Explore Ascott House
Your self-guided tour of Ascott House leads through five ground-floor rooms where you can find our knowledgeable House volunteers to answer your burning questions and point out some of the House’s more hidden features. These delightful spaces are ones you can imagine living in yourself. Filled with the renowned Ascott Collection, they feature everything from 17th-century paintings and 18th-century furniture, to rare Chinese ceramics.
After you enter the house, turn to spot 1606 carved into the beam above the door. It’s thought to be the date of the original farmhouse.
Hand-stencilled wallpaper frames the room; the windows look onto the terraced lawns and a stunning view over Aylesbury Vale. Showpiece artworks include the likes of Gainsborough, Reynolds, and Hogarth in a room adorned with fine English portraiture. A sizeable Stubbs sits above the fireplace, the five brood mares it depicts reflect the Rothschild’s love of horse racing.
Look for the fine Dutch master on the far wall. Floorboards creak as you walk to the fine Dutch master on the far wall. The work by Aelbert Cuyp depicting a river bustling with sailing ships, is thought to date from the 1650s. Ascott displays a wonderful collection of Dutch master paintings including Cuyp's masterpiece 'Dordrecht on Maas' which in its hazy summer light creates the Italianate serenity for which Cuyp's work became famous.
Look out too for the trompe-l'oeil effect on the walls – this ‘trick of the eye’ technique sees clever painting creating the appearance of blue and white Dutch tiles. Not to be missed is the impressive large famille verte Chinese plate from the 1600s, where ladies can be seen playing the traditional Chinese game Pitch-Pot.
In the common room the sun streams in and bay windows look out onto tree-shaded paths. Look up to find your favourite quote among the mottoes carved beneath the ceiling. It might be “no game is lost until it’s won”. “Nothing venture, nothing have”. Or “when the wine is in the wit is out”. Perhaps the most striking painting here is JMW Turner’s Cicero at his Villa (1832), which depicts the Roman politician surveying his hillside estate.
Ascott also showcases an impressive collection of fahua ware. The work is best seen on the wine jars and on the large dragon temple vase. A central piece in the bay window dates back to 600AD and echoes a bygone era in Chinese burial tradition.
Also look out for the Del Sarto paintings (Mary and Child and St John the Baptist) that sit alongside and as a solo painting in the room.
With its light wood panelling and comfy armchairs, Ascott’s Library is another room you can really imagine relaxing in yourself. As well as shelf after shelf of beautifully bound books, you’ll also spot Gainsborough’s romantic portrait of Lady Mary Bruce. Look out too for the Tang Dynasty Mingqi ‘Spirit good’ figure of a dancing girl that dates to around 600AD.
The Library’s “room of knowledge theme” is underlined by the reduction of The Thinker by Rodin and a marble statuette of Voltaire, the French writer, philosopher and advocate of freedom of thought and expression – his volume of books is on the shelves.
A secret door, backed by dummy book spines, leads to the Library Passage. It’s lined with ceramics ranging from burial pottery from the Han (206 BC–220 AD) and Tang (618–07 AD) dynasties, to the vases from the 17th–18th century of the Qing dynasty.
Glass vitrines are filled with showstopping pieces of historically important objects that represent the changing uses of Chinese Porcelain. From Han and Tang Dynasty burial goods to the painted, decorative famille vert ware of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Along the way you’ll encounter tomb guardians and burial equipment, immortals and gods as well as the soft colour palette of the Song Dynasty.