A PAIR OF GEORGE III GILTWOOD ARMCHAIRS
SIR LAWRENCE DUNDAS
Scion of the Dundases of Fingask, an ancient Perthshire family dispossessed of their lands in the 17th Century, Sir Lawrence Dundas's meteoric rise to power and fortune was uneclipsed in the 18th Century. Thankfully, his legacy of unerring connoisseurship and patronage remains to this day.
Following in his father's footsteps, Lawrence joined the family drapery business in Edinburgh in the 1730s. Swift to seize the opportunities laid open by the '45 rebellion, his pivotal role as 'Commissary of Forage' and supplier to 'The Royal Train of Artillery' proved supremely rewarding. It was his appointment as Commissary-General of the Army in Flanders during the Seven Years' War, however, that transformed his fortunes and earned him the accolade 'Nabob of the North'. As the account books for his trip to Germany in 1759 testify, with sums totalling close to £2 million, Dundas was the outstanding merchant contractor of the 18th Century.
Dundas's financial success was mirrored by his political ambition. Elected MP for Linlithgow Burghs in 1747, his political star was unfortunately short-lived, and he was forced to stand down amidst allegations of corruption the following year. Determined, therefore, to control his political destiny, he embarked on a large-scale programme of land purchase - from Kerse in 1749, to Cleveland, Marske, Loftus and Aske, with its convenient pocket borough in 1762, as well as Moor Park in 1763. His main activities, however, were at first directed towards building up political interests North of the Border - in Stirlingshire, Clackmannan, Fife and Orkney - under the direction of his political advisor, James Masterton.
In this, as in all things, Dundas flourished; in this, as in all things, he inspired bitter jealousy, which found its voice in the libelous 'Varro', declaring in the Morning Post that Dundas 'has already filled the House of Commons with five of his name (ie pocket boroughs) and three or four more who owe their seats to his wealth or influence. He has made a great show of his wealth, having purchased five or six capital estates in England, Scotland and Ireland and matched his children into some of the greatest families - such sudden fortunes gained out of the public purse, are among the heaviest weight of war'. His detractor's words, however, fell on deaf ears; for in 1762 he was raised to the Baronetcy and, under Lord Shelburne's sponsorship, was elected MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, whom he served from 1762-68, before his move to Edinburgh from 1768-81.
Political power and architectural patronage have always been inextricably linked, and it was inevitable that Dundas's mind should now turn to the latter. Elected a member of the Society of Dilettanti in 1750, Dundas was perfectly complemented in all things aesthetic by his 'dear life' Margaret Bruce of Kennet (1715-1802), whom he had married in 1738. That Sir Lawrence depended heavily on his wife's taste is profoundly clear from their correspondence. Thus, in discussing Aske, which they had acquired furnished from Lord Holderness, he wrote: 'some of the furniture is old and should be changed.. but everything of this sought I leave to your taste which is the best I have ever met with'., while elsewhere he laments the 'difference one finds in coming from Moor Park where you have everything in such order'. The Dundases' remarkable architectural and artistic patronage was very much the product of their union.
The 1760s witnessed an uprecedented burst of building activity by the Dundases. Unusually, however, save for Dundas House in Edinburgh, for which Sir William Chambers supplied the designs in 1771, all of the Dundas houses were modifications and improvements of earlier existing houses. As might be expected, it was to John Carr of York that they turned for 'new additions to the house' at Aske in 1763, the new Dining Room being 'the best for that purpose that I ever saw' by 1766, as well as for the quadrant wings at Kerse in 1766. However, whilst it was Capability Brown who was contracted to lay out the Park at Aske, it was to Robert Adam that the Dundases looked to 'ornament the Garden, farm and park' at Moor Park in 1766. The latter, a princely mansion designed by Giacomo Leoni in 1720 for Benjamin Styles, had been acquired in what was, arguably, the 'annus mirabilis' of Sir Lawrence's political and architectural ambitions. For 1763 saw not only the end of the Seven Years' War, with its ensuing optimism and prosperity, but also the acquisition of Moor Park and a new London house, 19 Arlington Street.
