Lot Content

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
A PAIR OF GEORGE II GILTWOOD DRAGONS
A PAIR OF GEORGE II GILTWOOD DRAGONS
1 More
A PAIR OF GEORGE II GILTWOOD DRAGONS

BY WILLIAM LINNELL, CIRCA 1755

Details
A PAIR OF GEORGE II GILTWOOD DRAGONS
BY WILLIAM LINNELL, CIRCA 1755
Each modeled in flight with open jaws, mounted on a later ebonized support and slate stand
17 in. (43.1 cm.) high, 15 ½ in. (39.3 cm.) wide, each
Provenance
Supplied to the 4th Duke and Duchess of Bedford for their Pleasure Gardens at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, thence by descent until sold.
Christie's house sale, Property from Two Ducal Collections, Woburn Abbey, 20-21 September 2004, lot 115.
Acquired from Jeremy, London, 2 June 2006.
Literature
H. Hayward, P. Kirkham,William and John Linnell: Eighteenth Century London Furniture Makers, London, 1980, pp. 19-20, 146.

Condition Report

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

This pair of carved giltwood dragons is almost certainly all that survives from an exotic and colourful chinoiserie pavilion or ‘Chinese House’, carved and furnished by the cabinet-maker and upholsterer, William Linnell (c. 1703-63), for the 4th Duke and Duchess of Bedford for their Pleasure Gardens at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire (H. Hayward, P. Kirkham,William and John Linnell: Eighteenth Century London Furniture Makers, London, 1980, pp. 19-20, 146).

In July 1749, Linnell submitted his detailed bill for £121 for carving and furnishing this presumably portable summer house, which included two carved and gilt dragons for the hand rails at the entrance:‘To all the cloath for the Summer House, and painting the Chinese ornaments on the 3 cloaths for the back three str[i]ning frames to Do, To white tacks and fixing all the cloaths up. To running all the Gothick work and carving the same, and carving all the ornaments for the ceiling and cornishes, the dragons, and corner pieces and carving the pattern for the founder to cast the copper vase from and the vase completely finished in copper. To gilding the same and painted the leaves green, and gilt the orniments to the cornishes and ceiling and the 4 orniments at the corners and two dragons to the hand rayls’.

The fashion for ‘Chinese’ garden pavilions flourished in this period although few are extant today. The exceptions are a small chinoiserie garden pavilion at Nostell Priory, Yorkshire commissioned by Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet, an enthusiastic supporter of the chinoiserie style as evident in the magnificent set of green-japanned bedroom furniture supplied for the State Bedroom at Nostell by Thomas Chippendale, and a twelve-sided chinoiserie pavilion made of wood and painted oilcloth and surmounted by a carved and giltwood dragon supplied in 1745 to the 2nd Duke of Montagu for the garden of Montagu House, Whitehall, by Samuel Smith, tentmaker, and painted by Oliver Hill, now at Boughton House, Northamptonshire.

The chinoiserie-style evidently endured in the grounds at Woburn with the creation of the Chinese Dairy, designed by Henry Holland in 1787, and constructed in 1794, for the 5th Duke and in 1833, Sir Jeffry Wyatville’s Chinese pavilion, modelled after a 1757 design by William Chambers.

The Linnell firm supplied furniture and hangings for the Woburn ‘Chinese House’; a square mahogany table, and four japanned ‘India’ chairs with two armchairs en suite. It has been suggested that this furniture probably resembled a suite of lacquer bedroom furniture comprising a bed (now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London), eight armchairs, two pairs of standing shelves (one of which is in the Met), and a dressing commode supplied by Linnell for the 4th Duke of Beaufort’s Chinese bedroom at Badminton House, Gloucestershire (Accession no. 64.101.1124). Interestingly, ‘The Badminton Bed’ from this suite is surmounted by four virtually identical carved and gilt dragon finials on the corners of its pagoda tester (ibid., p. 20; Museum No. W.143-1 to 26-1921).

Dragons as an ornamental motif feature in designs by William Linnell, and his son, John. A 17th century Flemish cabinet veneered with ebony and mounted with verre eglomisé panels, repaired by William Linnell in 1751 for James West of Alscot Park, Warwickshire, was further adorned by Linnell with a pagoda canopy with carved giltwood dragons (now detached), which again closely resemble the two dragons offered here (ibid.,pp. 13-14, figs. 21-22). A dragon also appears in a design for a girandole by John Linnell (ibid.,p. 84, fig. 160).

More from Little Cassiobury: The Collection of Susan Lyall

View All
View All