William Kent (Bap. 1686-1748)
William Kent, or Cant as he was baptized, was the son of William Cant of Bridlington, Yorkshire, a joiner of some standing and wealth. It is thought that he probably attended the local grammar school. John Harris, in Kent's entry in The Dictionary of National Biography, question's the traditional story suggested by George Vertue that Kent was apprenticed to a local coach painter. However, it was during his early years in Bridlington that he met and was taken up by his two earliest patrons, Sir William Wentworth of Bretton Park and Sir Richard Osbaldeston of Hunmanby Hall. It was almost certainly through their connections that Kent, as he now called himself, sailed at the age of twenty-five to Italy in the company of the young antiquary and art collector William Talman (1677-1726) and virtuoso Daniel Lock in 1709. Kent was to remain in Italy for the next ten years traveling from Leghorn to Pisa, Florence, Lucca and then Rome. Kent entered the studio Guiseppe Chiari (1654-1727) in order to study to be a painter. He would have copied many works of the great masters such as Raphael, Reni and others. He achieved some success and was awarded a silver medal by the Pope in 1713 for his drawing of the miracle of St. Andrea Avellino.
It was while studying in Rome that Kent was to meet the young aristocrat and patron of the arts Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (1694-1753). It was Burlington's friendship and his promotion of Kent as a painter, architect and designer that was to establish him firmly at the centre of the latest fashion, both at Court and amongst the aristocracy. They returned to England in November 1719 and by January of the next year Kent was well established in the household of Lord Burlington.
Kent was renowned for his easy manner and apolitical views. People held his friendly demeanor and un-sycophantic opinions in high regards. He had a witty side which was often realised in amusing touches to his works. Even the acerbic poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) was softened by his charms as evidenced by the lighthearted manner in which he would tease him in the letters they exchanged.
Kent and the Royal Court
Kent's work for his patron at Burlington House in the early 1720s drew the attention of the King and it was Kent, rather than the King's painter Sir James Thornhill (1675/6-1734) who was given the commission to decorate the newly created rooms at Kensington. He started with a bold architectural scheme in the Cupola Room and later completed a number of further apartments between 1722 and 1727. Other commissions followed at Houghton for Sir Robert Walpole, at Raynham Hall, Norfolk and at Stowe, Buckinghamshire. He also worked extensively for Burlington at Chiswick Villa. It would be inevitable that Burlington's passion for architecture would influence Kent and his patrons request that he edit The Designs of Inigo Jones with some Additional Designs in 1724 was to be the catalyst that would propel Kent into a wider field of architecture and design. It was published in 1727. He had drawn up some designs for the arrangement of furniture of pictures and furniture at Houghton in 1725. He had been appointed master carpenter in 1726 and surveyor and inspector of paintings in the royal palaces in 1728. He later also became master mason and deputy surveyor of the King's works. In 1732 he designed the Prince of Wales's State Barge and a masquerade from the prince in the previous year. In 1734 he created the decorations for the celebration of the marriage of Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, daughter of the King. His knowledge of the arts, both painting and architecture was well established. His reputation at court was almost unassailable.
Several of his silver designs were realised and a number of the pieces still survive. Perhaps closest in date to the chandelier is the Pelham gold cup, the design for which is reproduced here. Its entry in the silversmith George Wickes' Gentleman's Ledger shows that it was made for Colonel Pelham (J. Hayward 'The Pelham Gold Cup', The Connoisseur, July 1969, p. 163). Later pieces include the horse-head handled tureens conceived for Lord Montford also by Wickes and dated 1745 (E. Barr, George Wickes Royal Goldsmith 1698-1761, London, 1980, p. 97, pl. 56); a centrepiece made for Frederick, Prince of Wales in the same year, which remains in the Royal Collection and a further piece made by Wickes in 1745 - a mug made for Charles Hanbury-Williams (E. Barr, op. cit., p. 96, pl. 55). There are also a number of candlesticks marked for the London silversmiths Paul Crespin and Augustine Le Sage among others which draw their inspiration from the Kent drawings for candlesticks. These two designs were later adapted and sent to Hanover for the set of girandoles also created by Behrens for the Hanoverian court and first delivered in 1737 (see below).
