This contrast between the straight lines of the exterior and the curves and detail of the interior is deliberate. The elaborate plasterwork and ceilings, picked out with gold leaf, were designed as a tasteful display of grandeur to showcase the impressive collection of art for which the entire house was built as a backdrop.
The plaster copies of classical statues in the alcoves of the Marble Hall, framed perfectly by Corinthian columns, are a taster of what awaits as you pass into the Hall’s State Rooms.
For the real thing — ancient statues of gods and goddesses plucked from the heart of the old Roman Empire — one must progress to the Statue Gallery. Here, in niches and on wall-mounted pedestals, can be found the most complete private collection of classical statuary in Britain. From Apollo to Thucydides, Julius Caesar to Venus, the great and the gods of Roman and Greek antiquity are here, rivalling the British Museum’s collections in quality, more about antuquity here.
More of Thomas Coke’s remarkable collection, amassed during his Grand Tour, is artfully scattered throughout the rest of Holkham — from the busts above the fireplaces in the North Dining Room and Drawing Room to those over the doors of almost every other room. Ancient busts adorn the bookcases in the three libraries, and, with over 10,000 volumes all gloriously bound in rich leather, as well as hundreds of maps and unbound manuscripts, Holkham is truly a bibliophile’s delight.
Elsewhere, it is the paintings which are perfectly offset by Holkham’s interiors, notably the Reubens and Van Dyck at either end of the S aloon. The eye is drawn to the large canvasses by the curve of the gilded roof, the highest in the house.
The warmth of the original burgundy-coloured wall hangings also brings out the colours in the table-top mosaics. Taken from the Emperor Hadrian’s villa near Trivoli and dated to 123-125 AD, they are housed in elaborate frames designed by William Kent. Another of Hadrian’s mosaics, of a lion fighting a leopard, is set above the fireplace in the Long Library, learn more about European history, find out the greatest French libararies and how you can visit them at this annecy hotels website.
The most impressive paintings can be found in the Landscape Room. Here 22 old masters, including Poussins, Lucatellis and seven by the hugely influential Claude Lorraine, are brilliantly offset in their gold frames against the crimson of the walls. In the South Dining Room are more great canvasses, notably a Gainsborough portrait of Thomas William Coke, owner of Holkham from 1776 to 1842.