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Specified lots (sold and unsold) marked with a fil… Read more A MASTERPIECE BY INCE & MAYHEWPROPERTY OF A NOBLEMAN


The top with three applied ovals painted with Cupid garlanding Venus in a landscape and two putti holding flowers, the front with Diana surprising the sleeping Endymion in the centre, holding a bow on the left and seated with greyhounds on the right, within variously stained and engraved entrelac, scroll and foliage frames and husk borders, on harewood grounds inlaid with delicate ribbon-tied foliage scrolls suspending shields, anthemia and drapery swags, the front divided by panels inlaid with urns and framed with six pilasters mounted with well-chased ormolu ram's-head and ring capitals, the lunette-inlaid frieze with a mahogany-lined drawer above three doors, the centre enclosing three mahogany drawers, flanked by cupboards, mounted with three horizontal ormolu borders chased with anthemia, fluting and stiff-leaves, on six ormolu acanthus-pattern square tapering legs with gadrooned and beaded feet, now with additional sycamore blocks added above the ormolu feet - these can easily be removed and the original height of the commode re-instated
721/2 in. (184 cm.) wide; 363/4 in. (93.5 cm.) high; 291/4 in. (74 cm.) deep
Possibly made to celebrate the marriage of Sir Henry Paulet St John, 3rd Bt. to Jane, heiress of the Mildmay family, for Dogmersfield Park, Hampshire.
By descent in the Mildmay family.
The Lord Mildmay of Flete, Christie's, London, 5 June 1947, lot 114.
The Hon. Mrs Daisy Fellowes, Donnington Grove, Newbury, Berkshire, and thence by descent.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 29 March 1984, lot 196.
‘The Barbara Piasecka Johnson Collection’, Christie’s, London, 9 July 1992, lot 162.
The 10th Earl of Portsmouth, and thence by descent at Farleigh House, Hampshire.

An alternative possibility is that the commode may have entered the Mildmay family through the marriage in 1823 of Sir Henry's son, Humphrey St John Mildmay, grandfather of Lord Mildmay of Flete (1861-1947), to Anne Baring, eldest daughter of the collector and connoisseur of English furniture, Alexander Baring, 1st Lord Ashburton ( 1774 - 1848 ) and then by descent to their son Henry Bingham Mildmay of Shoreham Place, Kent and grandson Lord Mildmay of Flete.
C. Hussey, ‘Donnington Grove, Berkshire – III’, Country Life, October 2 1958, pp. 714 – 717, fig. 3.
H. Roberts, ‘The Derby House Commode’, Burlington Magazine, May 1985, p. 282 and fig. 12.
H. Roberts and C. Cator, Industry and Ingenuity: The Partnership of William Ince and John Mayhew, London, 2022, p. 254, figs. 124 & 125.
Special notice
Specified lots (sold and unsold) marked with a filled square ( ¦ ) not collected from Christie’s, 8 King Street, London SW1Y 6QT by 5.00pm on the day of the sale will, at our option, be removed to Crozier Park Royal (details below). Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite.If the lot is transferred to Crozier Park Royal, it will be available for collection from 12.00pm on the second business day following the sale.Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Crozier Park Royal. All collections from Crozier Park Royal will be by pre-booked appointment only.Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: cscollectionsuk@christies.com.If the lot remains at Christie’s, 8 King Street, it will be available for collection on any working day (not weekends) from 9.00am to 5.00pm

Brought to you by

Amjad Rauf
Amjad Rauf International Head of Masterpiece and Private Sales

Lot Essay

This George III semi-elliptical commode executed in golden satinwood and inlaid with marquetry of exotic woods is attributed to the pre-eminent and fashionable cabinet-makers William Ince (d. 1804) and John Mayhew (d. 1811) who ranked George III, the 6th Earl of Coventry and the Earl of Kerry among their distinguished clients. It typifies the elegant ‘antique’ style established by the country's leading Neo-classical architect, Robert Adam (d. 1792), popularised by his earliest design for an ‘Etruscan’ commode in January 1773 (but probably never realised) for the Duke of Bolton, possibly for Bolton House, London (E. Harris, The Furniture of Robert Adam, London, 1963, fig. 44). It became one of Ince and Mayhew's most long-lived and popular furniture models of the 1770s and 80s.

