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A pair of italian rosewood pietre dure mounted, inlaid ebony cabinets

  • GBR
  • 2015-07-08
Om objektet
Of architectural form, the upper parts with pediments surmounted by standing classical figures and putti flanked by female figures with summer and autumn attributes, fitted with drawers, each with a central cupboard enclosing a fitted interior, with an arcaded alcove, inset with panels of lapis lazuli, agate, quartz and various Roman marbles, the pilasters formed of four gilt bronze standing figures and with gilt bronze capitals with rams heads, on plinths supported by four gilt bronze crowned eagles, the mahogany and parcel gilt stands with a moulded top with gadrooned edge above a central frieze with Greek key decoration above two parcel gilt caryatid supports with floral drop swags, the back panel with a central plaque of a female mask centred by gilt wood sun rays, on lion paw feet
The rarity of these precious and magnificent pair of pietre dure cabinets lies in the fact that as a pair, these are the only known examples, of such high quality, of either Florentine or Roman production. Almost certainly conceived for the Papal Borghese family, highly skilled craftsmen and bronziers collaborated on this unique commission. The original condition of these cabinets and their striking presence places them at the highest level of Roman pietre dure works of art still left in private hands. Coupled with this are the Regency carved bases, most probably designed by Charles Heathcote Tatham. The remarkable caryatid figures and sun burst design are one of the earliest examples of the antiquarian movement that was adopted by the English cognoscenti in the early 19th century and promoted by such visionaries as William Beckford. These, however, would appear to be one of the earliest examples of this movement and would have been deemed entirely fitting to support such antique rarities and for the historic environment in which they stood. ‘Á sa maison de plaisance (the Villa Borghese) il y a deux petits Cabinets de pierre de touche qui paroissent être fait d’èbene’

A PAIR OF GRAND ROMAN CABINETS AT CASTLE HOWARD
Alvar González-Palacios
The design of these cabinets derives from Roman architecture of the early 17th century.  The taste for simply inlaid and highly polished stones is also typical for Rome where it was very rare, at this date, to find stone inlays in naturalistic designs with flowers. The crowned eagles that support the cabinets are a further indicator of their Roman provenance. They are a feature in the Borghese[1] coat of arms and the fact that the other heraldic device, a dragon, is not included, does not invalidate the hypothesis since it is the eagle alone that appears on the most famous piece of furniture that belonged to the Borghese family.  This is the large bronze table designed by Alessandro Algardi around 1663, later  enriched, in 1773, by Luigi Valadier[2].
Pietre dure for the Borghese family
In his Traictè dela decoration interieure written in 1717, the great Swedish architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger wrote: “Au Palais du Prince Borghese à Rome il y a au bel Estage un beau Cabinet a voir; le quel est d’ebeine & enrichi d’or, comme aussi de diverses pierres precieuses & des bas-reliefs q’on estime beaucoup. Á sa maison de plaisance il y a deux petits Cabinets de pierre de touche qui paroissent être fait d’èbene »[3]. Tessin was one of the few travellers to record specific works of pietre dure and ebony that belonged to the Borghese since most visitors enthused about the magnificence of the pictures and the wonder of the antiquities, whilst only mentioning in passing the coloured marbles that were displayed around in the Villa on the  Pincio  (described by Tessin as la maison de plaisance) and in the city palace of the family of Pope Paul V (Borghese, 1605-1621).  In 1659 Francis Mortoft confined himself to noting “several pieces of florentyn works” while John Evelyn a few years earlier in 1644 mentioned several “tables of pietra commessa”, in the Villa without describing them, before adding “I went to see the garden and house of ... Cardinal Borghese... we were shown here a fine cabinet and tables of Florence worked in stone”[4].
Other well-known travellers such as Richard Lassels, J.-J. de Lalande and the Abbé Richard seem to have been more impressed by sculptures made using different coloured marbles, like the Seneca morente and the Zingarella both now in the Louvre.  One of the few to record an individual object was the German John Georg Keysler who was in Rome in 1729.  In the Palazzo Borghese he admired “a looking glass with the frame five palmi long and three broad, made of flowered alabaster, jasper, lapis lazuli and other precious stones”[5].