As Horace Walpole noted, 'From my earliest recollection, Arlington Street has been the Ministerial street', and it was to serve this political end that Sir Lawrence engaged Robert Adam to draw up plans for improvements to his new London mansion. Built for Lord Carteret between 1732-8, and set back from the road behind a pedimented porter's lodge, Adam's first proposal 'for adding a Great Room towards Green park', with a handsome park facade, was soon abandoned in favour of a simplified modification, the only exterior alterations being the tripartite thermal windows to the principal rooms overlooking the Park. Characteristic of all the Dundas houses, it was upon the interiors, the furnishings and pictures, that Sir Lawrence and Lady Dundas lavished their attention, and it is for this that they are rightfully recognised as among the greatest connoisseurs of the 18th Century.
Perhaps nowhere reveals this more clearly than the interiors of Arlington Street. Unlike at Moor Park, Adam enjoyed a free hand, supplying designs for everything from 'Termes for the salon' as well as the 'vase candlesticks' that stood upon them, to painting in of all the parts of the carpet at large for Mr. Moor' of Moorfields, quite apart from the 'design of Sofa chairs for the Salon £5'. As Lady Shelburne noted in 1768, 'I had vast pleasure in seeing a house which I had so much admired, and improved as much as possible. The apartment for company is up one pair of stairs, the Great Room is now hung with red damask, and with a few large and capital pictures, with very noble glasses between the piers, and Gilt chairs'. This 'red damask' was 'your (Sir Lawrence's) crimson Genoa damask', hung by France in 1764, while the 'very noble glasses' were ordered from the Manufacture Royale des Glaces in Paris in 1763. It was this long drawn out experience that no doubt prompted Sir Lawrence to become a director of the British Plate Glass Manufactory!
Although the 'few large and capital pictures' cannot be precisely identified, Sir Lawrence Dundas possessed one of the most discerning eyes of his generation. His taste was sufficiently broad for him to acquire not only first class Dutch pictures, including the remarkable holding of works by Teniers acquired through his agent Greenwood from the Marquis de Gravelle, as well as several Cuyps and that masterpiece by van de Capelle - in Greenwood's own words, 'ye capelle is one of ye most capital pieces that is known of him' - but also Poussin's 'Crucifixion', and Murillo's enigmatic 'self-portrait'. He was by no means frightened to commission living artists as well, and the Boudoir at Arlington Street was hung with 'three large views of Moor Park', for which Richard Wilson was paid 80 guineas, as well as that quintessential portrait of an English connoisseur - Zoffany's portrait of Sir Lawrence and his Grandson in the Pillar Room at Arlington Street, for which he was paid £105 on 26 June 1770. The calibre of Dundas's 'cabinet' was quickly recognised by his contemporaries, Lady Mary Coke remarking that his picture collection was 'very fine' as early as 1769.
The furnishings of Dundas' houses was of equal calibre. Indeed, Sir Lawrence remains arguably the most important patron of later 18th Century cabinet-makers, and has the distinction, perhaps uniquely, of employing virtually all of the greatest exponents of this art during George III's reign. As his account books so remarkably testify, Dundas employed no less than Samuel Norman, Fell and Turton, Chippendale and Rannie, Vile and Cobb, France and Bradburn, Mayhew and Ince, James Lawson and Pierre Langlois in the 1760s alone.
Those things which could not be found in England, moreover, were sent for from abroad. Thus the rock crystal and ormolu 'lustres' for the Gallery at Moor Park were smuggled from Paris in the diplomatic train of the Prussian Ambassador in 1767, while the Neilson tapestries were shipped from the Gobelins manufactory in June 1769. With these latter purchases, Dundas can clearly be placed in the vanguard of Francophile taste.
Similarly, the acquisitions of the 'chimneypiece of statuary and yellow of Siena marble' in Florence from the sculptor Francis Harwood, through the intervention of his son Thomas, which was dispatched to Aske in 1767, as well as the remarkable lapis lazuli chimneypiece reputedly from the Borghese Palace, which stood in the Tapestry Room at Moor Park, the 'Carlo Maratti' recommended to him by Greenwood, the Zoffoli bronzes and the mythological canvases by Cipriani which dominated the Hall at Arlington Street, could equally place him at the forefront of Italophiles.
A brilliant businessman, a shrewd political animal, a true dilettante and an enlightened patron of the liberal arts and architecture, Sir Lawrence Dundas was an uomo universale. With his 'dear life' Margaret, he has the unique distinction of not only patronising virtually all of the greatest cabinet-makers of King George III's reign, but also the most celebrated architects. It is a formidable legacy.
