Tart Hall was a rural pleasure house, where otium, a concept essential for the elite since antiquity, could be pursued. Established in the Italian tradition, the villa was a popular archtetype connected to the opposite of the negotium, trading rest, quiet and studies for business and bustling activity.
Studies on the meaning of the otium in architecture are diverse and range from studies on Raphael, Caprarola, and Alberti to the ambivalence of the term and its meaning for a female elite (Alessandro Zuccari, Otium et negotium tra villa e palazzo: Raffaello ei suoi allievi interpreti di temi medicei 2016, Eckhard Leuschner, Otium und Virtus: Kontemplation als Tugendübung in der Stanza della Solitudine von Caprarola 2013, Isabella Nuovo, Il Tema della Villa in Leon Battista Alberti e nella Riflessione Umanistica: dall’Otium Letterario allo Svago Cortigiano 1990, Kristine Patz, Otium statt negotium? Bild und Bildnis weiblicher Herrschaft am Beispiel von Isabella d’Este 2000).
George Conn, the papal envoy to the English court and a regular visitor, however, referred to Tart Hall as a casino. Unlike villa, this term did not have a long-standing tradition (Mario Panarello / Alfredo Fulco, Riflessioni attorno alla tipologia architettonica del ‘casino ‘di Scinà nel contesto delle residenze suburbane 2015). Casino came into fashion as a term in Rome in the Seicento and, like villa, referred to a rural retreat.
It is worth noting that the Casino di San Marco in Florence, still famous today, was one of the earliest buildings to bear this name. The casino, commissioned by Francesco I and completed in 1574, shows striking parallels to Tart Hall. It is also built in a U-shape and also located on the edge of a spacious garden, the Orti Medicei. The casino in Florence was planned as a site for the arts of fire, the chemical arts: alchemy (or chymistry), goldsmithing, and the production of glass. Additionally, exemplary objects from Francesco’s collection were exhibited and relevant literature was available (Marco Beretta, Material and Temporal Powers at the Casino di San Marco 2014).
The Casino di San Marco, well-known to Lady Arundel from her stay in Florence, could have served as a model for Tart Hall, Lady Arundel’s private estate. The entire third floor of the house was filled with works of art. There were two galleries, several cooking places and various smaller rooms, the ceiling paintings of which gave them their own individual flair. The two long galleries on the third floor of the house functioned as a picture gallery, and the connecting rooms were conspicuously decorated with ceiling paintings. The majority of the paintings mentioned in the inventory are by Italian painters, especially from Venice, plus some interesting northern Alpine works.