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    Sale 7627

    Dealing in Excellence: A Celebration of Hotspur and Jeremy

    20 November 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 130

    A SET OF GEORGE II GILTWOOD AND POLYCHROME-PAINTED CARVINGS FROM THE TAPESTRY ROOM AT DITCHLEY PARK

    ATTRIBUTED TO WILLIAM LINNELL, CIRCA 1755

    Price Realised  

    A SET OF GEORGE II GILTWOOD AND POLYCHROME-PAINTED CARVINGS FROM THE TAPESTRY ROOM AT DITCHLEY PARK
    ATTRIBUTED TO WILLIAM LINNELL, CIRCA 1755
    Comprising: a canopy with lappet border flanked by eagles perched on scrolls; a polychrome female chinoiserie figure kneeling on a descending series of palm fronds; and a pair of winged male heads within hunting horns, with scrolls, drapery and foliage suspended below and two pairs of cockerels within palm frond wreaths, areas of regilding, one inscribed in pencil 'No. 104 left' and one with a printed paper label inscribed indstinctly 'SOLD...C..H..O' and 'No. 103 left', originally with further oval girandole mirrors suspended from the bottoms, the figure repainted with old layers visible and different washes on the back of figure and bracket than on the other carvings, the carvings with two layers of water gilding (regilding of the figure and bracket are of a later date than the rest)
    The canopy: 14 in. (35 cm.) high; 39 in. (99 cm.) wide;
    The figure on her base: 30 in. (76 cm.) high;
    The winged heads: 26 in. (68 cm.) high; 25 in. (63 cm.) wide;
    The larger cockerels: 32 in. (81.25 cm.) high; 22 in. (56 cm.) wide;
    The smaller cockerels: 28 in. (71 cm.) high; 20 in. (51 cm.) wide;
    Drapery swags: 20¾ in. (52.5 cm.) high; 18 in. (45.75 cm.) wide (11)


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    DITCHLEY PARK
    Ditchley Park has a remarkable history in both the 18th and 20th
    Centuries. The house was largely built by George Lee, 2nd Earl of Lichfield, whose mother, Lady Charlotte Fitzroy was the daughter of Charles II by the Duchess of Cleveland. Work began in 1720 and continued until the 2nd Earl's death in 1743 at the age of 52. The 3rd Earl, responsible for adding the chinoiserie carvings, died in 1772 and was succeeded by his uncle who was killed hunting in 1776. Ditchley was inherited by his niece, Lady Charlotte Lee, who married the 11th Viscount Dillon.

    Ditchley remained in the Dillon family until 1934, when the 18th Viscount Dillon sold the house and much of its contents to Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Tree. Ronald Tree was an American who had been brought up and educated in England. In 1920 he married fellow American Nancy Langhorne, and in 1926 they moved back to England where he stood for Parliament. Ronald Tree married his second wife, Marietta, in 1946; Marietta lived only briefly at Ditchley, as Tree was forced to sell it in 1947.

    THE TAPESTRY DRAWING ROOM AT DITCHLEY
    John Cornforth suggests that James Gibbs supplied the plans and elevations for Ditchley Park, and that the interiors were carried out by Henry Flitcroft (d. 1769), Clerk of the Board of Works at George II's London Palaces and assistant to William Kent (d. 1748), the King's 'Master Carpenter', along with Italian stuccadores. Under the supervision of the contractors, Francis and William Smith, William Bradshaw supplied much of the furniture and John Cheere the chimneypieces.

    The carvings were executed for one of the principal rooms of entertainment of the Roman-style villa. The Tapestry Drawing Room featured a Roman stuccoed ceiling that was designed by Flitcroft. The hearth, which supplied the room's focal point, had a magnificent temple-pedimented marble chimneypice that was invoiced by Cheere in 1743. Its carved ornament included a central tablet bearing the head of a fertility deity; and with its 'Roman' pilaster trusses festooned with fruit and flowers, it was intended to evoke a golden age of Peace and Plenty.

    THE GOLDEN CARVINGS
    These richly carved pendants formed part of the chimney-piece 'sconces', introduced as part of the enrichments of the room carried out in the late 1740's by George Henry, 3rd Earl of Lichfield. Having embellished its walls with tapestry hangings, he commissioned these drapery carvings, together with ensuite girandole mirrors. The inventory of Ditchley drawn up on the death of the 3rd Earl in 1772 lists:
    'No. 35. In the next Tapestry Room
    ...
    A curious small Chinese figure of a Lady
    A pair of Girandoles, with two India figures...'

    The pair of girandoles, visible in the in situ photograph, was sold at Christie's London, 12 March 1981, lot 12. The 'India' figure from the present lot at the other end of the same room, is illustrated in situ in Country Life, 24 October 1985, p.1176, fig 7. Nancy Tree, later Mrs Lancaster, moved the carvings to Haseley Court, which she acquired in 1954, and where they remained until 1972.

