating the acceptance of Chinoiserie. As we moved from the more public area of Hampton Court to the more private, we were able to see Marot’s influence more and more. The first instance that caught my attention was the ostrich feathered canopy that hung above a throne. A 1702 engraving by Marot illustrates a state bed that is similar in its use of feathered finials. Marot’s design is also present in the King’s Great Bedchamber, and elsewhere in the house, where Chinese porcelain vases are displayed on a mantel.
An engraving of a Chinoiserie-style mantelpiece by Daniel Marot in Second Livre d’Appartements, c. 1702.
Though Daniel Marot is perhaps one of the most well-known Huguenots, hundreds of thousands of Huguenots fled France following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, many of whom were highly skilled craftsmen and designers. They may not enjoy the same name recognition as Marot, but they nevertheless were responsible in part for popularizing the Baroque style in England. Evidence of Huguenot craftsmanship is also present in early American decorative arts, where they worked in the furniture trade, among other industries.
During a period in which the Western world is undergoing significant political changes, I can’t help but see Marot’s French designs for an English palace as a visual reminder that politics have profound implications. Though we may think of decorative arts as a field largely removed from politics, Daniel Marot and the Huguenots remind us that design, materials, and craftspeople are inextricably linked with politics.
By Trent Rhodes, WPAMC Class of 2018