This imposing giltwood table is heraldically charged with the Lascelles crest, later the Earls of Harewood. It echoes the coat-of-arms incised on the magnificent Palladian pediment of the north face of Harewood House, Yorkshire, the Lascelles' country seat, designed by the Palladian architect John Carr (1723-1807) from 1759, and later by the Neo-classical exponent Robert Adam (1728-92). The table illustrates the important influence of the Palladian-style promoted by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (1694-1753) and his protégé, the Rome-trained architect-designer, William Kent (1685-1748).
HENRY LASCELLES AND HIS SON, EDWIN
This table was possibly commissioned by Henry Lascelles (d. 1753) for Litchfield House, Richmond, Surrey or for Gawthorpe Hall in Yorkshire. At his death in October 1753, Henry was probably the richest man in England, worth around £500,000, which, in the 1750s, was sufficient to purchase ‘twenty-five good English estates of 4000 acres each’ (1). Henry was descended from Yorkshire gentry and accumulated his great wealth through trade, specifically a sugar plantation in Barbados. In 1739 following the death of his brother George, Henry left Barbados for good to run the London office, and presumably legitimise the family name and reputation in the City of London. By the mid-1740s he had achieved this ambition; he was Member of Parliament for the family seat of Northallerton, one of the great financiers of the City, and had the ear of crown ministers and government officials. It was perhaps in this period that he acquired the giltwood table offered here. In 1750, he retired from business to Litchfield House with his second wife Jennett Whetstone, a widow whom he had married in 1731.
Alternatively, it may have been commissioned by Edwin Lascelles (1713 - 95, from July 1790 1st Baron Harewood), for Gawthorpe Hall, Yorkshire. Edwin was Henry Lascelles' eldest son from his first marriage to Mary Carter, and following Henry's death in 1753 Edwin inherited the vast Harewood and Gawthorpe estates while his younger brother Daniel continued the family’s mercantile activities in London and the West Indies. Edwin, Member of Parliament for the constituency of Scarborough between 1744-1754 and heir to approximately £166,666 of his father’s fortune set about establishing himself as a major landowner with broader commercial interests by building a new country seat, Harewood House. The building of Harewood commenced in 1759 and was not completed until 1771. Meanwhile Edwin lived at the old mansion of Gawthorpe where Carr was employed from 1753. In what was presumably a relatively early purchase by Edwin the design of this table reflects the influence of Roman Baroque console tables. Edwin, as was customary for the sons of the nobility, had undertaken his grand tour in 1738, visiting Rome, Padua and Turin where he undoubtedly saw in aristocratic palaces the parade of rooms furnished with two or four such console tables, and mirrors and stools en suite, intended to achieve the perfect symmetry of a theatrical interior (2).
Originally gold and white painted, this side table is conceived in the George II ‘Roman’ fashion inspired by Italian designers such as Filippo Passarini (Nuove inventioni d’ornamenti d’architettura e d’intagli diversi utili etc., 1698) and Giovanni Giardini (Disegni diversi, 1714). John Talman (1677-1726), a designer, connoisseur and antiquary, was instrumental in the English appreciation of Italian decoration; between 1699-1702, he was in Rome, and during a second visit to Italy from 1709-17, accompanied by Kent, compiled ‘the most valuable Collection of Books, Prints, Drawings , as in any one persons hands in Europe’ (3). Kent’s friendship with Talman gave him access to Talman’s vast collection of drawings divided by subject into architecture, sculpture, vases etc., and Talman’s influence is evident throughout Kent’s work; a drawing for a side table in Designs for an Italianate Interior by Talman dated 1708-10 could be mistakenly ascribed to Kent (4).
Dolphins in classical antiquity are attributes of Venus, Roman goddess of love, and appear as carved decoration on tables and mirrors during the first half of the 18th century. A design for an altar table with dolphin supports by Giardini, dated 1720, was published in Promptuarium Artis Argentariae, ex quo centum exquisite studio inventis delineates, plate 54 (5). While at present neither the designer or maker of this table can be identified, a triumphal barge designed by Kent for Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales (1707-1751) has a stern embellished with the Prince’s scallop-framed crest supported by dolphins and mermaids. Two large carved giltwood dolphins are found on a pair of side tables by Kent in the Royal Collection, and he also included a fountain with a dolphin tripod base in his drawing ‘The Poet and the Rose’, engraved for John Gay’s Fables (1727) (6). A pair of side tables supplied to the 3rd Earl of Burlington under the direction of Kent for the Gallery of Chiswick House, also feature aquatic motifs, caryatic nereids or Neptune’s water-nymphs, sold from the Bute collection, Christie’s, London, 3 July 1996, lot 35 (£826,500 inc. premium). Another design by Matthias Lock (1710-65) for a console table, dated 1740-1765, is in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and this shows entwined dolphin supports (7). These tables can be compared to a pair of tables, dated 1740, after a design by Lock, formerly at Kirtlington Park, Oxford, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (8). The Lock tables feature a similar frieze with carved Vitruvian scroll on a punched gilt gesso ground, large acanthus scroll legs and pendant bunch of grapes (9). Furthermore, the Royal architect, Sir William Chambers (1723-96), who was initially engaged to work at Harewood, although his designs were never executed, included drawings of dolphins in his ‘Franco-Italian Album’, which he compiled during an architectural tour between 1749-1755 (10).
Gilding tests were carried out by Catherine Hassall in April 2019, the original eighteenth century decoration of the table was white-painted and parcel-gilt. The table has been fully decorated at least four times and has had gilding repairs carried out on at least one occasion. The first three treatments to the table included both white paint and gilding. The present surface, is a mixture of oil and water gilding and was carried out no later than the early years of the twentieth-century and could well be nineteenth-century.
(1) A. Nicholson, Gentry: Six Hundred Years of a Peculiarly English Class, London, 2011, p. 213.
(2) J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy: 1701-1800, New Haven and London, 1997, p. 16.
(3) M. Walker, Architects and Intellectual Culture in Post-Restoration England, Oxford, 2017, p. 100.
(4) T. Friedman, ‘The English Appreciation of Italian Decorations’, The Burlington Magazine, December 1975, fig. 87.
(5) V, Museum no. 29022B.
(6) RCIN 21593; Ed. S. Weber, William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain, New Haven and London, 2014, p. 418, fig. 16.5.
(7) V, Museum no. 2848:118.
(8) Met, Accession no.: 2007.196.1a–c.
(9) Another pair of this model are in the Detroit Institute of Arts.
(10) V, Museum no. 5712:90.