This exceptionally rare suite of George I mirrored wall-sconces were commissioned by Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle (d.1721). They are designed in the Louis Quatorze Roman fashion that evolved from goldsmiths patterns issued around 1700 by William III's Paris-trained architect Daniel Marot (d.1752) in his Nouveaux Livre d'Orfèvrerie; and Nouveaux Livre dornements, pour l'utillitié des Sculpteurs, et Orfèvres. The latter's frontispiece featured a related sconce cartouche, with candle-branches issuing from the Ionic wave-scrolled ribbons tieing the shell-decked and veil-draped mask of a vestal to evoke sacrifices to Venus.
These sconces were almost certainly provided by London's most prominent glass-maker John Gumley (d.1727) of the Vauxhall glass-house, who provided pier-glasses with bevel-mirrored frames for Hampton Court Palace around 1715 (R. Edwards and M. Jourdain, Georgian Cabinet-Makers, London, 1955 figs. 16 and 17; and I. Caldwell, 'John Gumley the Glassmaker', Antique Collector, January, 1989 pp.40-46). Gumley's own house in Middlesex was aggrandised to the designs of the Rome-trained architect James Gibbs (d.1754), who was also patronised by the Duke of Newcastle's son-in-law Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford (d.1741) in laying out a large estate in Marylebone around 1715 (T. Friedman, James Gibbs, London,1984, p.205). So it is also possible that Gibbs could have supervised the design of the present sconces, which relate to his pattern for a shell-decked octagon sconce that is now at Temple Newsam, Leeds (C. Gilbert, Furniture at Temple Newsam House and Lotherton Hall, Leeds, vol. III 1998, no. 810).
These sconces formed part of an extensive suite of pier mirrors presumably commissioned by the 1st Duke of Newcastle either for Claremont, Clumber or London. A pair of tall pier mirrors also from Clumber and almost certainly executed in the same workshop, was acquired by another client of R.W. Symonds - Eric Moller; the pair is illustrated in R.W. Symonds, English Furniture Making in 17th and 18th Century England, London, 1954, figs, 201-2.
A closely related pier mirror - without the refinement of japanned borders - was in the Hochschild and Marjorie Wiggin Prescott Collection Collections, sold Christie's New York, 31 January 1985, lot 195. Interestingly, it appears to display an identical pounced gilt-metal plate for the candle-branches.
The Pelham Roman-medallioned pier-glasses have mirrored frames that are richly bevelled with light and colour refracting prisms. While the frames outer reed mouldings are antique-fluted, their inner borders are wreathed in Apollo's golden laurels, that are japanned in trompe l'oeil, and entwine the glasses bevel-waved volutes that are fixed by pearled bosses. The lambrequined sconce tablets are similarly wreathed by pearled and waved ribbons. The glass-crestings are cut with obelisk plinths supporting antique love-trophies that comprise the shell-badge of the water-borne deity Venus enwreathed by luxuriant Roman foliage.
Clumber was built for the second Duke of Newcastle by Stephen Wright between 1767 and 1770. Set in a large park, designed in part by Capability Brown, it was a grand Palladian house near Worksop in Nottinghamshire. During the 1850s the house was enlarged and embellished in the Italianate style by the fifth Duke, who also added the serpentine lake and a double avenue of lime trees over three miles in length. In the 19th Century a fire destroyed the whole centre section of the house, which was soon rebuilt. There was a further less serious fire in 1912. In 1938 Clumber was stripped, the contents sold, and the house demolished. The intention was to build a new house on the site but the park was requisitioned by the War Department during the Second World War and the rebuilding never took place. The park was purchased by the National Trust in 1946. However, much of the estate remains, including the outstanding Gothic Revival Chapel, Walled Garden and greenhouses, Stable yard and the estate village of Hardwick.