The Willing Captive (Detail)
Dicksee, John (1817 - 1905)
1876, oil on canvas, 45.6cm X 38.4cm

Traditionally pearls are used to celebrate thirtieth anniversaries.  At Carrick Hill our 30th anniversary year, in which we celebrate our opening to the public by Queen Elizabeth II on 9 March 1986, has become the Year of the Pearl.

The Carrick Hill collection is rich in pearls - both symbolic and real - that can be found in the depths and calibre of its collections, the fragrances and colours of its gardens, the vistas within its grounds, the house itself.  On certain days the sea shimmers like a pearl beyond Adelaide, and the whole property takes on the glow of this beautiful, timeless gem.

Throughout the year Carrick Hill will highlight the works in its collection through the 'String of Pearls' trail that will introduce the visitor to many hidden gems in the rooms in which Ursula and Bill Hayward lived and entertained.

Within the collection specific works of art feature pearls.  The fragile woman in John Dicksee's The Willing Captive - the title a metaphor for both the bird and the woman featured in the painting - is adorned with a beatiful string of pearls and pearl earrings.  Their colours are reflected in the gorgeous pink shimmer of her dress and add to the sense of delicacy captured in this evocative portrait.

Quite the opposite of Dicksee’s painting is Matthew Smith’s Nude with pearl necklace, painted some sixty years later.  Here the chunky pearls worn by a buxom, unashamed nude are a symbol of strength rather than fragility, of freedom rather than captivity, of modernism rather than conservatism and of overall feminine robustness and confidence.

Pearls are also a symbol of power, and within the Carrick Hill collection none more so than those worn by Queen Henrietta Maria in her 17th century portrait after Anthony van Dyck.  The earrings the Queen wears became known as the Mancini Pearls (which survive today, reset).  These and the other pearls – including the very magnificent drop hanging from her necklace – are featured in numerous official portraits of Queen Henrietta Maria and were part of her personal dowry on her marriage to King Charles I in 1625.