This golden chandelier, wrapped by palms and Roman foliage and displaying a stately plume-wreathed urn, celebrating 'ancient virtue', was commissioned by Thomas Thynne, 2nd Viscount Weymouth (d.1751) for the 'Great Parlour' (now the Green Library), adjoining the Banqueting-Hall at Longleat House, Wiltshire. Lord Weymouth, 'Ranger' of King George II's Hyde and St. James's Parks, had inherited Longleat from his great uncle in 1714 when he was only four years old. The new chandelier replaced 'A Large Glass Chandeleer with 7 branches' listed in the Great Parlour in an inventory of 23rd September 1719. In a later inventory drawn up on 15th September 1740, the new chandelier was described as 'a Fine Carved & Gilt Chandeleer of 8 Branches with a round Affixt to the Ceiling hung with Crimson Silk Tassells & Lines'. Its sacred urn is lit from serpentined candle-branches that rise from trussed-herm caryatids tied by a jewelled garter to an octagonal pedestal-shaft enriched with a festive-flowered ribbon-fret terminating in a thyrsus finial. Its acanthus-wrapped trusses support alternating male and female busts, representing ancient worthies clad in triumphal parade helmets or coronets.
Its heroic ornament would have harmonised with the stone figures displayed on Longleat's balustrade which, alongside Henry V, featured the Emperor Alexander whose bust was also displayed on the Parlour chimneypiece. This chandelier is likely to have been introduced after Lord Weymouth returned from his Grand Tour in 1733 and embarked on stone and carpentry work at the house. It was the architect James Gibbs (d. 1754) that Lord Weymouth turned to for these improvements (T. Friedman, James Gibbs, London, 1984, pp. 148, 149 and 325). Indeed much of the ornament of this chandelier reflects the antique manner promoted by Gibbs through his Book of Architecture, 1728. However, its design evolved from chandeliers in the Louis XIV manner that featured in the Nouveaux Livre d'Orfèverie, c. 1700, published by King William III's 'architect' Daniel Marot (d. 1752). Its branches, springing from voluted scrolls, relate for instance to Gibbs' chandelier design of the mid-1720s executed for St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
The Longleat chandelier is however, particularly close to that which from 1735 lit the triumphal staircase approach to Gibbs' Great Hall or Assembly Room at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. Also executed under Gibbs' direction, it is of very similar character and displays busts of Arcadian deities and ancient worthies (T. Friedman, op. cit., fig. 242). Another chandelier, embellished with voluted truss-herms tied by a jewelled ribbon, now hangs at the Treasurer's House, York (illustrated in R. Edwards and P. Macquoid, The Dictionary of English Furniture, London, rev. ed., 1954, vol. I, p. 333, fig. 17).
The Longleat chandelier is most likely to have been supplied by Benjamin Goodison (d. 1767) of the 'Golden Spread Eagle', Long Acre. Succeeding James Moore (d. 1727) as Court Cabinet-maker, he enjoyed extensive Royal patronage and invoiced King George II in 1729 for a brass hall-lantern with giltwood crown, which he supplied for the Queen's Staircase at Hampton Court Palace. It was likewise embellished with acanthus-enriched trusses surmounted by helmetted busts (illustrated in R. Edwards and P. Macquoid, op. cit., vol. II, p. 282, fig. 4). A related mirror was supplied by Goodison in 1732-3 to Frederick, Prince of Wales, surmounted by his feathers and now at Hampton Court Palace.