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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: September ::
Newly-discovered Ben Jonson-Inigo Jones Masques
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1597  Thursday, 16 September 1999.

From:           Daniel Traister <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Sep 1999 22:31:56 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Newly-discovered Ben Jonson-Inigo Jones Masques

SHAKSPERians might find the following report of some interest:

        Old stagers confound stately home researchers

        Geoffrey Gibbs
        The Guardian [London], Tuesday, September 14, 1999

Researchers looking for material to support an exhibition of 17th
century portraits at one of Britain's leading stately homes have been
stunned to discover a long hidden volume of dramatic works by two of the
most celebrated artistic figures of that age.

The two short plays, or masques, co-written by the dramatist Ben Jonson
and Inigo Jones, the architect and stage designer, were performed at
court for King Charles I almost 370 years ago. They were unearthed by
chance in the archives of Wilton House, ancient seat of the earls of
Pembroke, during research for an exhibition to mark the 400th
anniversary of the birth of the Flemish artist Sir Anthony van Dyck,
nine of whose paintings hang in the Inigo Jones designed property.

Alun Williams, who discovered the hessian bound volume, said experts
from Christies had examined the works. They had confirmed they were
definitely from the period and were probably part of a larger
collection.

"We were surprised and delighted with this extraordinary find," he said
yesterday.

"We had no idea it was there and my heart started thumping when I found
it.

"The manuscripts lay untouched for centuries and we are very excited to
have rediscovered them."

The masques, entitled The Fortunate Isles and Love's Triumph through
Callipolis, were performed at court in 1626 and 1630.

According to notes on the back cover of the second play, the fourth earl
of Pembroke, lord chamberlain to the king and a noted patron of the
arts, was among the players.

Steve Hobbs, who oversees the Wilton House archive at the Wiltshire
county record office in Trowbridge, described the discovery of the two
short plays as significant.

"These are two masques written in contemporary hand in the early 17th
century. The discovery of their authors as Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones is
particularly exciting as Jones was not known as a playwright."

Archivists are particularly pleased at the discovery as much of the
Herbert family's literature was lost in a fire that destroyed large
parts of the interior in 1647.

According to Mr Williams, Inigo Jones spent almost 20 years at Wilton
after being asked to draw up plans to rebuilt the Tudor house in the
Palladian style that he had introduced to England.

The house, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, had long played host to leading
men of letters-Shakespeare among them.

"This must have been a little bit of fun which he and the various
participants enjoyed in their leisure time," said Mr Williams.

They are at present on display at Wilton House as part of the Van Dyck
exhibition. Van Dyck, who was born 400 years ago this year, was court
painter to Charles I who recommended him to the fourth earl.

In his designs for Wilton, Inigo Jones created what is known as the
double cube room-a room 60ft long by 30ft high and 30ft wide- around the
huge Van Dyck canvases.

The nine portraits housed at Wilton include what is thought to be the
largest Van Dyck in existence-a 17ft high portrait of the 4th earl with
his children.
 

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