Book Review: Rooms

The photographs in this book are superb. They were all taken over the past 30 or 40 years ‘around the globe’ by Derry Moore (the 12th Earl of Drogheda), and are an evocative and sensitive record of a particular type of interior in the second half of the 20th century. These rooms are romantic, luxurious in an aristocratic way and, in some instances, extremely grand.

It is, however, the personal, even eccentric quality which predominates, captured as it is through a sympathetic lens. This is the world of English and French dukes, Rothschilds and Indian Rajahs, but also of Bloomsburyish Charleston in Sussex and an especially charming, unidentified, non-princely but happily Anglophile Indian interior, which may prove to be several people’s favourite.

It is like being at a series of particularly wonderful house parties as one turns the pages. For these are not anonymous, unpeopled interiors. On the contrary, in each case our host or hostess, and often their families, have also been caught by the camera. Here are legendary figures: Elsie de Wolfe, Rudolf Nureyev, the Baron de Redé, Pauline de Rothschild, the Nizam of Hyderabad presiding in propria persona (as Lord Dudley said of the marble statue of his Newfoundland dog, Bashaw) at home. We feel that we are there too, such is the calm realism of the pictures; we are invited guests rather than readers or viewers.

The book is designed as a work of art in itself, although to some eyes it may appear slightly too designed, if welcoming and courteous. The separate sections, for example, are divided by sheets of brightly coloured paper, the strong tones of which sometimes clash with the mellow harmonies, tones and textures of the architecture recorded in the photographs.

The text, too, is written for the American market the (now dowager) Duchess of Devonshire is referred to as ‘Deborah’, which seems to be neither one thing nor the other. But it is churlish to quibble. The point here is the photographs, and one should just admire and enjoy them.

They have all been chosen by the esteemed photographer himself from his personal and extensive archives, and create a visual feast of beautiful architecture.