The Collections of Two Countesses at Burghley
Anne Cavendish (1649-1703), the only daughter of the 3rd Earl and Countess of Devonshire married John, 5th Earl of Exeter (1648-1700), in 1670, bringing a great fortune with her to Burghley and in 1690 the countess received a magnificent bequest from her mother, a Salisbury Cecil, and a noted collector, which was documented as the 1690 Devonshire Schedule.
Hannah Sophia Chambers (1702-1765), daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Chambers, a wealthy Derby foundry owner, married Brownlow, 8th Earl of Exeter (1701-1754), in 1724, also bringing a great fortune to Burghley.
The two countesses were both possessed of a highly independent spirit and had the good fortune to marry enlightened husbands who encouraged, and shared, their love of collecting.
In the 17th Century, previously unknown oriental porcelain and lacquer ware began to arrive from the exotic and mysterious East on Dutch East India trading vessels . Both were eagerly sought after and acquired by Anne and other wealthy collectors. She also purchased many works of art in Italy, whilst on three Grand Tours with her husband.
In 1710, the secret of the manufacture of hard paste porcelain, so long a preserve of the East, was discovered at Meissen. Very different from the oriental wares, in style and design, it encapsulated the age and immediately became extremely popular with wealthy collectors, including Hannah Sophia.
The two countesses displayed a very different taste in their collecting, but their personal tastes very much reflected the tastes of their time and added immeasurably to the great collections at Burghley.