Frederick J. Sang (fl.1840-1884)

Frederick J. Sang (fl.1840-1884)
Interior Views of the Conservative Club: Entrance Hall and Grand Staircase
all signed, inscribed and dated 'Frederick Sang Architect & Artist 1845.', two inscribed on an old label attached to the backing 'No-3a F.Sang 20 St Helens Place Bishopsgate Street E.6. Conservative Club St.-James'.(Conservative Hall & grand Staircase.)' and the third inscribed 'No - 3b - F.Sang 20 St Helens Place Bishopsgate Street - E.6- Conservative Club St. - James'. (Conservative Hall & grand Staircase.)'; pencil and watercolour with touches of white heightening and scratching out
11½ x 14 5/8in. (340 x 391mm.); 12 5/8 x 15¼in. (321 x 387mm.); and 13 3/8 x 15 3/8in. (340 x 391mm.) a set of three (3)
London, Royal Academy, 1846, nos.1336, 1337 and 1358

Lot Essay

These presentation drawings were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1846 along with another scheme for the Royal Exchange, and they mark the artist's debut as an exhibitor there. They show Sang's scheme of painted decoration in the Renaissance style, of Raphaelesque grotesques framing roundels with profiles of famous artist and writers - Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, Hogarth and Gainsborough among them - against a gold ground imitating mosaic, to be carried out, according to the description given to the Royal Academy, in the newly-invented medium of 'ecaustic' painting, devised to ensure the survival of 'fresco' in a damp northern climate.

The double-height entrance hall rising to a dome with shaped panes of the finest lead crystal (which survives almost intact) and the equally imposing staircase hall (which was destroyed by a bomb during the war) were part of an enormous decorative project comprising a further six public rooms, of which the magnificent hundred-foot long 'Evening Room' and a small square coffee or card-room on the first floor also remain with their original painted decor. Enormous sheets of mirror-glass in alternate arches used as overmantels increased the grandeur of the space, and one or two of these survive.

The architectural details of columns and pilasters, ceiling mouldings and plasterwork are finished to imitate marble, bronze and gilt-bronze. The door-case and architraves are veneered or grained with strongly figured woods, typical of the taste of the 1840s and 1850s, possibly by Moxon, a celebrated exponent of this kind of imitation. The floor of the entrance hall is in a huge star-shaped pattern, carried out in mosaic. This may be by John Gregory Crace, who designed a tiled floor for the club, see the catalogue for the sale in these Rooms 13 December, 1988, lot 93.

The ground floor 'Morning Room' retains its Grinling Gibbons style scheme of intricate fruit and flower swags and borders, made of plaster.

The Conservative Club was founded in 1840 to accommodate the 'rank and file' of the Tory Party, those, it was frankly stated, who could not gain admittance to the Carlton Club. Although the drawings show ladies in the Club, they were certainly not admitted as members and it is even debatable whether they would have been allowed in as guests. The Club premises actually opened on 19 February, 1845.

The Club's architects were George Basevi and Sydney Smirke, who were working at the same time on an extension to the Carlton, where Sang was also to be employed in painting the coffee room (the scheme for which was shown at the Royal Academy in 1847). The highly ornate premises for the Conservative Club cost #73,000, of which #3,000 was for the interior painting. The committee of the Club criticised the choice of the German artist Sang to carry out the painted decoration; they would have preferred an English artist, but the highly respected Sang was probably better able to execute competently this style of decoration, with its echoes of Leo von Klenze's great scheme for King Ludwig's palace in Munich. Sang's reputation was sufficiently established by 1850 for his opinion on the interior decoration of Paxton's Crystal Palace, to house the 1851 Great Exhibition, to be sought and quoted in the Press.

The Club was furnished by the long-established Henry Wittaker, who had made his reputation in the Regency period and whose next commission was to equip Osborne House on the Isle of Wight for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

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