Bolsover Castle

Project: Bolsover Castle (English Heritage)
Location: Derbyshire

Historical Background

Perched on a ridge high above the Vale of Scarsdale, on the site of a medieval fortress, Bolsover Castle is an extraordinary 17th-century aristocratic retreat. The exquisite ‘Little Castle’ has remarkable wall paintings and interiors, and the Riding House is the earliest such building in England to survive complete.

The Project

Zardi & Zardi was commissioned by English Heritage to write a report investigating the feasibility of locating and negotiating the rights to copy a suitable set of tapestries to hang at Bolsover Castle. As part of this extensive project, Zardi & Zardi produced a set of five wall-hangings to cover the two large internal walls in the Star Chamber, the principal room for private entertaining in the Little Castle.

The source material for this project were five of the six striking Mortlake tapestries from the Story of Abraham (c.1658-9) that hang at Blickling Hall, a National Trust property in Norfolk, and consists of The Meeting of Abraham and Melchisidek, The Return of Sarah by the Egyptians, The Expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael, The Parting of Abraham and Lot, Sarah and King Abimelech.

Based on the earlier set commissioned by King Henry VIII that hang in the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace, the tapestries all have intricate borders designed by Francis Cleyn. These depict Putti riding seahorses in the lower corners, while river gods with small wings and fishtails hold jars of water, and martial trophies of bows and arrows fill the upper corners. In the top border a cartouche with a Latin inscription is framed by dog masks, with stone Putti holding bunches of fruit and large scrolling acanthus leaves at either side.