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Property of the Metropolitan Museum of Art


The oval body with gadrooned rim and metal liner, bound by two bands with cabochon edges, each side mounted with a winged mask and the ends with goat masks suspending shell-cast loop handles, on a fluted stand on squared cabriole legs headed by bacchic masks and pendant husks on foliate-cast hoof feet, with later zinc liner but original lead lining fixed to inside of case, with Untermyer circular collection label numbered 101, and paper label printed 789
24 ¾ in. (63 cm.) high, 28 ½ in. (72.5 cm.) wide, 19 ¾ in. (50 cm.) deep
Colonel H. H. Mulliner, The Albany, London and Clifton Court, Rugby
With Jas. A. Lewis & Son, London, 1943
Judge Irwin Untermyer, New York, bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1964
Y. Hackenbroch, English Furniture with some furniture of other countries in the Irwin Untermyer Collection, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1958, pl. 28, fig. 47
A. Coleridge, 'English Furniture in the Duke of Argyll’s collection at Inverarary Castle’, The Connoisseur, March 1965, p. 156, fig. 9
Luton, Bedfordshire, Luton Public Museum, In The Days of Queen Charlotte, 11 May – 11 June 1939, no. 28 (pl. IX in exhibition catalogue; ‘from the Mulliner Collection’; exhibited by M. Harris & Sons)

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Lot Essay

This richly ornamented wine cooler is the most elaborate model among the known examples of the same design. Within the group, there are differences in the degree of elaboration and design of the mounts and carved details. These coolers have been traditionally attributed to the pre-eminent cabinet-maker Samuel Norman (active 1746-1767) of King Street, Soho, whose brief but illustrious career encompassed all of fashionable society in the 1760s.

The cooler was meant to be placed in a dining room, for the chilling of wine, and suitably reflects the demand for luxurious furnishings when sumptuous entertainment was paramount. English dining rooms, Robert Adam wrote in his Works in Architecture (1773), ‘are considered as the apartments of conversation, in which we are to pass a great part of our time. This renders it desirable to have them fitted up with elegance and splendour…’ (J. Cornforth, English Decoration in the 18th Century, London, 1978, p. 67). The cooler displays the iconography of Bacchus, god of wine and revelry, where bacchic masks with their amusing grapevine headdresses head the legs and rams form the handles. This decoration was not only appropriate for dining room celebration, but its symbolism reflected the patron’s knowledge of antiquity, an important accomplishment of the upper classes.

A pair of wine coolers of identical design was supplied to the immensely wealthy merchant Sir Lawrence Dundas, heralded as one of the most extravagant of patrons of his day and a renowned tastemaker. Dundas and his wife refurbished three magnificent houses – Aske Hall, Moor Park and 19 Arlington Street, London – under the watchful eye of fashionable society. In 1763, Mrs. James Harris corresponded with her son, the 1st Earl of Malmesbury, noting ‘I have spent the whole morning partly with Norman at Whitehall and partly at Norman’s warehouse and have given (what are for us I think) large orders, though not so great as those of Sir Lawrence Dundas, who has ordered furniture from Norman’s to the amount of ten thousand’ (A. Coleridge, 'Sir Lawrence Dundas and Chippendale,’ Apollo, September 1967, p. 191). In fact, Norman ultimately received £2,410 in commissions from Dundas. Other pre-eminent cabinet-makers – including Thomas Chippendale, Vile and Cobb, Mayhew and Ince and Pierre Langlois - are also recorded and were directed by architect Robert Adam, who most likely introduced Norman to his patron. The coolers are inventoried in 1768 at 19 Arlington Street as ‘2 neat mahogany oval cisterns wt. Rich brass ornaments & Stands to ditto complete’ (Coleridge, op. cit., pp. 194, 202 and fig. 8).


Known wine coolers of this model, varying in the details and degree of embellishment, include the following:

Goat mask mounts:

-The pair of Dundas wine coolers supplied for Arlington Street, as above, which are identical in form. These were recently sold by the Late Edmund Wesley, Sotheby’s, London, 4 June 2008, lot 185 (£1,049,250). The pair of coolers was sold by the family by the Marquess of Zetland, Christie’s, London, 26 April 1934, lot 76 (sold to M. Harris). These appear in situ at in a 1902 photograph at Arlington Street (see J. Cornforth, London Interiors, London, 2000, pp. 56-57)

-An identical pair displayed in the Anniversary Exhibition of M. Harris & Sons is illustrated in Apollo, July 1943, p. 29, fig. 1 (showing one of the pair)

-A single almost certainly supplied to Robert, 4th Earl of Holderness (d. 1778) for Hornby Castle, Yorkshire and by descent to the 10th Duke of Leeds (d. 1927). This was most recently sold in the Gerald Hochschild Collection, Sotheby’s, London, 1 December 1978, lot 160 and is now in the S. Jon Gerstenfeld Collection, Washington, D.C. (Illustrated in M. Harris and Sons, A Catalogue and Index of Furniture and Works of Decorative Art, vol. III, n.d. (circa 1930), p. 465; and E. Lennox-Boyd, ed., Masterpieces of English Furniture: The Gerstenfeld Collection, London, 1998, no. 66, p. 225 and pl. 7)

-A single lacking embellishment to the legs or body was sold, the Property of a Gentleman, The Exceptional Sale, Christie’s, London, 4 July 2013, lot 37 (£115,875)

Lion mask mounts:

-Another pair supplied to Sir Lawrence Dundas for Aske Hall, Yorkshire, but with lion masks and carved legs. These are illustrated in Anthony Coleridge's article 'Sir Lawrence Dundas and Chippendale', Apollo, September 1967, p. 194, fig.. 8. At the time of the publication, they remained at Aske

-An example with elaborately chased bands in R. Edwards and P. Macquoid, The Dictionary of English Furniture, London, 1927, vol. III, p. 335, fig. 4 (from Miss Tyndall)

-A pair which belonged to Baroness Burdett-Coutts (d. 1906), and formed part of the furnishing of her Piccadilly mansion in the late 19th century, is identical with the exception of the lion masks. One of the pair was sold (by descent), the property of a Gentleman, Christie’s, London, 10 July 2003, lot 10 (£341,250)

-One featuring shell and husk-carved knees belonging to the collector H. J. Joel, Esq., Childwick Bury which was withdrawn from Christie’s 15 May 1978 House Sale to be retained by the family. This was later sold in 'Simon Sainsbury: The Creation of An English Arcadia,' Christie’s, London, 18 June 2008, lot 106 (£181,250)

A pair of stools with bases of the Untermyer/Dundas model (and most likely converted from wine coolers) is in the Duke of Argyll’s collection at Inveraray Castle, Scotland (see A. Coleridge, op. cit., p. 156, fig. 8)


The wine cooler model has been attributed to the eminent Soho cabinet-maker Samuel Norman. Norman’s uncle was William Hallett, a renowned cabinet-maker of the time, who introduced him to James Whittle who would become both his business partner and father-in-law in 1755. Whittle died in 1759, and just weeks later, a devastating fire broke out at the premises destroying the firm’s stock and records and taking the lives of several people. Norman was principally trained as a carver and gilder, then partnered with Paul Saunders and moved his operation to the latter’s Royal Tapestry Manufactory in Sutton Street. This broadened the size and scope of the business, and Norman was able to take on Saunders’s illustrious clientele and standing orders. A measure of the business is apparent with the '32 Cabinet makers benches’ acquired in the deal, nearly three times the number of his close rival John Linnell. (See P. A. Kirkham, 'Samuel Norman: a study of an eighteenth-century Craftsman,’ Burlington Magazine, August 1969, pp. 501-513).

Norman was appointed 'Master Carver in Wood’ to George III’s office of works in 1763. Aside from the Royal Household and Sir Lawrence Dundas, the list of Samuel Norman’s patrons in the 1760s is impressive. He could count among his clients the Earl of Egremont at Petworth, the Earl of Holderness at Hornby Castle (who owned this model cooler as noted above), The Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey, and the Earl of Stanhope at Chevening. Intriguingly, the fashionable singer Theresa Cornelys also engaged Norman to refurbish the banqueting room and ballroom at Carlisle House, London for events that numbered as many as 400 guests (J. Summers, Casanova’s Women, New York, 2006, pp. 312-313). It is conceivable that she could have ordered such an object for her entertainments.

Norman’s brilliant career was relatively short lived. No major work by him is known after 1766 and he was declared bankrupt in 1767 (G. Beard and C. Gilbert, Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840, Leeds, 1986, pp. 651-653).

COLONEL H. H. MULLINER (1861-1924)

Colonel Mulliner (d. 1924) was a founder of Lenygon & Co. and, like his contemporary William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme (d.1925) strove to support the case of British Art. Both collectors lent English eighteenth century furniture and decorative arts to The Burlington Fine Arts Club's Exhibition held in 1920. Three years later, Mulliner introduced the catalogue to his collection, The Decorative Arts in England 1660-1780, with the statement that it aimed 'to embrace for the first time in one work representative examples of the various decorative arts produced in England during the late 17th and the 18th Centuries.' The Victoria & Albert Museum acquired some important examples of decorative English work from the sale of Mulliner's collection held by Messrs. Christie's in May 1922. His collection was sold Christie's London, 10 July 1924, although the wine cooler does not appear in that sale. Mulliner was owner of the coachbuilders Mulliner Park Ward, creators of some of the greatest Rolls Royce cars.


The spectacular collection of British decorative arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is in large part due to the generosity of a single benefactor, Judge Irwin Untermyer. A significant number of the outstanding objects currently on view in the Annie Laurie Aitken Galleries bear his name. By the time of his death in 1973, Judge Untermyer had left the Museum over two thousand works of art from an impressive collection that was refined and augmented over the course of his life.

As a collector, Untermyer had broad interests. By his own account, he started buying artwork at the time of his marriage in 1912, when his parents presented him “with a few nice things” for his home so that he “began to think of adding to them.” But the finest part of his collection consisted of English furniture, silver, needlepoint and porcelain.

For some twenty years Judge Untermyer served on the Museum's Board of Trustees, and highlights of his collection were exhibited there in 1977. In his forward to Yvonne Hackenbroch's magnificent catalogue English Furniture . . . in the Irwin Untermyer Collection of 1958, he wrote: “there has never been any time during the past forty five years when I have not been interested in the acquisition of English furniture.” As seen clearly in photographs of his Fifth Avenue apartment, his passion was for oak, walnut and mahogany furniture leading up to the reign of George III.

With the planned renovation of the Aitken Galleries in mind The Metropolitan Museum of Art is carefully reviewing its holdings of English decorative arts. As a result, it has decided to sell pieces in categories that are particularly strongly represented, such as carved mahogany furniture. The sale of these objects will make possible the acquisition of pieces less well-represented in the collection, such as examples dating to the nineteenth century. In this way when the Galleries reopen in 2018 they will better demonstrate the stylistic development of British furniture from the 16th century up to around 1900.

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