CHIPPENDALE AND ADAM TRIUMPHANT
By Christopher Gilbert
This pair of sofas and pair of armchairs from the ravishing suite designed by Robert Adam and made by Thomas Chippendale for Sir Lawrence Dundas's town house, 19 Arlington Street, in 1765, are the first examples of fully documented Chippendale furniture to be auctioned in London since July 1992, when Christie's sold a pair of silvered girandoles originally from Harewood House and a pair of neo-classical marquetry commodes formerly at Burton Constable, Yorkshire.
Sir Lawrence Dundas, who belonged to the younger branch of an old Scottish family, amassed a huge fortune from lucrative army contracts: according to Boswell he was 'a cunning shrewd man of the world'. Besides pursuing wealth he was also a man of culture who displayed great discernment as a patron when improving and equipping his many properties in the highest style of opulence. A note he made of money spent between c. 1763-1770 on furnishing 19 Arlington Street, Moor Park, Hertfordshire and Aske Hall in North Yorkshire, indicates the lavish scale of his expenditure:
Cobb & Vile about £1500
Norman about 2000
Fell before done 1200
The bills from Samuel Norman, James Lawson, France & Bradburn, Chippendale and Fell & Turton were rediscovered by John and Eileen Harris when researching for a special number of Apollo on the Dundas Empire, which appeared in September 1967. Sadly Vile & Cobb's account remains untraced; nevertheless, the ample surviving documentation enabled Anthony Coleridge to identify a memorable repertoire of furniture which he published in the same issue.
Chippendale's bill records two very grand suites of carved and gilt seat-furniture: a set of three sofas and ten armchairs commissioned for the Gallery at Arlington Street and four sofas accompanied by eight armchairs ordered for the Great Room, described by Lady Shelburne on a visit in 1768 as 'the apartment for company'. The exceptional quality of this second suite is emphasized by its cost - each chair (excluding the luxurious crimson silk damask which Sir Lawrence supplied) was invoiced at £20, which is exactly double the price which Chippendale charged for the frames of the most expensive chairs (in the State Bed and Dressing Rooms) at Harewood House in 1773. The Arlington set was invoiced on 9 July 1765:
To 8 large Arm Chairs exceeding
Richly Carv'd in the Antick manner
and Gilt in oil Gold Stuff'd and
cover'd with your own Damask - and
strong Castors on the feet 160 __
8 leather cases to Ditto lin'd with
Flannel 8 8_
8 Crimson Check cases to Ditto 6 __
4 large Sofas Exceeding Rich to
match the Chairs 216 __
4 leather cases to Ditto lin'd with
Flannel 12 12_
4 Cheque Cases to Ditto 7 4_
The provision of alternative loose protective covers, which would have been removed only during very fashionable social gatherings, points to their high status. It has always intrigued scholars that oil gilding is specified for the frames since, although more durable than water gilding, it is generally thought of as a cheaper, more utilitarian finish because the surface cannot be burnished. It is also noteworthy that this entry is the first time Chippendale used the word 'Antick' [Antique] to describe furniture.
To have identified the most expensive chairs and sofas known to have emanated from Chippendale's workshop was a triumph, but what really electrified furniture historians was the fact that Robert Adam's drawings at the Sir John Soane's Museum contained an elegant watercolour design for the sofas signed and dated 1764. This was the first definite evidence that Chippendale ever executed furniture after a design supplied by the leading neo-classical architect and at present it remains the solitary instance of such collaboration between the two men. Adam of course charged patrons for designs (on this occasion Dundas paid £5), whereas Chippendale provided them free to his customers. It is instructive to find Chippendale carrying out one of Adam's designs at this particular time, because in 1764 the neo-classical style was still a novelty in London and Sir Lawrence must have been persuaded that only a professionally trained architect, with the benefit of a foreign study tour, was competent to handle the style. Chippendale, however, rapidly mastered the new idiom and seems to have convinced Adam and his patrons that he could be safely trusted to design and make appropriate furniture for even the most sophisticated neo-classical interiors. Correspondence, recently discovered amongst the Nostell papers, shows that the two men worked harmoniously together, but Adam expected, as a matter of courtesy, to be consulted about proposed furnishing schemes for rooms he had designed. The following passage, in a letter from Chippendale to Sir Rowland Winn, dated 21 June 1774 refers to sending '... a small case containing a section of the Saloon with designs of the furniture which has been settled by Mr Adams and myself and he totally approves everything therein sketched'. At Harewood, where Adam was also the presiding architect, Chippendale wrote to Sir Rowland about his preliminary visit ' .. as soon as I got to Mr Laselles and look'd over the whole house I found that I Shou'd want a Many designs and Knowing that I had time Enough I went to York to do them'. The old myth that Adam regularly designed Chippendale's neo-classical masterpieces is now well and truly exploded.
