West Dean College in Sussex recently bought the small watercolour from an art dealer for what is described by the college as “a modest amount”. The picture, painted in 1812, reveals how the home then looked following a recent extension by James Wyatt in the early 1800s.
West Dean was the seat of the Peachey Family. James Peachey (c.1732-1808) had been made 1st Lord Selsey by Charles III and shortly after commissioned leading architect of the time Wyatt to extend the West Dean Manor House.
When Peachey died in 1808 and the house was inherited by his son, John Peachey, 2nd Lord Selsey (1749-1816). It was during this period that Marie-Jérôme Eon, Count of Cely (c.1734-1817), painted this watercolour.
Count de Cely was a French Lieutenant General who fought in the French Revolutionary Wars and was awarded the Royal and Military Order of Saint Louis. He was later made Commander of the Legion of Honor, the highest French order of military and civil merit.
Hugh Morrison, head of collections at West Dean, said: “West Dean is very pleased to acquire this painting, which is now the earliest depiction of the house’s interior in the collection.”
The West Dean Estate was bought by William and Evelyn James in 1891, who commissioned architects Ernest George and Harold Peto to refashion the interior in Edwardian style.
The house is the home of the college which is part of The Edward James Foundation, a charitable trust set up by Edward James (1907-1984) who was a patron of surrealist art.
The trust also comprises West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and the West Dean Tapestry.
The college teaches across a range of crafts and conservation studies and is a partner of the University of Sussex.