It is important to understand exactly what these different commentators were describing.  Leaving aside the statues made using pieces of coloured marble (because they belong to the history of sculpture rather than applied arts) we have first of all to consider the fundamental difference between objects inlaid with coloured stones.  Stone inlays can in fact be composed either of marbles (calcareous stone) or of hard stones (silicates).  The former are defined in Italian as pietre tenere – soft stones – to differentiate them from the latter which are pietre dure - hard stones sometimes described as semi-precious.  We have to keep this difference at the forefront of our minds since the term pietre dure is so often mistakenly applied to both types of material.  A fundamental consideration is that the different materials require different skills – and tools -  to work them, and the costs involved are therefore also different.  While stonemasons (scalpellini) are required to work marble, hard stones call instead for gem cutters and on rare occasions also jewellers.  Sometimes the craftsman combined both skills but this was very rare.  Inlay using coloured stones has its origins in antiquity and its use in Rome was continuous throughout the Medieval period into the modern era.  This sort of inlay uses pietre tenere, the coloured marbles sourced from around the Mediterranean basin which could be found scattered all over Rome amongst the ruins of antiquity in the form of columns, fragments, or sometimes uncut blocks that had been brought into the city many centuries earlier.  The true pietre dure – the hard stones, are much rarer and more costly.
The first to create a formal manufacture of works in pietre dure commesse – inlays or assemblage of hardstones - were the Medici during the time of Cosimo I. However it was his son Cardinal Ferdinando who having lived in Rome until 1587 (where he collected and commissioned works of inlaid marbles) founded the celebrated workshops of Florentine pietre dure when he became Grand Duke of Tuscany.  This explains why many travellers then adopted the term Florentine work even when referring to work made using pietre dure inlay that was not made in Florence.
In Rome the Borghese reached the height of their power when Cardinal Camillo became pope in 1605 taking the name Paul V and in the same year raising his sister’s son Scipione Caffarelli Borghese (1577-1633) to cardinal and passing his own surname on to his nephew. Cardinal Scipione, became the greatest patron and collector of his time and it was he who built the villa near the Porta Pinciana.  The oldest guides to the Villa refer to objects there which were inlaid with coloured stones.  In 1650 Iacomo Manilli records, near the statue of the Gladiator “ a table with a black nero antico ground, eight and a half palmi long and five broad, set with valuable stones such as lapislazuli, jaspers, mother of pearl and similar, with an oval in the middle of oriental alabaster of reddish colour and with the frame of black marble”.  From the description it would appear that the table was Roman and made between the sixteenth and seventeenth century, of coloured marbles, set with tiny pieces of hardstones. In another room in the Villa, called the Stanza del Centauro – the room of the Centaur, Manilli recorded “a large mirror with a frame shaped as an aedicule, set with alabasters, jaspers, lapislazuli and other gems, with two small breccia columns and Corinthian capitals”.  This appears to have been a work of greater worth, certainly made in Rome (it was the mirror that Keysler subsequently saw in the Palazzo Borghese in 1729).  Half a century later Domenico Montelatici in his book Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana, published in 1700, repeats the measurements given by Manilli and describes the same table as still standing near the statue of the Gladiator.  In the Stanza del Centauro, he sees a small “cabinet, supported at the corners by four gilt-bronze lions” but the mirror is not mentioned.  Neither Manilli nor Montelatici mention the two cabinets recorded by Tessin[6]. It is possible that, however brief the mention of them by Tessin, the two pieces of furniture he referred to were those that went to Castle Howard.  From the late seventeenth century onwards no further mention is made of the pietre dure cabinets at Villa Borghese.
Style and Execution
In early seventeenth century Rome furniture divides into two types: sculptural and architectural.  Cabinet making most fully expresses the latter and the pair of cabinets analysed here are amongst its finest examples. The comparisons that can be found for them range from the ideas expressed by Carlo Maderno in the facade of St Peter’s in the Vatican (finished in 1612), to the work of the architect Flaminio Ponzio, of whom Giovanni Baglione writes in 1649, “he served Pope Paul V in all building works whilst he lived”. The Cappella Paolina in Santa Maria Maggiore, with the tomb of the Borghese pope, was designed by Ponzio and shows some similarities with these cabinets in the way the wall is divided up, articulated by a principal order, completed with a socle and an attic fascia;  even the caryatids with their raised arms in the upper part of the monument recall those on the two cabinets.  Other possible stylistic affinities and references for the cabinets seem to point to the years of Paul V’s pontificate so that a date of about 1625 for the Castle Howard cabinets seems appropriate.
