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    Sale 7816

    Le Grand Goût - A Private European Collection

    17 June 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 100



    Price Realised  


    Each armchair with shaped and domed rectangular back and scrolling arm rests and foliate supports, on scolled legs joined by scrolling X-frame stretchers with gadrooned finial, the polychrome silk embroidery to back and seat depicting exuberant vases of flowers with butterflies, birds and fruit, on an ivory satin ground within later foliate fringed borders, the base of the back and seat with later tasselled fringes, with removable fitted leather covers and the reverse of the back stamped with damask pattern, the front seat rails of two chairs with pen inscription '1874' and four '176+'
    55½ in. (141 cm.) high; 32½ in. (82.5 cm.) wide; 31 in. (79 cm.) deep (10)

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    The Goût Rothschild

    Beautifully carved and of an unusually grand scale, these palatial armchairs have retained their original silk-stich embroidery covers in vivid colours, a rare survival and document. Miraculously, the original damask-patterned stamped leather dust-covers have also survived, and together with the chair-frames they form a unique historic ensemble encapsulating the goût Rothschild.

    The Needlework
    The backs and seats are embellished with superb embroidery depicting exuberant flower bouquets issuing from precious vases resting on a ledge, which are related to flower still lives executed in Florence but also in Rome by Northern and Italian artists active in the second half of the 17th Century. This includes the Maastricht artist Karel Vogelaer (1653-1695), who executed a series of paintings in Rome with tall and densely-filled flower bouquets similar to those on the present embroidery. The oeuvre of Francesco Mantovano, active in Venice and Rome between 1636 and 1663, also includes very similar flower vases issuing colourful and fantastical flower bouquets in a dense composition (G. and U. Bocchi, Pittori di Natura Morta a Roma, Viadona, 2004, Artisti Stranieri, pp. 175-197, Artisti Italiani, p. 215). In addition, they are also related to the flower pictures by the Florentine artist Andrea Scacciati (1642-1710), which are looser in composition and with more surrounding elements but still similar in arrangement of the flowers (M. Gregori, La Natura Morta, Milan, 1989, pp. 589-590).

    The 1873 exhibition catalogue entry describes the chair as 'Large carved Elbow chair of Florentine needlework, with 5 covers from the Palace Capponi, needlework by the Lady Zeni Capponi'. The following item in the exhibition (no. 97) was another chair from a large set at Mentmore (Sotheby's house sale, lot 846) also covered with needlework by ladies of the Capponi family. In the Mentmore 1884 catalogue this set was recorded on the Gallery. Whether or not the covers were indeed made by a member of Capponi family is uncertain; the scale of the commission was large and ambitious, the quality of the embroidery extraordinary; both of which would point to the involvement of a professional workshop. The mention in the museum entry might therefore be based on family tradition rather than factual information.

    The Leather Covers
    Leather covers were not unusual in the grandest houses to protect precious items of furniture when the house was not lived in or when rooms were shut during the winter months. Few of these survive and have generally been seperated from the pieces to which they belong. At Ham House near Richmond, the seat of the Dukes of Lauderdale and Earls of Dysart, some leather covers have survived and are listed in the 1677, 1679 and 1683 inventories (P. Thornton, 'The Furniture and Decoration of Ham House', Furniture History Society, XVI(1980), pp. 50, 57 and 88). At Burghley House near Stamford, the seat of the Marquesses of Exeter, leather covers have also survived for a Boulle longcase clock and a coffer-on-stand no longer at Burghley, which are now at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and in the collection of the Dukes of Marlborough at Blenheim Palace (G. Wilson, 'A Clock, a Coffer and their Covers', Furniture History Society, XLIII(2007), pp. 237-243).

    Palazzo Capponi
    Palazzo Capponi delle Rovinate, Florence, located across the Arno River from the Galleria degli Uffizi, was completed in 1411 for Nicolo da Uzzano, and was inherited by the Capponi family in 1435. The last surviving branch of the family - famous for the spirited challenge made by their ancestor Piero Capponi to a French invasion in 1494 - still resides in the palace to this day.


    The art collections at Mentmore were among the most outstanding of their kind anywhere in the world, prompting Lady Eastlake to comment: 'I do not believe that the Medici were ever so lodged at the height of their glory'. Mentmore was built between 1852 and 1854 by Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild, who needed a house near to London and in close proximity to other Rothschild homes at Tring, Ascot, Aston Clinton and later Waddesdon and Halton House. The plans for the mansion imitated Wollaton Hall in Nottingham and were drawn up by the gardener turned architect Joseph Paxton, celebrated for his Crystal Palace, completed the year earlier. Sumptuously furnished with extraordinary works of art in every field, on his death in 1874, Baron Mayer left Mentmore and a fortune of some £2,000,000 to his daughter, Hannah de Rothschild. Four years later Hannah married Archibald Philip, 5th Earl of Rosebery, who added considerably to the collections assembled by his father-in-law and it remained intact until the dispersal of the contents in 1977.

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    The needlework and leather covers originally at the Palazzo Capponi, Florence
    Acquired by Baron Meyer Amschel de Rothschild for Mentmore Towers, Buckinghamshire, and by descent to his daughter
    Hannah de Rothschild, wife of the 5th Earl of Rosebery, Mentmore Towers, and by descent to
    The 6th Earl of Rosebery, sold Mentmore, Sotheby's House Sale, 20 May 1977, lot 918 (a set of seventeen then).
    Anonymous sale, Christie's New York, 26 April 1994, lot 193 (a set of twelve).
    Acquired from Adrian Alan Fine Art, London.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Mentmore Privately printed catalogue, 1884, volume II, page 52, numbers 90-106 (Gallery).


    A pair was exhibited at the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) in 1873.
    The 1873 Exhibition catalogue describes the chairs as 'Large carved Elbow chair of Florentine needlework, with five covers from the Palace Capponi, needlework by the Lady Zeni Capponi'.