History

The Octagon Room

The original owner of the house, James Johnston, commissioned architect James Gibbs to create the Baroque Octagon Room in order to entertain on a lavish scale.

The room was probably started in 1718 and completed by 1720. It was served by a kitchen, scullery, laundry and room for fruit, as well as a wine cellar. The room was set apart from the house until the introduction of a link building in 1750.

The interior was painted and gilded with ornate plasterwork by the Swiss stuccatori (plasterers) Artari and Bagutti.

The capriccio (fantasy) scene of classical Roman ruins over the fireplace is a copy of the lost original that was attributed to Giovanni Paolo Panini.

The portrait bust of George I above the reclining female figures and putti (cherubs) resides over female personifications of ancient Rome with a portrait medallion of the Emperor Augustus opposite, heralding a new ‘Augustan age’. Relief profile portraits of the future George II and Queen Caroline (who dined here in 1729) can be seen above the doors either side of the fireplace.

Unknown artist, Octagon Room Interior, undated, pen and ink, Richmond Borough Art Collection

To find out more about the history of Orleans House Gallery and the people who made, lived in and saved it join a free heritage tour.