For information about who might have been involved with the construction of the cabinets it is useful to look at various payments made by Cardinal Scipione Borghese between 1609 and 1623[7], some to Innocenzo Toscani, an ebony carver, who was paid in 1609, for repairing two cabinets.  In 1611 the same Toscani was paid for a small table of black pear wood with a carved eagle.  A certain Antonio del Drago is described as “custode delle pietre dure” – keeper of the hardstones for the Borghese Pope from 1608 to 1612 and in one instance, it is recorded that del Drago took delivery of the jaspers to be used in the Cappella Borghese at Santa Maria Maggiore.  It is perhaps not coincidental that a large number of the hardstones used in the cabinets here are Sicilian jaspers. These include red jaspers in the tympanum of the aedicule, yellow around the aedicule’s central rectangle, striped in the banding across the top and red jaspers of different tonalities elsewhere.  From Paul V’s accounts we learn that Prince Castiglione, a Sicilian, had sent several varieties of jasper for the chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore in 1610, whilst in the same month a man called Destati had had the task of paying money “alli marinari che han portato li diaspri di Sicilia” – ‘to the sailors who have brought the jaspers from Sicily’ – also for Santa Maria Maggiore[8].
One person who may have been responsible for making the Castle Howard cabinets is Remigio Chilolz (recorded variously as Kilkholz, Chilozzi, Chilols, Chiolis, Chiloltz, Kielholz) who was famous in his time but remains something of a mystery today.  Neither the place nor date of his birth are known but his work for the Borghese and the other princely families of Rome, is well documented. He had a workshop at Monte Giordano and died in 1661.  The earliest reference to him dates to 1629 when Gaspare Vanulkese, a Flemish cabinet maker, active in Rome, and with whom Chilolz had worked, left him his tools when he died.  Chilholz’s name appears in the Cardinal’s papers between 1630 and 1633 the year in which the Cardinal died. In one source (1631) he is described as “Remigio Kilholz ebanista tedesco” – ‘Remigio Kilholz German cabinet maker’.  It is difficult to be absolutely sure of his area of expertise because often it seems he was assembling objects decorated with pietre dure;  however in a payment of 1639, Chilolz supplied Cardinal Barberini with a large cabinet made of ebony with several compartments of silver[9].
As well as Chilolz I would like to mention the names of some other craftsmen who are still relatively unknown to us but were in some way linked to the Borghese because of their involvement in this type of work.  The gold and silversmith Hans Keller (in Italian he was called Giovanni Cheller or Chellero) who was from Nuremberg was active between 1617 and 1632 and his name appears in the Borghese accounts between 1631-32. He seems to have specialised in making precious objects like frames of gilt copper decorated with silver flowers and semi-precious stones[10].
Founders were important contributors to the making and embellisment of these precious cabinets.  Two members of the Fiocchino family, Giuseppe and Lorenzo for example, may have been involved.  Lorenzo supplied dragon-shaped handles and others in the form of eagles for a large walnut cupboard for Palazzo Borghese in 1614.  The following year both craftsmen made different mounts for the camp bed and throne of Paul V which included gilded nail heads bearing the Pope’s arms.  The founder and sculptor Giacomo Laurenziano appears very often as one of the principal makers of works in metal  for the court of Paul V.  For example he is responsible for the eagles and dragons on the column of the Virgin in front of Santa Maria Maggiore (1613).  In the same church between 1606 and 1612 Laurenziano supplies many fittings including handles in the shape of dragons and eagles for the main sacristy and for the sacristy attached to the Cappella Borghese[11]. There are clear similarities between the eagle on those handles and the supports on the two pieces of furniture here.  Baglione whose name has already been mentioned, wrote that Laurenziano often provided “modello e getto” model and cast - so he can also be considered a sculptor.
