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POLITICS AND TASTE: 22 ARLINGTON STREET AND ITS RESIDENTS
The history of No. 22 Arlington Street reflects the transition from 18th century grandeur to Victorian opulence, and from Edwardian luxury to its 18th century restoration in the second half of the 20th century. The Arlington Street mansion, built beside Green Park by Henry Pelham (d. 1754), set the fashion for George II's London of the 1740s. The colourful and richly mosaiced ceiling of its bay-windowed saloon or great room-of-entertainment is a masterpiece of the modern 'Roman' taste introduced by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington with the assistance of his protégé, the Rome-trained artist William Kent (d. 1748).
Arlington Street, Walpole's 'ministerial street', was a fashionable address from the early 18th century. It is pleasantly situated on a north-south axis between St James's Street to the east and Green Park to the west. Henry Pelham bought the plot of 22 Arlington Street in 1740 and immediately set about its redevelopment, employing William Kent as architect. By 1743, Pelham was by now Prime Minister and chose not to live at 10 Downing Street, but to reside in the fashionable and political hotbed of Arlington Street. Pelham's neighbours at this time included his enemy Lord Carteret, later Earl Granville, Lord Tyrconnel, The Duchess of Norfolk and across the road at No 5, lived Sir Robert Walpole, who, prior to his premiership had lived at No. 20. Sir Lawrence Dundas, patron of Thomas Chippendale and Robert Adam, is later recorded at 19 Arlington Street and the magnificent collection contained there was sold by Christie's in 1934. Pelham completed the decoration of his monumental and fashionable town house in 1754, but died suddenly on 6 March. He was succeeded at 22 Arlington Street by another politician: Granville Leveson Gower, 2nd Earl Gower, later Marquess of Stafford, who resided there whilst George III's architect Sir William Chambers (1723-1796) completed the monumental Stafford House. Later in the 18th century, another Prime Minister, Augustus Henry Fitzroy, 3rd Duke of Grafton, also lived at no. 22. Residents during the 19th and 20th centuries include John Jeffreys Pratt, 2nd Earl and 1st Marquess of Camden (resident from 1798-1837); Henry Somerset, 7th Duke of Beaufort occupied the house from 1838-1853 and from 1854-1870 two successive Dukes of Hamilton (11th & 12th Dukes) lived there, when the house was renamed Hamilton House. The 12th Duke sold the house to Sir Ivor Guest in 1871. The Guest family, later the Viscounts Wimborne were the last owners to use it as a private residence. The Guests continued the opulent decoration undertaken by the Dukes of Hamilton, introducing rich Italianate and French furniture combined with brocaded silk wall hangings. Once again, the house became a home to those with political ambitions - Ivor Guest, his brother Freddie and their cousin Winston Churchill were all intimate and Churchill was a regular visitor. All three were encouraged in their political careers by their mother Lady Wimborne. The rooms played host to musical soirées with the Sitwells, William Walton, Anthony Asquith - all of whom feature in Sir John Lavery's painting Chamber Music at Wimborne House, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1937. Such was the house's prominence that Wimborne House was the inspiration for Evelyn Waugh's Marchmain House in Brideshead Revisited. In 1947 the house, then known as Wimborne House, was sold by the 2nd Viscount Wimborne to the present owners.
Following the purchase of 22 Arlington Street, and the subsequent restoration project that was undertaken, it was discovered that the house was originally designed by William Kent (d. 1748). The interiors were restored to their 18th century Kent-designed glory and this was to be the touchstone of the collection. Furniture was carefully chosen to harmonise with the newly-restored Kentian neo-Palladian interiors. A magnificent pair of 'Roman' marble-topped giltwood pier tables (lot 9) provides the strongest note of William Kent inspired furnishing: they were bought from David Style'’s house, Wateringbury Place, Kent, at the Christie's house sale in 1978. A pair of temple-pedimented giltwood mirrors, from Rudding Park, Yorkshire (lot 10) formed an important element in the 1970s refurbishment of the Pelham Saloon. Their robust architecture well suited the room's Pantheonic decoration, that had been introduced by William Kent during the period that he dominated George II's Architectural Board of Works. The Pelham ceiling is wreathed by heads of the poetry-deity Apollo emerging from Roman foliage, while its painted decoration is inspired by Ovid'’s Metamophoses concerning the 'Loves of the Gods'. Similar ornament, evoking lyric poetry and the Golden Age, features on the present golden pier-tables and pier-glasses. Another 'Roman' George II mahogany side table with marble slab and fretted frieze centred by a Venus-shell badge (lot 20), also evokes Ovid's Metamorphoses, effectively harmonising with Kent's robustly classical ceiling decoration. The 'Roman' character of the decoration is continued in the exuberance of the acanthus-carved Italian giltwood side tables (lot 50), which also reflects the Victorian and Edwardian Franco-Italian taste for luxury of later residents of 22 Arlington Street, such as the Dukes of Hamilton and the Guest family. The Italian 'Renaissance', is reflected by a 16th century Italian carved walnut cassone (lot 1).
The contents now being sold were formed over the last fifty years and continue the ambitions, tastes and connoisseurship of the owners of this London town house, made famous by the illustrious roll call of its former incumbents.