Behrens' chandelier closely follows the Kent design. He made some necessary charges to give strength to the form, most significantly the central baluster shaft which extends the height of the chandelier and provides support for the branches and all the decorative elements. This was not the only change. Charles Oman (C. Oman, Apollo, 'Silver Designs by William Kent', 1972, pp. 22-23) was unaware of the existence of the chandeliers as he comments "We may be sure that the Chandelier for the King would not have been carried out unaltered.The engraving shows a seven branch chandelier with a shield charged with a galloping horse and surmounted by a royal crown. George II was not all at art-conscious, but would not have overlooked a rendering of the arms of Hanover in which the white horse was shown galloping in the wrong direction and the shield was surmounted by a crown instead of an electoral bonnet!". The direction of the galloping Horse of Hanover was not surprisingly corrected by Behrens, assuming the error was not an engravers mistake at the time of publication. The use of the British royal crown is interesting, especially as the chandeliers were intended for the Electorate of Hanover. It is possible that the combination of the Royal Crown of Great Britain held aloft above the White Horse of Hanover represent the dominions of the King in order of precedence, with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland above the Electorate of Hanover as recorded in the style used by King George II as "King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Elector of Hanover, Defender of the Faith". They signified the authority of the king in his absence from the electorate.
The design vocabulary used by Kent draws on his study of Palladio and classical forms. The cornucopia, sphinxes, lion's masks, acanthus foliage and shells are all decorative motifs employed by Kent in his work at Kensington Place in the early 1720s. There is a certain Italian baroque exuberance present in the design for the chandelier which no doubt was the product of Kent's time in Rome. It has been suggested by Michael Wilson, op. cit, p.236 that he may have been influenced by the Sicilian architect and stage designer Filippo Juvarra (1678-1736) who came from a family of silversmiths. Kent may well have met him and admired his works while in Rome. Juvarra's Antamoro Chapel in the Church of San Girolamo della Carritá was completed by 1710. Also his designs for heraldic shields had been published in 1711 as Raccolta di varie targhe fatte da professori primarii di Roma. A number of his designs for silver are preserved in the collection of the Museo Civico, Turin. Interestingly Juvarra was in London after working on the King of Portugal's palace at Mafra in 1720. Indeed Juvarra dedicated an album to Lord Burlington in 1729 which is now in the collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects (exhibited Nottingham University Gallery, Apollo of the Arts: Lord Burlington and his Circle, 1973, no. 17). John Cornforth, op. cit., 2004, p. 139 also proposed the designs of the Italian silversmith Giovanni Giardini as a possibly influence, engravings of his drawings having been published in Designi Diversi inventati e delineati da Givanni Giardini in 1714.
Many of the motifs employed by Kent in the chandelier design are present in his works at Kensington Palace completed for the king's father King George I and also in the engraved vignettes he created for Alexander Pope's translation of Homer's Odyssey published in 1725. The use of a sphinx emerging from acanthus foliage is used by Kent in the frames of the subsidiary panels on the ceiling of the King's Gallery in Kensington Palace and as a support for the "Venus" throne in Pope's Odyssey, perhaps in a similar manner to the "Four large sphynx stands for tables" that Gumley and Moore delivered to Kensington Palace for Kent's Cupola Room in 1723 (J. Cornforth, op. cit., 2004, p. 148. Putti similar to those beneath the Royal crown on the chandelier also feature of the King's Gallery ceiling. They reach up to support cartouches and panels. Cornucopiae adorn the spandrels. In 1728 cornucopiae appear once more in the frieze of the Marble Parlour at Houghton Hall, Horfolk, Kent's great commission from the Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. Notably they are twinned with representations of Italian silver vessels. Kent almost certainly takes inspiration from Charles de Moelder's 1694 publication Ornaments which promote the antique style of Jean Berain.