There are two other names that should be mentioned as key artists for the taste of this period.  Early in his pontificate Paul V had acquired some particularly precious pieces of furniture as gifts for his nephew the Cardinal.  These were objects not made specifically for him but which had previously been much admired by the Roman court.  In 1609 the pope bought an ebony cabinet with colonnettes mounted with lapislazuli and angels, silver mounts and panels of lapislazuli painted with biblical scenes.  A second cabinet with a fall front, was painted and damascened in gold with ornaments of semi-precious stones and with a mirror set with different types of breccia and lapislazuli as including a clock, equally richly ornamented. Three years later he gives the Cardinal a casket of rock crystal embellished with gilded ebony, which had been acquired from a Florentine nobleman, a member of the Strozzi family, for five hundred scudi.  Rather more expensive was the cabinet that had belonged to the Ceoli family, an object “made of different stones, gems and other things” which came to the substantial price of three thousand five hundred scudi. Soon after this in May 1613 the Borghese documents mention the name of Pompeo Targone, a skilled artist with several areas of expertise, who made the support for the Ceoli cabinet. It was a base clad in pietre dure including lapislazuli and jaspers of various kinds and cost two thousand scudi[12].  Paul V was very fond of Targone and commissioned a number of important works from him amongst which are the large columns at the sides of the altar in the Cappella Paolina in Santa Maria Maggiore.  They were made of “lame di diaspro incastrate dentro regoli di metallo dorato, cosa non più veduta nemmeno dagli antichi romani”-“jasper veneers set between long narrow mounts of gilt metal, a thing never seen before not even by the ancient Romans”. Another interesting figure is Giovanni van Santen, otherwise known as Vasanzio, who according to Giovanni Baglione, the painter and biographer of the artists of his time, “made ebony cabinets...inset with many jewels”. Vasanzio, who had a cabinet-making workshop in via Giulia in 1606, became architect to the Borghese after 1613 and until his death in 1621 and worked for a long time on the Villa Borghese for Cardinal Scipione[13].  Unfortunately we do not know of any piece of furniture that can be securely attributed to Vasanzio or Targone but what is beyond doubt is that these two cabinets can be linked to the circle of both these great artists who were in close contact with Paul V and his nephew Cardinal Scipione.
Conclusions
There are a substantial number of cabinets or writing desks, described as stipi, scrittoi or studioli, which we can be certain were made in Rome, between the end of the sixteenth and the end of the seventeenth century and which are distinctive, as we have seen, for their use of pietre dure (particularly lapislazuli, agates and Sicilian jaspers) and for their various kinds of ornament made of bronze and gilded metals (particularly brass). On the other hand not one of these objects is documented, unlike in Florence where, because things were made in the Grand Ducal workshops, every craftsman and every part of the constuction process was recorded and the documents that describe it survive in the Archivio di Stato in Florence.
I would just like to pick out three Roman cabinets which because of their dimensions, style and use of stones could be compared to this pair.  Two were recently sold at Sotheby’s, the first, on 6 July 2011 in London, came from the collection of Principe Ruspoli di Poggio Suaso and the second, sold on 9 July 2014, belonged to the Dukes of Northumberland. However the one that most closely resembles the Castle Howard cabinets appeared, again in London, on 10 June 1998, having once been in William Beckford’s famous collection.  Its architectural composition is similar with the middle storey divided by columns and surmounted by an aedicule with flanking volutes.  The fact that the Castle Howard cabinets are a pair increases their rarity considerably.  Added to this they  are in very good condition and come complete with their original mounts and original bronze ornaments.
According to Howard family tradition these cabinets were acquired by the fourth Earl of Carlisle, Henry Howard (1694-1758) who visited the continent on two occasions to make the traditional Grand Tour, the first time between 1714 and 1715 and later between 1738 and 1739.  The second journey is of particular interest here because the Earl was in contact with a number of connoisseurs, collectors and agents, both in Rome and Venice.  His principal interest seems to have lain in antiquities and classical gemstones and he managed to acquire several things from Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni and from that phoenix of Italian collectors Cardinal Alessandro Albani.  In Rome on his first visit he had met Philip von Stosch, widely considered to be the greatest connoisseur of antique stones and Francesco Ficoroni, one of the most important dealers of his generation, with whom he maintained a correspondence and whom he met again on his second visit [14]. Lord Carlisle was seen as a man of taste and as such was described as “a great virtuoso” in a letter from Horace Walpole, that arbiter elegantiarum of the eighteenth century English intelligentsia[15].
