a sounding line by Edmund de Waal at Chatsworth

It has been a particular pleasure for Joanna to work with the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire on the installation they commissioned from British studio ceramicist Edmund de Waal.

The final work – now on display at Chatsworth – is the culmination of nearly two years’ discussion and decision-making. Entitled ‘a sounding line’, it reflects the connection Edmund felt with the historic porcelain in the State Rooms in the floor above his installation, which is located in the Chapel Passage.

Chatsworth is full of porcelain. Porcelain rests in vitrines and on desks, on mantelpieces and corbels, within fireplaces, on dining tables and stretching up to the ceiling in the porcelain room. There are formal garnitures and groupings, dinner services and wayward accretions, beautiful singletons and impressive masses: porcelain is as much a part of the texture of the place as the pictures and the furniture.

A sounding line came out of conversations with the Duke and Duchess, and the agency of Joanna Bird, to bring an installation of my porcelain into Chatsworth. Installation is ‘art-world speak’ for a sculptural grouping of work: it seemed crucial to find a way of resonating with the historic collections in a strong but sympathetic way.

The Chapel Corridor with its pairing of fireplaces and high corbels- and its softly modulated light- was the setting chosen. I’ve always wanted to make a piece that you walked along, where variations in forms and colours and tones revealed themselves as you moved and this was what I have tried to do. The feeling that I had was one of music echoing through the house- sounding and resounding. So the two mantelpieces and the high corbels have groups of twenty-four vessels that are loose ‘musical’ reflections of each other. The vessels are glazed in a spectrum of different glazes based on the celadon glazes of the Far East. Within the chimneypieces are two groups of very large white and cream-glazed lidded jars with touches of gilding, echoes of the formal 18th century groupings of jars far away in the State Rooms. For I hope that a sounding line acts as a very personal and very particular reflection on Chatsworth’s porcelain.

Edmund de Waal

The installation is made of 52 porcelain vessels in 5 celadon glazes and 14 thrown porcelain vessels in 5 white glazes