The unique Adam/Chippendale suite survived intact until the Arlington Street sale at Christie's on 26 April 1934, when one of the slightly larger sofas and four armchairs were sold for 360 guineas, the rest being taken to Aske Hall, where they have stayed together until the present time. Chippendale's other great Arlington Street suite also went into the trade and was bought in 1935 by Lady Rosse as a wedding present for her husband. They shipped it to Birr Castle, Ireland, where it remained until being sold about ten years ago to a private collector. One armchair from the Adam/Chippendale suite was sold to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1937, the other three chairs and the sofa passed to Ronald Tree; they reappeared at Sotheby's on 6 June 1947, being bought by Mrs Derek Fitzgerald for £700; she auctioned them, again at Sotheby's, on 5 July 1963, for £7,000. The successful overseas bidder was refused an export licence, but rejected an offer from Kenwood to buy them: their present whereabouts is unknown. At that time Chippendale's authorship was still unsuspected, so the forthcoming auction of part of this celebrated suite that has passed by direct descent to the Marquess of Zetland is certain to be an historic occasion.
THE DUNDAS SEAT-FURNITURE
Designed by Robert Adam and made by Thomas Chippendale
The suite of eight armchairs and four sofas was supplied in 1765 by Thomas Chippendale to Sir Lawrence Dundas, Bt., for the Great Room, 19 Arlington Street, London.
In 1934 three sofas and four armchairs were retained by the family and moved from 19 Arlington Street to Aske in Yorkshire. Of these, a pair of armchairs and a pair of sofas are included in this sale, the other pair of chairs and one sofa are on loan to the Scottish National Galleries, Duff House, Banffshire.
The remaining sofa and four armchairs were sold by the Marquess of Zetland in these Rooms, 26 April 1934, lot 73, (360 guineas).
The Victoria and Albert Museum purchased one armchair in 1937.
Ronald Tree, Esq., subsequently acquired the sofa and three armchairs probably for Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire and sold them at Sotheby's London, 6 June 1947, lot 154.
They were bought by Mrs Derek Fitzgerald, Heathfield Park, Sussex and were again sold at Sotheby's London, 5 July 1963, lot 171.
London, Lansdowne House, Loan Exhibition of English Decorative Art, 1929.
Middlesex, Osterley Park House, English Neoclassical Furniture, 1972, held as part of the Arts Council of Great Britain, The Age of Neoclassicism, no catalogue.
London, Christie's, Chippendale Loan Exhibition, 1978, no. 20.
Washington, National Gallery of Art, The Treasure Houses of Britain, 1985, no. 258, pp. 332-3.
On loan to Duff House, Banffshire.
P. Macquoid, The Age of Mahogany, History of English Furniture, London/New York, 1906, pp. 217-8, figs. 197 & 198.
F. Lenygon, Furniture in England from 1660-1760, London, 1914, pp.20-1, fig. 6.
A. T. Bolton, 'London Houses/19 Arlington St. S.W.1.A Residence of the Marquess of Zetland', Country Life, 17 September 1921, pp. 350-55.
A. T. Bolton, 'Some Early Adam Furniture at No. 19, Arlington St', Country Life, 24 September 1921, pp. 385-8.
R. Edwards, and P. Macquoid, The Dictionary of English Furniture, Vol. I, London, 1924-7, p. 249.
M. Harris & Sons, The English Chair, London, 1937, p. 134, pl. LXIV
R. Edwards and M. Jourdain, Georgian Cabinet-makers, London, rev.ed. 1944, p. 61, p. 163, pl. 83.
O. Brackett, English Furniture Illustrated, London, rev.ed. 1950, p. 207, pl. CLXXIX, p. 289.
R. Edwards, The History of the English Chair, London, 1951, p. 14, pl. 81.
A. Heal, London Furniture Makers, 1953, p. 94.
M. Jourdain and F. Rose, English Furniture: The Georgian Period 1750-1830, London, 1953, p. 86, pl. 50.
R. Edwards and P. Macquoid, The Dictionary of English Furniture, Vol. 1, London, rev.ed. 1954, pp. 287, 289, fig. 200.
'Lord Zetland's Collection', Country Life, 24 February 1954, p. 190.