In 1745 Henrietta, Countess of Oxford, recalled seeing at Castle Howard “three very fine Cabinets”, which confirms an observation made by an anonymous visitor who was enthusiastic about the busts, the statues, the agates, alabasters and marbles and the “many curious cabinetts” placed around the great mansion[16]. Horace Walpole, commented, during his visit to Castle Howard in 1772, that it was a residence that seemed to him to belong “to the highest rank of palatial dignity…in the hall & all over the House are fine busts, urns, columns, Statues, & the finest collection in the World of antique tables of the most valuable marble, & some of old Mosaic, & one of Florentine inlaying.  There are two fine Cabinets of the same work & materials” [17].  This perhaps refers to our cabinets. It is still more interesting to turn back the years to a letter from Rome of 1740 from Belisario Amidei to the Earl of Carlisle, recently returned to England at the end of 1739[18]. Amidei was a well-known dealer of the time, mentioned several times by Winckelman, and in contact with important figures such as Charles III of Spain, who in gratitude for his negotiating skills, gave him a gold snuff-box[19]. Amidei was in touch with Thomas Coke, subsequently Earl of Leicester, to whom he supplied several marble works for Holkham Hall. Coke, Howard and William Kent met in Italy in 1715 [20]. In that year 1740 Amidei sent Carlisle a list of works in his possession amongst which he mentioned “ a cabinet worked in the Galleria of the Grand Duke on every drawer [of which] there is a bird worked in pietre dure with some soft stones as well, with two columns of lapislazuli with four gilded statues at the top and four lions below” . Amidei still had some objects of this kind in his possession at the time of his death in 1770 when a house inventory was drawn up[21]. The letter is interesting here because it not only shows Carlisle’s taste for furniture made with pietre dure but also that it is not impossible that the cabinets here were acquired from Amidei.
Translation by Emma-Louise Bassett
[1] The Borghese arms include “troncata nel primo d’oro all’aquila di nero coronata d’oro, nel secondo d’azzurro al drago d’oro con la coda recisa” – “in the upper field a black crowned eagle on a gold ground, in the lower a gold dragon on an azure ground, the tail severed”.  For the Borghese provenance see S. S. Jervis, D. Dodd, Roman Splendour. English Arcadia. The English Taste for Pietre Dure and the Sixtus Cabinet at Stourhead, London, 2015, fig. 27-28
[2] For a photograph in which the Borghese coat of arms is shown with only one eagle: A. Gonzalez-Palacios, Arredi e ornamenti alla corte di Roma, Milan, 2004, figs. at pp. 348-349. On some supports, bases and architectural details in Villa Borghese the coat of arms appears with only one eagle
[3] N. Tessin the Younger, Traictè dela decoration interieure 1717, edited by P. Waddy, Stockholm, 2002, p. 261. Tessin (1654-1728) was in Italy twice, in 1673 and in 1687-88. The first cabinet that he describes must be that given by Paul V to his nephew, Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1609 which is described in: A. Gonzalez-Palacios “Concerning Furniture. Roman Documents and Inventories” in Furniture History, XLVI, 2010, p. 65
[4] F. Mortoft, His Book. Being his Travels through France and Italy, 1658-59,  ed. M. Letts, London, 1925, p. 154; The Diary of John Evelyn, ed. A. Dobson, London, 1906, I, pp. 178, 199
[5] J. G. Keysler, Travels through Germany, Bohemia…Italy, London, 1757, II, p. 283: there are different editions of the travels of Keysler in German and English
[6]Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana descritta da Iacopo Manilli, Rome, 1650, pp. 81, 103; D. Montelatici, Villa Borghese fuori Porta Pinciana, Roma, 1700, pp. 219, 292. The marble table referred to in the two guides and by other visitors is still in the Villa: P. della Pergola, Opere in mosaico, intarsi e pietra paesina della Galleria Borghese, Rome, 1971, pp. 42-43
Jervis, Dodd, op. cit at note 1, illustrate at fig. 65 p. 56 a cabinet with the arms of Paul V which was acquired by George IV in 1827 and was, at one time, at Windsor Castle before being sold in 1959. I have not seen this and do not know its current whereabouts
[7] Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Archivio Borghese, fascio 6074
[8] A.M Corbo, M. Pomponi, Fonti per la storia artistica romana ai tempi di Paolo V, Rome, 1995, p. 149. In the same volume there are other accounts of the jaspers and hardstones supplied for the  Cappella Borghese. For the Sicilian jaspers see pp. 64, 70 and passim.
