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Please note this lot will be moved to Christie’s F… Read more THE DENTON HALL TORCHÈRES


Each with a stepped molded six-lobed platform on a tripod support and with pendant pierced stylized icicles alternating with ram's head masks issuing garlands of bell husks, the S-shaped molded legs ornamented with pendant husks above graduated cabochons enclosed by C-scrolls and edged with scrolling acanthus leaves, above a shaped platform with a molded edge centered by a surmounted flaming urn finial, the conforming apron with lion masks issuing swags of husks continuing to the similarly carved and molded S-scrolled legs, with printed and inscribed Ann and Gordon Getty Collection inventory label
54 in. (137.2 cm.) high, 25 in. (63 cm.) wide, 25 in. (63 cm.) deep
Possibly commissioned from Thomas Chippendale by James Ibbetson (1746-1795) for Denton Hall, near Otley, Yorkshire.
Almost certainly sold by order of the Honorable Lord Illingworth, P.C., the Valuable Remaining Contents of the Mansion, at Denton Park, near Ben Rhydding; Messrs. Hepper and Sons, 9-12 December 1924.
Sold by order of the Executors of the Late Mrs. Arthur Hill and Members of the Family, Denton Park, Yorkshire; Henry Spencer & Sons, 16-18 July 1975, lot 829.
With Simon Redburn, circa 1978.
With Clifford Wright Antiques, London.
Acquired from Ronald A. Lee, London, by Ann and Gordon Getty in 1982.
Yorkshire Post [Leeds], 29 November 1924, Sales by Auction, p. 2, British Newspaper Archive.
C. Hussey, ‘Denton Hall, Yorkshire, the Home of Mrs. Arthur Hill’, Country Life, LXXXVI, 4 November 1939, p. 471, fig.3.
C. Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978, vol. I.
C. Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978, vol. II, p. 206, figs. 376 and 377.
Special notice

Please note this lot will be moved to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services (CFASS in Red Hook, Brooklyn) at 5pm on the last day of the sale. Lots may not be collected during the day of their move to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services. Please consult the Lot Collection Notice for collection information. This sheet is available from the Bidder Registration staff, Purchaser Payments or the Packing Desk and will be sent with your invoice.

