Thursday, April 25, 2013

Rosings Estate in "Pride and Prejudice" (2005): The Verrio Heaven Room in Burghley House

One of the loveliest little movies in the last few years was the Kiera Knightley adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (2005).  You really can’t go wrong with the Jane Austen masterpiece, and I felt this particular adaptation was very successful in conveying the true feeling of the novel itself.
Pride and Prejudice (2005) 
The film also contained some magnificent filming locations by using some of the finest houses in Britain (and this was all pre-Downton Abbey).  I was perhaps most impressed by the filming location of the residence of the snobbish Lady Catharine de Bourgh, the fictional Rosings estate. I haven’t time enough to describe the plot of the entire Pride and Prejudice, but Lady Catharine serves as a stereotypical snobbish remnant of the ancien regime- extraordinarily rich, arrogant to the point of open rudeness, and staunchly remaining in her social positions and beliefs. At one point, Lizzy Bennett visits Lady Catharine at her estate and is treated in quite a cavalier fashion by the domineering mistress of Rosings. Meanwhile, her best friend and her husband, the foolish Mr. Collins, remain in awe of the so-called “greatness” of Lady Catharine.

Judi Dench as Lady Catharine
The scene introducing Lady Catharine (Judi Dench) is made much more magnificent by the location. Enter, Lizzy and company into the grand “parlor” of Rosings- a huge room, decorated incredibly in Baroque classical style. Amidst this awe-inspiring art is the similarly awe-inspiring Lady Catharine- cold and conceited as usual- receives them with the manner of one who knows they are better they everyone else- even if this may not be so.

This magnificent room is all too fitting of Rosings and Lady Catharine. Beautifully decorated to the point of extravagance- which is basically the point of all Baroque art. The grandness of the room is supposed to befit the so-called grandness of Lady Catharine. Whether it does, is the opinion of the viewer.

What really is impressive and grand is the fact that this room is no set at all. It actually exists in the magnificently preserved Elizabethan estate, Burghley House. In the 17th century, Burghley’s masters were quite wealthy and wished to decorate their drafty rooms into a magnificent receiving room in the newest style- at the time, Baroque with a dash of classical appreciation thanks to the contemporary popularity of the “Grand Tour” of Italy at this time. The 5th Earl spent a fortune restoring his drafty home, and in particular spent much time in this gallery, hiring the esteemed Italian Baroque artist Antonio Verrio. Verrio, mainly obscure today, was of some prominence in Britain during the 17th Century because he is credited with bringing Baroque mural painting into Britain.
The Heaven Room at Burghley 
Perhaps Verrio’s greatest masterpiece appears in Burghley. It is none as, humbly enough, the Heaven Room. The entire room is painted with grand scenes from mythology. The Heaven Room is, by all regards magnificent. Verrio worked mainly by himself on this giant project, achieving a sense of proportion, grandness and drama that is so distinctly Baroque. The room remained unfinished for some years, until finally another artist was hired to finish Verrio’s work. The end result is a living piece of art.

As I have stated over and over again, the setting of a scene is so incredibly important because of the mood it can convey. In this case, the Heaven Room in Burghley House conveys a feeling of grandness, of awe, or drama that befits the scene in Pride and Prejudice. More importantly, it remains one of the finest and largest examples of Baroque murals in England.
Pride and Prejudice (2005)
As an aside, if you care for such artwork, I know of an excellent blog that only covers British estates and artwork. It’s called Period Pieces and Portraitureand the work on that blog is exceptionally well done and well researched. I encourage you to check it out!

Also- I’m really looking for a plot-relevant piece that I can use in the near future. I have a lot of projects brewing, but I’m trying to find a really emotional piece to use for some characterization. Keep an eye out! 


  1. One British country house I HAVE been to- the murals are even more amazing in person! Although I'm not too sure about its suitability as the de Bourgh home in Pride and Prejudice.. all the nudity would have surely shocked Lady Catherine!

    1. You're probably right! I'm so jealous that you've actually been there. I'm sure its impressive beyond words. Someday... hopefully... :)


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