If you ever watched the 2005 movie adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice,” you may recall that when Elizabeth Bennet first visited Mr. Darcy’s house, she was stunned by the massive collection of sculptures and paintings there.
If you have a photographic memory, you may even remember a marble sculpture that catches the attention of Keira Knightly: a veiled Roman priestess guarding a sacred flame.
The original sculpture is “The Veiled Vestal” by Victorian Italian sculptor Raffaele Monti. It is just one treasure from Chatsworth House, the movie setting of Darcy’s estate “Pemberley.”
Chatsworth wasn’t chosen as Pemberley for no reason. The house is home to thousands of masterpieces collected through 16 generations of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, who live in the estate.
This summer, the captivating Roman lady is making her first trip to America. The sculpture is showcased at Sotheby’s “Treasure from Chatsworth” exhibition at its New York galleries, along with 44 other collections from Chatsworth.
“I happen to be lucky enough to see it at Chatsworth house,” said David Korins, the creative director of the show who visited Chatsworth to seek inspiration, “and when I saw it, I said to the Duke, we must have this in America. It is absolutely stunning.
“I don’t understand how a sculptor can have the skill to make a piece of marble feel like a veil over someone’s head,” he said. “I mean, as an artist myself, the level of detail and the intention behind that piece is just so deeply extraordinary to me. Every time I see it, I’m moved by it.”
The Roman priestess is also loved by visitors of Chatsworth, according to Alice Martin, collection manager of Chatsworth. “It makes you stop. It makes you look. And I think that’s what great art does. It’s this sort of translucent beauty of that veil over her face,” she said. “For me, she very much sums up Chatsworth.”
Other notable pieces on display include the renowned “Leda and the Swan” by Leonardo da Vinci, three oil paintings from Rembrandt; as well as furniture, jewelry, and silverware commissioned or acquired by different generations of the Duke and Duchess.
“It [the exhibition] shows how human taste has developed over that time,” Martin said. “It shows what’s been important to people, what moved people.
“I think this sort of artistic expression is always fascinating whatever century it’s from because it speaks to people’s lives, it speaks to their motivations,” she said.
The show is open to the public from June 28 to September 18, at Sotheby’s New York galleries, located at 1334 York Avenue. It is free of charge.