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Donkin's World: Pope's Cabinet

Richard Donkin visits Stourhead, a National Trust property.

We spent a weekend in Cornwall, finding time to visit the Eden Project and the lost gardens of Heligan.

Gill had visited both when we stayed at the Arundal Arms a few years ago and Id been keen to see them ever since. The link between the gardens is Tim Smit who was centrally involved in both projects. I had written about a domed community in my novel and wanted to look at the practical issues involved in constructing large canopies and protected environments. The project does a great job of explaining and displaying the plants we come across every day in our food, medicines and clothing.

We broke up our journeys with visits to National Trust properties. We often do this as an alternative to motorway service stations. One of them, Stourhead, housed the magnificent and recently restored cabinet that once belonged to Pope Sextus V.

There are only one or two such cabinets in existence. A National Trust volunteer told me that a similar one, sold by the Duke of Beaufort for some 10m, was lost in the Momart fire that destroyed part of the Saatchi art collection. I cant find any reference to such a loss among the estimated 60m of artwork destroyed in that fire, so it may be one of those stories that has become mangled in the telling. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/bill-for-momart-art-blaze-surges-to-acircpound60m-552684.html

I took some pictures showing the cabinet and a few details. During the restoration, some 150 drawers were opened, many of which contained miniature portraits. I'd like to see what the experts on the Antiques Roadshow would make of this piece.


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