Author(s): Mikhail Dedinkin
Two albums of drawings by Capability Brown's draughtsman, John Spyers, were recently discovered in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg and are here reproduced in their entirety. They are considered to be one of the most complete visual records of an historic landscape ever captured before photography. Purchased by Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, in the early 1780s, they lay forgotten for over 200 years. The 149 drawings mainly depict Hampton Court Palace and its surrounding parks in the years when Capability Brown was Chief Gardener there (1764-83), appointed by George III. It has been suggested that Catherine used the albums as her inspiration for the landscaping of her new English Garden at Peterhof, outside St Petersburg.
Mikhail Dedinkin is deputy head of the Department of Western-European Art and curator of Drawings at the State Hermitage Museum, where he has worked for more than 30 years. In 2014 he curated the exhibition Her Imperial Majesty's Hermitage, dedicated to the 250th anniversary of Catherine the Great's museum. Dr David Jacques is a consultant, lecturer and writer on historic landscapes, parks and gardens. He was the first Inspector of Historic Parks and Gardens at English Heritage from 1987 to 1993, and has been advising on the gardens at Hampton Court since being leader of the landscape team that restored the Privy Garden in 1995. He is the author of several publications, including Georgian Gardens: Reign of Nature.