Balthasar Friedrich Behrens (1701-1760) and the Commission
Behrens served as munzguardin to the Royal Mint on Hanover a post previously held by Conrad Hermann Mundt, whose widow Behrens married in 1728. Mundt had worked for King George I although much of the more elaborate plate was produced in London, an exception was the magnificent wine fountain and cistern made by Lewin Dedeke of Celle, circa 1710 (Christie's, New York, 23 October 2000, lot 486). Behrens' name appears in the Hanover Inventory, op. cit, p.201-202 in December 1735 for repairing damaged silver and the Ahlden chandelier. The contract for the chandelier commission was signed by Behrens on 20 January 1736 at a rate of six mariengroschen per loth. As security for the silver he was to receive from the Jewel House Behrens offered all his worldly possessions. The contract stated that the chandeliers were to be made 'after the carved wooden model provided' and that they were to the finish 'before the feast of St. John'. The silver sent to Behrens was made up of plate taken from the Royal vault which was either worn out from use or broken. Records list a salver, a wine fountain and cistern, pastry dishes, a night lamp and stand, one hundred and twenty plates and dishes, a spittoon, further plates and dishes, tea kettles, a chamber pot, a standish (inkstand), five keys and a warming stand (E. Alcorn, op. cit., 1993, p. 26). The Court Marshall was exceedingly cautious and wanted to prevent any of the worn out article being sold, therefore the keepers of the royal silver and the court commissary personally supervised the melting in the royal bake house. During the melting a sample was taken, assayed and the test then locked in the Royal Silver Chamber. The purity of the silver used for the chandeliers was recorded as "a few grains purer than 18 carats" and "the leaf work twisted round the branches is 22½ carat silver as being more ductile", Hanover Inventory, op. cit., p. 54. Behrens delivered the chandeliers, listed in the later Hanover inventories as A and B on 13 September 1736, when they were weighed and checked, a mere eight months after the signing of the contact. The account of payment was settled on 21 September. The silver was tested for purity against the sample taken from the old silver melted in the Bake House.
The King had been in Hanover since May of 1736 so he would have been able to seen the completed chandeliers in person. They obviously pleased him for within three weeks Behrens was commissioned to provide a further three for which he was given 364 pounds of silver. The completed chandeliers were delivered on the 6, 16 and 27 of November 1737. Behrens subsequently complained to the Office of the Grand Marshall that he has been forced to supply 127 thalers of silver himself, the silver sent by the Oberhofmarschall von Reden having been of insufficient quantity. The claim was dismissed following the assaying and weighing all five of the chandeliers. The tests listed in the Hanover Inventory were very detailed and account for the numerous assay scrapes found on the lot. The samples "as much as he need for the cupel test" were divided into four, one given to the Behrens for his record and three sent to the Master of the Royal Mint. The disagreement did not prevent von Reden commissioning further girandoles, a pair having been ordered in February of that year, to "the design sent from England" by Baron von Hattorf (c.1675-1737), the Hanoverian Privy Councillor at St. James's. It would appear the design was a combination of the two drawing for candlesticks published by Vardy after Kent 1744 as mentioned above. Two of the girandoles were offered at Christie's Geneva, 14 May 1996, lot 191. The base of the stems are formed by four adorsed mermaids or mer-nymphs, first used by Kent in his design for a "Venus Fountain" in Pope's Odyssey. The stems, which are taller than those in the designs, follow the faceted baluster form of one and have similar branches. The central finial is formed from a flaming cornucopia reminiscent of those supported by the sphinxes on the chandeliers. In all twelve were made. Behrens went on to supply the court with a set of twelve double lipped sauceboats, and twenty-four candlesticks "of the new English style", examples of both are now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The History of the Chandeliers
The chandeliers were commissioned by King George II at a time when his interest in the Electorate of Hanover was on the rise. On his visit in 1735 he had met and fallen for Amalie (1704-1765), the wife of Gottlieb Adam von Wallmoden (d. 1752), Oberhauptmann of Calenberg. She became the king's mistress and, following the death of the Queen in 1737, came to England in June 1738. She was divorced from her husband in 1740 and was created Countess of Yarmouth by the King in the same year. It was perhaps more than just a coincidence that the king commissioned new silver for his Hanoverian palaces, anticipating more frequent visits to the electorate. The chandeliers have historically thought to have been designed for the palace of Herrenhausen. It had begun life as the summer residence of the Dukes of Brunswick-Luneberg and its famous garden survives to this day. Some remodeling had been under taken by the Dowager Electress Sophie (1630-1714) and it was essentially a building of her creation. However, Eleanor Alcorn in her Burlington Magazine, op. cit., pp. 42-43 suggests the Rittersaal of the Leineschloss in Hanover was more likely as the intended location for the chandeliers. She cites a contemporary description of the celebrations associated with the marriage by proxy of Princess Louisa (1724-1751), youngest daughter of King George II to Frederick, Crown Prince of Denmark (1723-1766) which were held in Hanover in November 1743. The account, published in E. F. von Malortie 'Die Vermählung der Prinzessin Louise von Grossbritannien und Hanover mit dem Kronprinzen von Denmark am 10 November 1743', Beiträge zur Geschichte des Braunschweig-Lüneburgisschen hausses und hofes, 1860, vol. 1, p. 41, described how 'The Rittersaal was set up as a banquet room, with a dais in front of the chimney flanked by silver gueridons bearing silver girandoles. Above, the five silver chandeliers were lit. Under the canopy stood an armchair for the King, to the right a side chair for the Duke of Cumberland, and to the left, two side chairs for Princess Louise and Princess Marie of Hesse.' There were nine other chandeliers in the Hanover inventory, however the Kent set are the only matching set of five. Moreover much of the Leineschloss had been destroyed by fire in 1741 and the silver chandeliers are amongst the contents of eight crates of furnishings removed from the Rittersaal after the fire. An 1866 photograph of the Rittersaal shows five chains hanging from the five ceiling vaults.