[9] For Chilolz: Gonzalez-Palacios, Arredi e ornamenti cit. a note 2,  pp, 65, 66; idem, “Concerning Furniture…” cit. at note 3. The payment for Cardinal Antonio Barberini’s studiolo is in I Barberini e la cultura europea del Seicento, ed. L. Mochi Onori, S. Schütze, F. Solinas, Rome,  2007, p. 463 (P. Michel); see also A. Bertolotti,  Artisti francesi a Roma, Mantua 1886, pp. 201-202; idem, Artisti belgi e olandesi a Roma, Rome, 1880, p. 385-386; Thieme Becker, ad vocem, Chilholze
[10] Gonzalez-Palacios, Arredi e ornamenti cit. at note 2, pp. 63-65; idem “Concerning Furniture..”, cit. at note 3
[11] Corbo, Pomponi, op. cit at note 8, pp. 40, 80, 165; these handles have been identified by R. Valeriani, the eagles with spread wings have notable similarities to those on the Castle Howard cabinets (E. Colle, A. Griseri, R. Valeriani, Bronzi decorativi in Italia, Milano, 2001, pp.30-31)
[12] Gonzalez-Palacios, “Concerning Furniture…” cit at note 3, p. 65
[13] A. Gonzalez-Palacios, Il Gusto dei Principi, Milan, 1993 p. 374 and passim with the related bibliography. See also F. Noack “Kunstpflege und Kunstbesitz der Familie Borghese” in Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft, L, 1929, pp. 191-231
[14] D. Scarisbrick, “Gem Connoisseurship – the 4th Earl of  Carlisle correspondence with Francesco de Ficoroni and Anton Maria Zanetti” in The Burlington Magazine, 1987, pp. 90-104
[15] Ibidem p. 90
[16]Account of the Visit of Henrietta Countess of Oxford to Castle Howard in April 1745 (MS at Welbeck Abbey); W.J., Account of Travels throughout Britain (Beinecke Library, Yale, Osborne MS c.480, p.92). I would like to thank Christopher Ridgeway from Castle Howard with his help and for notifying me to this.
[17] “Horace Walpole’s Journals of visits to country seats, etc”, Walpole Society XVI 1927-1928, p. 72
[18] J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy, London 1997, p. 181
[19] B. Caciotti,  in Camillo Massimo collezionista di antichità, Rome, 1996, pp. 232-233
[20] Ingamells op. cit. at note 18, pp. 181, 225-226
[21] P. Coen, Il mercato dei quadri a Roma nel diciottesimo secolo, Florence, 2010, I, pp.20-25, II, pp. 465-499
The Stands
When these magnificent cabinets arrived in England, the 4th Earl of Carlisle commissioned “carved gilt frames with green baize covers to support them”[1].  Thereafter they were to stand in pride of place in the State Drawing Room at Castle Howard in that form until c. 1800.  At that point the 5th Earl, who had been completing Sir Thomas Robinson’s designs for the West Wing, decided to move the cabinets to his new spectacular Long Gallery and, in doing so, commissioned new more appropriate stands.  John Jackson’s painting of the Long Gallery, dated 1811, shows them already in situ (fig. 7).
In deciding on the form of these cabinets Carlisle was following the decision he had made for the entire room.  For whereas the exterior of the West Wing largely continues the Palladian designs of Robinson first put forward in the early 1750’s, internally the Long Gallery was to be in the most advanced Neo-Classical taste.  It was designed by one of that style’s principal proponents, Charles Heathcote Tatham (1772-1842).  Tatham had originally worked for S.P. Cockerell but in 1794 took the opportunity of studying in Rome whilst acting there as Henry Holland’s man of business.  He spent the following two years making drawings of architectural details, acquiring for Holland antique fragments, and becoming acquainted with Canova, Asprucci, Valadier, and the Spanish architect Isidoro Velasquez (who would later build the Casa del Labrador).   Tatham returned to England inspired by these contemporaries to practice a severe Neo-Classical taste.  Shortly after his return it is recorded in the Gentleman’s Magazine that he dined with Lord Carlisle at 12 Grosvenor Place alongside Henry Tresham (who Carlisle probably knew through his son-in-law Lord Cawdor who had been the artist’s patron in Italy).   Tatham was subsequently engaged by Carlisle to design the Long Gallery which was originally envisaged as a sculpture gallery and museum.  A watercolour of the project was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1801 (present whereabouts unknown).