    The chinoiserie overmantel mirror en suite with the carvings is visible in the 1950 watercolour by Alexandre Serebriakoff (b. 1907) and is illustrated here, showing the Tapestry Room after it had been rearranged as Mrs. Tree's Sitting Room and the tapestries removed. The chinoiserie overmantel mirror, which relates very closely to the chinoiserie overmantel at Badminton by Linnell, was sold from the Estate of Marietta Tree, Christie's, New York, 17 October 1992, lot 129.

    THE ATTRIBUTION TO WILLIAM LINNELL
    The execution of these superb carvings has been attributed to the workshops of the London carver and cabinet-maker William Linnell (d. 1763), who had worked during the 1740's under Flitcroft's direction at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire (J. Cornforth, 'William Linnell at Ditchley', Country Life, 15 December 1988, p. 104). It was in the late 1740's that William was joined by his son John Linnell (d. 1796), and it was shortly after the establishment of their Long Acre partnership, that the firm recieved a commission to decorate the famous 'India' apartment at Badminton House, Gloucestershire for the 4th Duke of Beaufort, which is very similar in feeling to the present carvings. Furthermore, a design for a mirror in the Victoria and Albert Museum shows a female chinoiserie figure playing a lute which is closely related to the carved chinoiserie figure here (H. Hayward and P. Kirkham, William and John Linnell: Eighteenth Century London Furniture Makers, London, 1980, vol. II, p. 94, pl. 180).

    The attribution of these carvings to the Linnell workshop is further strengthened by the ties between the Dukes of Beaufort and the Lee family: the 3rd Earl was a Jacobite supporter, as were the Beauforts, and both families used the hunt as a cover for Jacobite activities (J. Cornforth, 'Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire--II', Country Life, 24 November 1988, p. 85).

    It is also possible that these carvings were actually designed by John Linnell, who became famed as 'an excellent carver in wood' and had trained in the French arts through his studies at the St. Martin's Lane Academy established by William Hogarth, artist and author of The Analysis of Beauty, 1753.

    Another possibility is that Linnell's carvings could have been executed under the direction of the architect and author Thomas Wright (d. 1786), with whom he worked at Badminton. Wright's publications on ornamental architecture included 'Six Original Designs of Arbours', 1755; and when he retired to Durham a few years later he decorated his Byers Green villa with an elaborate sequence of prints illustrating the faculties of human knowledge and passions. The fanciful composition of these carvings could well owe their inspiration to his genius.

    Special Notice

    This lot will be sold under the Alpha scheme. If you are an EU Purchaser, there is effectively no change: VAT is charged at 17.5% on the buyer''s premium ONLY on a VAT inclusive basis. VAT is accounted for under the auctioneer''s margin scheme. If you are a non-EU Purchaser: VAT, at 17.5%, will be payable on both the hammer price and the buyer''s premium. VAT on the hammer will be refunded upon receipt of export documentation by the VAT department. Non-EU trading businesses can receive a further VAT refund on the buyer''s premium directly from HM Revenue and Customs.


    Provenance

    Supplied to George Henry Lee, 3rd Earl of Lichfield (1718-1772), Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire.
    By family descent at Ditchley Park, to The Viscounts Dillon.
    Acquired with the house from Arthur, 18th Viscount Dillon (1876-1934) by Ronald and Nancy Tree in 1934.
    Sold with Ditchley to Lord Wilton in 1949.
    Subsequently repurchased from Ditchley by Mrs. Nancy (Tree) Lancaster in 1954 and moved to Haseley Court, Oxfordshire, until 1974.
    Anonymous sale, Christie's, New York, 18 October 2002, lot 325.


    Literature

    R. & J. Way, An Inventory of the Furniture, Paintings, Linnen, China, and Books, of the late, George Henry Earl of Litchfield, Deceased, at Ditchley ..., 28 October - 1 November 1772, recorded in 'No. 35 In the Next Tapestry Room'.
    A. Oswald, 'Ditchley - II', Country Life, 16 June 1934, pp. 626-627, figs. 8, 9 & 10.
    C. Hussey, English Country Houses: Early Georgian, London, 1955, figs. 95 and 96.
    J. Cornforth and J. Fowler, English Decoration in the 18th Century, London, 1974, p. 261, and p. 263, fig. 230 [illustrated in situ in the Drawing Room at Haseley Court].
    J. Cornforth, 'Ditchley Revisited', Country Life, 24 October 1985, pp. 1173-1177, fig. 7.
    J. Cornforth, 'Ditchley Park I-II' Country Life, 17-24 November, 1988, pp. 100-105 and 82-85.
    N. Goodison & R. Kern, Hotspur: Eighty Years of Antique Dealing, London, 2004, p. 206.
    T. Murdoch (ed.), Noble Households: Eighteenth Century Inventories of Great English Houses, Cambridge, 2006, p. 159.