Chips Channon is now best remembered for his diaries; but once upon a time he was better known for his 1933 book, The Ludwigs of Bavaria, and for the dining room he created in his London home as a love letter to the jewel in Bavaria’s architectural crown, The Amalienburg, and in particular its hall of mirrors.
The blue and silver dining room at 5 Belgrave Square, with its exquisite verre églomisé table, was renowned as “the loveliest room in all of London,” and it was around this table that the pro-Wallace faction was often to be found during the Abdication Crisis.
Here, we have reached that point in The Ludwigs of Bavaria when Channon finally enters the Amalienburg’s rounded octagonal hall of mirrors. This is not just the soul of the building, he states, it the paragon of the whole eighteenth century.
Against the pale grey-blue background of the walls, and round the shimmering mirrors, is a confusion of cool silver. The ten tall mirrors reflect their own glitter, while above the exquisite doors, silver trees shelter goddesses at play and cupids blowing flutes. There are fiddles and harps, flowing jugs and banners, heaped-up cornucopias, garlands and festoons, while along the blue cornice are emblems of the chase, quivers with silver arrows, stags, nets and fish, boats, hunting horns. Silver vines climb to the sky-like cupola, and Pan hides in the bushes, and nymphs brandish symbols of country pursuits, water, wine and gardening. In the ceiling, flying low, there are pigeons, duck, snipe, a silver hoopoe. There is a cascade’s coolness, and over them all a silver glow lends a veil of light so that there is a feeling of blue infinity, of silver lace spread over a transparent sea, spray splashing on summer water, crystals glistening among aquamarines…
Beyond there is another yellow room with inset pictures of scenes from the chase and birds in silver frames. Lastly a small blue room painted with a rococo pheasant design leads to the white and blue kitchen of Delft tiles. Leaving the pavilion is like finishing a Perrault fairy-tale, and one gazes back at its unreal beauty, classically white, in the Bavarian sunlight.