It is more than likely that C.H. Tatham would have had some involvement in the design of these idiosyncratic stands.  Even more so when you consider the likely maker.  The 5th Earl had principally relied on John Linnell to produce his elegant mahogany and satinwood furniture which was introduced to both Castle Howard and 12 Grosvenor Place.  Invoices in the Castle Howard’s archives show that this continued until the furniture maker’s death in 1792.  The “heir” to Linnell’s business was the son of his cousin Elizabeth Bloxham who, as Mrs. Tatham, was mother to both Thomas Tatham and his brother Charles Heathcote.
Thomas Tatham had formed a partnership with Edward Marsh as early as 1792 and thereafter invoices show that they provided furniture for Lord Carlisle. These payments continue well into the first decade of the 19th Century when the Long Gallery was being completed.  Given that no other substantial payments were made to any other furniture makers, it is highly likely that these stands were made by Marsh and Tatham.  The design, though, especially in the unusual caryatid figures at the corners, owes much to Charles Heathcote’s studies in Rome[2].  They are very close in feeling to the drawings made after designs by Valadier and Boschi as well as independent drawings that Tatham made himself[3].   Frustratingly the payment to Marsh and Tatham dated 11 February 1801 in the Castle Howard archives[4] for the considerable sum of £200 make no mention of what this payment was for.
A particularly interesting feature of these stands is the incorporation into the design of earlier elements, namely, the two splendid back panels carved with the head of Apollo from which emanate rays of the sun.  It is tempting to think these may have originally formed part of the 4th Earl’s “carved gilt frames”.  Equally the gilded Greek key pattern that runs along the frieze also looks back to the mid 18th Century.  As with many aspects of the completion at the close of the 18th Century of the architecture of Castle Howard there is a balance here struck between the new and what had gone before.
Interestingly, three other similar stands are known, all of which support prized 17th Century furniture and which also incorporate antiquarian elements.  These are an unprovenanced stand in the Getty Museum that supports a Boulle coffer; a stand now at Blenheim which may have been commissioned originally by Lord Gwydir (1754-1820) for Grimsthorpe which passed through the collections of the Marquesses of Exeter in the 19th Century; and that in the Devonshire collection at Chatsworth which again acts as a stand for a Boulle chest (fig. 8).  It is the existence of the latter which is so fascinating, for not only was the 6th Duke of Devonshire (1790-1858) a patron of Marsh and Tatham, but he was also the brother-in-law of the 5th Earl of Carlisle’s heir Lord Morpeth.  In marrying Lady Georgiana Cavendish in 1801 Morpeth established a close family friendship with his Derbyshire neighbours as attested by the letters of his sister Lady Harriet Granville.   The young Lord Hartington, as he was then, (see his portrait by Lawrence in the catalogue), whose life would be devoted to building and collecting would have certainly known about, and taken a lively interest in, the 5th Earl’s completion of Castle Howard.  His decision to acquire such cabinet stands must almost certainly have been prompted by Carlisle’s example.
[1] Castle Howard probate Inventory conducted for the 4th Earl of Carlisle, 1759, in the State Drawing Room
[2] C H Tatham, Etchings representing the best examples of ancient ornamental architecture: drawn from the originals in Rome, and other parts of Italy, during the years 1794, 1795, and 1796,  printed for the author, and sold by Thomas Gardiner, 1799
[3] Susan Pearce and Frank Salmon “Charles Heathcote Tatham in Italy, 1794-96. Letters, Drawings and Fragments and Part of an Autobiography” Walpole Society, Vol. LXVII, figs. 22, 23, 51, 52, 66, 67 and 68
[4] J. 14/81

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