Having survived the Leineschloss fire the possibility that Napoleon might loot the Royal Plate of Hanover led King George III to send much of the silver and silver-gilt to London. It was sent by way of St Petersburg and eventually much was displayed in Windsor Castle where the chandeliers were painted in situ in the Queen's Drawing Room and the Ballroom by C. Wild and published by William Henry Pyne (1769-1843) in his three volume work The History of the Royal Residences, first printed in 1819. The Hanoverian plate together with the British Royal silver was the centerpiece of 'Their Majestie's Grand Fete at Windsor Castle', as described in The Gentleman's Magazine for 1805.
'This evening their Majesties gave a most magnificent entertainment at Windsor Castle. It has been in contemplation since they first went to reside in the Castle: when his Majesty was determined to have what is generally termed among good old English customs, a house warming; and, to give it in the grandeur of a King, we assert that the expenditure cannot have coast less than 50,000l. It may truly be said that it was his Majesties fête; for, everything was done by the direction, and under the superintendance [sic.], of his Majesty.' ". The assembled guests admired the new works and the wealth of riches brought from Hanover. Much comment was made of silver on show throughout the castle. "The whole service of plate displayed this night was supposed to be the most magnificent in Europe. Messrs Hancock and Shepherd have been employed for a considerable time past hanging the silver chandeliers from Hanover". The chandeliers returned to Hanover once the threat posed by Napoleon's forces had passed.
On the death of King William IV in 1836 the thrones of Great Britain and Hanover were separated after almost 123 years. Under the German Salic law of succession the throne of Hanover could only be held by a male monarch. Therefore Queen Victoria, the daughter of King William IV's brother, the Duke of Kent, was barred from the throne of Hanover. The throne went instead to her eldest surviving uncle Prince Ernst Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and King of Hanover (r.1837-1851). His son King George V of Hanover (r.1851-1866, d.1878) succeeded him but was deposed during the Seven Weeks War in 1866. Although Hanover was sacked by Prussian troops the royal plate survived in a bricked up vault hidden by piles of lime rubble. The King and his family fled to Austria. King George V's son revived the title of Duke of Cumberland and, deprived of the throne of Hanover, he lived in exile at Gmunden in Austria where he built a country house. Towards the end of his life he was negotiating the sale of much of the Royal Hanoverian silver, including the chandeliers. A report in The Times on 21 June 1923 entitled 'The Cumberland Silver' comments that 'Nothing has been settled about the Cumberland silver. The Duke has apparently asked for tenders, and several groups of dealers are negotiating on the subject, each of them as quietly as possible, for even part of the collection would be regarded as a great prize. The duke died on 14 November of the same year and on the 20 November Crichton Brothers opened their exhibition of The Cumberland Silver. The chandeliers were bought after the Duke's death from his son who was styled Duke of Brunswick-Lüneberg on 25 September 1924. They do not appear to have been part of the silver purchased by Gluckselig or Crichton Brothers and are thought to have seen sold privately to Elkan Silberman on 25 September 1924. Two of the chandeliers appeared in an article in the Connoisseur in 1937, W. W. Watts, op. cit., vol. 100, November, 1937, pp. 232-234, and these are probably the pair which were bought by Lord Fairhaven and now hang at his house Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire, now owned by the National Trust. A third chandelier now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston was perhaps owned by the dealer Duveen and entered an American private collection. It was bought from the Parisian dealer Kraemer et Cie in 1985. The present chandelier was purchased by Hubert de Givenchy from Kraemer for the Salon Vert in the hôtel d'Orrouer and it has been in a private collection since its sale in 1994. The fifth chandelier's location is currently not known.