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Lot Essay

This dramatically sculptural pair of torchères attributed to Thomas Chippendale (1718–1779), the most famous cabinet-maker in the history of English furniture, is the masterful realization of one of his most elaborate designs. His drawing for this design is part of an album at the Victoria and Albert Museum that was purchased from a descendant of Matthias Lock (c.1710-1765), a distinguished carver and designer in his own right and contemporary of Chippendale. Lock is credited with introducing the French Rococo style to cabinet-makers in London which ascended to the pinnacle of taste in the 1750s and 60s. Lock published designs throughout the 1740s but his most extensive publication A New Book of Ornaments was released in 1752 and served as the forerunner of Chippendale’s renowned pattern book, The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, first printed in 1754.
The presence of Chippendale designs in Matthias Lock’s personal album supports the idea that Lock and Chippendale collaborated professionally. Past historians have suggested that Lock 'ghost designed' for Chippendale, but more recent scholarship indicates he more likely provided piece-work carving for Chippendale's larger projects. Lock’s album constitutes a practice that was probably quite common for craftsmen at the time: compiling scrapbooks of engravings, drawings, and other useful and inspirational material gathered from a wide array of sources to guide them in their own designs. Rare surviving examples can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Thomas Chippendale Society’s collection (A. Bowett and J. Lomax, Thomas Chippendale, 1718-1770: A Celebration of British Craftsmanship and Design, Catalogue of the Tercentenary Exhibition, Leeds City Museum, 2018, p. 18). Remarkably, in 1920 the Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired a two volume collection containing 228 original drawings from Chippendale’s workshop, 200 of which were engraved in his celebrated Director [MET 20.40.1, .2]. Chippendale’s albums likewise contain a few drawings by Lock, further evidencing a close working relationship, or at the very least a strong mutual admiration, between the two (M. Heckscher, Chippendale’s Director: A Manifesto of Furniture Design, New York, 2018, p. 10). Indeed, Lock, who was described posthumously in 1768 as ‘…reputed the best Draftsman in that way that had ever been in England’, was the harbinger of the graceful ornamental style inspired by French designs while remaining imbued with a distinct Englishness (A. Coleridge, Chippendale Furniture: The Work of Thomas Chippendale and His Contemporaries in the Rococo Taste, New York, 1968, p. 164). It was this original style that Chippendale would embrace and ‘superimpose on a Palladian architectural framework’, eventually transitioning into a brilliant compendium of the rococo and neoclassical, which is magnificently expressed by the present lot (M. Heckscher, 2018, pp. 10-11).
Denton Hall, historically referred to as Denton Park, is situated five miles northwest of Otley, the birthplace of Thomas Chippendale. Ancestral seat of the Lords Fairfax of Cameron, Denton remained with them until acquired by the Ibbetson family, wealthy cloth merchants from Leeds who were in turn able to elevate their status to the rank of gentry. The existing structure was torn down once inherited by Sir James Ibbetson (1746-1795), who, with the assistance of his heiress wife Jenny Caygill’s fortune, commissioned the renowned architect John Carr of York (1723-1807) to build the new Denton Hall from the ground up (J.P. Neale, Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen, vol. IV, London, 1820). The house was built between 1770 and 1778, during which time Ibbetson engaged Thomas Chippendale to furnish the principal rooms of the house, quite likely at the encouragement of Carr, who shared patrons with Chippendale on at least eight occasions (C. Gilbert, The Life and Works of Thomas Chippendale, p. 27). It is certainly plausible that their mutual Yorkshire origins strengthened their bond. While no itemized bills from Chippendale’s commission for Denton are known to exist, archival proof comes from a document now belonging to the Chippendale Society titled, ‘An account of money expended in furniture for the new House at Denton’ that lists twelve firms and the amount owed to each, the first entry reads: ‘Chippendale’s bill £551’. This was a substantial sum of money and significantly more expensive than all others on the list, effectively singling him out as the primary supplier [LEEAG.CHIPSOC.1973.1] (C. Gilbert, ‘Chippendale at Denton and Newby’, Country Life, 10 June 1971).
Denton Hall remained in the Ibbetson family until 1861, when it passed to the only remaining heir, Laura Ibbetson, who had married Marmaduke Wyvill of Constable Burton, near Leyburn, in North Yorkshire (not to be confused with the better known Burton Constable). Together they lived primarily at Denton until about 1902 when they returned to the Wyvill ancestral seat. They began renting out Denton and eventually sold it in 1917 to its then current tenant Lord Illingworth. He subsequently sold the house in 1924 to Mr. and Mrs. Arthur J. Hill who were scheduled to take occupancy in the following year (‘The Estate Market: Lengthening List of Sales’, Country Life, 14 June 1924, v.55, iss. 1432, p. 980). An advertisement printed on November 29th, 1924 in the ‘Sales by Auction’ section of the Yorkshire Post announced an upcoming sale by Messrs. Hepper and Sons of the ‘valuable remaining contents of the mansion’ at ‘Denton Park, near Ben Rhydding, by order of the Right Hon. Lord Illingworth, P.C.’. The description of the contents for sale includes ‘choice reception room furniture including… a pair of elegant carved and gilded Chippendale lamp standards’ (Yorkshire Post, 29 Nov. 1924, British Newspaper Archive). The described ‘lamp standards’ are almost certainly the present pair of torchères, which were previously electrified as evidenced by faint squares visible on their tops, explaining why the auctioneers in 1924 described them as such.
The pair of torchères remained at Denton Hall as part of the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Hill, aforementioned buyers of the house. Denton was photographed for a 1939 Country Life article, and the torchères can be seen in the Great Hall flanking an impressive side table, which itself is a seemingly identical model to one at Nostell Priory designed by James Paine and thought to have been supplied by Chippendale [NT959746]. Mrs. Hill outlived her husband and carried out the remainder of her long life at Denton Hall. Upon her death its contents were sold by Spencer & Sons auctioneers, Yorkshire, 16-18 July 1975, with the torchères as lot 829.
In terms of the building itself, doyen of English architectural historians Christopher Hussey described Denton Hall as ‘very representative of Carr’s competent, solid style, beautifully built of fine ashlar masonry, but in no way original… he [Carr] never departed from well-established precedent. Here he is…carrying on the style of forty years before… Externally, Denton could have been designed by James Gibbs in 1725’ (C. Hussey, 1939, p. 470). He goes on to comment on the interiors, which he states as having an apparent Adam influence, excepting some details, including the circular staircase which he declares the ‘pièce de resistance… the iron-work balustrade is vigorously rococo, the whole reminding one of Paine’s staircases’ (ibid., p. 472). In this instance he is referencing James Paine, the pre-Adam architect who designed Nostell Priory. Hussey correctly portrays that Carr’s vision for Denton was not fully committed to the neoclassical fashion at this time like most of his contemporaries, but was still looking back to the rococo that dominated the 1750s. In this way, the design of the torchères is consistent with that of Denton Hall, and ?while Chippendale's authoritative biographer Christopher Gilbert thought they were probably not indigenous to the house, it remains a tantalizing possibility, particularly given the fact that they so clearly reflect the transitional style of the house itself from rococo to neoclassical, and given the long-standing connection between fellow Yorkshiremen Chippendale, Carr, and Ibbetson. However, it is worth noting the possibility that the torchères were commissioned for an earlier Ibbetson house or perhaps his London townhouse, and later moved to Denton Hall, the family’s country house.
Nevertheless, it is clear that these torchères are undoubtedly one of the finest examples of English carving, a near perfect execution of Chippendale’s manuscript design, and a synthesis of his early very ornate French-inspired rococo compositions and also to the more elegantly attenuated neo-classical forms characteristic of his firm’s later work. The torchères are a declaration of mastery over the craft: a supreme command of the medium unbeholden to the constraints of taste.

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