C. Hussey, English Country Houses Mid-Georgian 1760-1800, London, 1956, p. 144.
P. Ward-Jackson, English Furniture Designs of the Eighteenth Century, London, 1958, pp. 56-7, pl. 202.
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E. Harris, The Furniture of Robert Adam, London, 1963, p. 91, pl. 102-3.
G. Bernard Hughes, 'Costly Elegance of Gilded Chairs', Country Life, 28 November 1963, pp. 1398-9.
J. Gloag, The Englishman's Chair, London, 1964, pl. 48.
H. Phillips, Mid-Georgian London, London, 1964, pp. 71, 287.
H. Hayward, et al., World Furniture, London, 1965, p. 138, fig. 508.
M. Musgrave, Adam & Hepplewhite & Other Neo-classical Furniture, London, 1966, pp. 43-4, 65, 123-4, 184, 192, 197, pl. 16, 57, 81.
A. Coleridge, 'Sir Lawrence Dundas & Chippendale', Apollo, Vol. LXXXVI September 1967, pp. 190-203.
E. Harris, 'The Moor Park Tapestries', Apollo, Vol LXXXVI September 1967, pp. 180-9.
J. Harris, 'The Dundas Empire', Apollo, Vol LXXXVI September 1967, pp. 170-9.
D. Sutton, (Editorial) 'The Nabob of the North', Apollo, Vol LXXXVI September 1967, p. 168.
A. Coleridge, Chippendale Furniture, The Work of Thomas Chippendale and his Contemporaries in the Rococo Taste, London, 1968, pp. 121-3, 130-1, 142-5, 147-8, 169-71, 209, 212, pl. 367.
R. Edwards, Georgian Furniture, London, rev.ed. 1969, pl. 90.
T. Tomlin, Catalogue of Adam Furniture, London, 1972, pp. 2-3.
F. Watson, et al., 'Purity of Form: The neoclassical reaction' in the History of Furniture, London, 1976, p. 159.
R. Edwards, The Shorter Dictionary of English Furniture; London, rev. ed. 1977, p.456, pl. 46.
G. Beard, The Work of Robert Adam, Edinburgh, 1978, pp. 25, 66, pl. 55.
C. Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978, Vol. I, pp. 154-60, Vol. II, pl. 176, 356, 357.
G. Jackson-Stops, (ed.) The Treasure Houses of Britain: Five Hundred Years of Private Patronage and Art Collecting, Yale, 1985, pp. 332-3.
G. Beard and C. Gilbert, ed. Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840, Leeds, 1986, p. 166.
J. Fowler and J. Cornforth, English Decoration in the 18th Century, London/Melborne, rev. ed. 1986, pp. 45, 187, fig. 173.
G. Beard, 'Robert Adam's 'artificiers', Antiques, June 1987, pp. 1292-1303, fig. p. 1295.
G. Beard and J. Goodison, English Furniture 1500-1840, London, 1987, pp. 118, 136.
J. Bryant, 'Back as Adam intended', Country Life, 3 November 1988, pp. 192-5.
N. Harris, Chippendale, New Jersey, 1989, pp. 84-5, 95-7, 102-3.
C. Simon Sykes, Private Palaces: Life in the Great London Houses, London, 1989, p. 200.
D. King, The Complete Works of Robert and James Adam, Oxford, 1991, pp. 307-8, pl. 431.
S. Pryke, 'Revolution in Taste', Country Life, 16 April 1992, pp. 102-5, figs. 3 & 4.
D. Linley, Classical Furniture, London, 1993, p. 111.
C. Wilk, ed., Western Furniture 1350 to the Present Day, London, 1996, p. 118-9.
30¼ in. (77 cm.) wide overall; the seats 27 in. (68.5 cm.) wide; 41¾ in. (106 cm.) high; 30¼ in. (77 cm.) deep (2)
Supplied in 1765 by Thomas Chippendale to Sir Lawrence Dundas, Bt., for the Great Room, 19, Arlington Street, London.
Thence by descent.