The present commode forms part of a group of ‘bow-fronted’ and serpentine commodes attributed to Ince and Mayhew, identified by Hugh Roberts in his article, `The Derby House Commode’, The Burlington Magazine, vol. 127, no. 986, May, 1985, pp. 275-283. In November 1775, the partnership supplied a magnificent ormolu-mounted satinwood, harewood and marquetry commode, designed in 1774 by Adam, for the Countess of Derby's Dressing Room at Derby House, London; preparatory drawings were published in Adam’s Works in Architecture (1773–1778, 1779). The commode was described as being executed in ‘curious [richly figured] Woods very Finely inlaid with Etruscan Ornaments enriched with rich wrought brass Mouldings Antique Heads and Drapery Ovals for Gems and large Pannels in Front and 4 Mahogany Doors (sic.) withinside and one Do on Top Quadrant Doors (sic.) each End and Cupboards under them the whole engraved and finished in the best Manner highly varnishd and completead from a Design of Messrs Adams £84'. The painted panels which are strangely not mentioned in the bill were almost certainly executed by Antonio Zucchi but in almost every way the commode as executed follows the design.

Another closely related design by Adam was intended for Henry, 2nd Earl Bathurst who commissioned the architect in 1771 to design a new house, Apsley House at the western end of Piccadilly, London. Adam's design for a commode for the second Drawing Room shares certain features with the Derby commode, and in turn with the commode offered here and others (see below). In particular the design suggests a commode of much greater scale than the Derby commode, corresponding also to the present lot (Roberts & Cator, op.cit. p. 191), in the case of the latter an additional pair of ormolu feet are added which imparts greater stability for when the central door was opened the commode must have been inclined to tip forward.

The attribution is based on a combination of stylistic features, in particular the finely engraved neoclassical marquetry heightened with black, red or white mastic to reinforce the pictorial illusion, which comprises a full repertoire of motifs associated with the firm noted for their skill as marqueteurs. This includes:

· Large scale ‘antique’ urns and tripods, derived from printed sources, and found on a commode formerly in the collection of The Earls of Chesterfield and Carnarvon, now in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Merseyside (illustrated Roberts, op. cit., fig. 14). Likewise on a pair of commodes almost certainly supplied to Robert Birch, Turvey House, Donabate, co. Dublin, circa 1775, sold Christie’s, London, 5 July 2012, lot 33 (£746,850 inc. premium).
· Engraved entrelac border framing the painted panels; the anthemion and foliate pilasters; and acanthus pattern square tapering supports, feature on a harewood, satinwood and marquetry semi-elliptical commode, perhaps made for Josias Dupre, c. 1777 (H. Roberts, `Unequall’d Elegance: Mayhew and Ince’s Furniture for James Alexander, 1st Earl of Caledon’, Furniture History, vol. 45, 2009, fig. 23).
· Lunette inlaid frieze; a variant of this idiosyncratic pattern of upside-down husk swags is seen on the Derby House commode (Roberts, op. cit., fig. 10), and the Shafto/Bavington Hall commode (ibid., fig. 20; sold Christie’s, London, 24 November 1979, lot 65; Sotheby’s, London, 4 December 2013, lot 493).
· Bold drapery swags; foliate scrolls centred by an anthemion; ribbons and husk garlands seen throughout Ince & Mayhew's marquetry oeuvre.
· The decorative use of oval painted panels, either on wood or paper, and usually attributable to the Swiss artist Angelica Kauffman (d. 1810); the subjects for the medallions largely derive from ‘antique’ paintings by Kauffman illustrating scenes from Ovid's Metamorphoses or Loves of the Gods, and then rendered as ornamental insets by Adam's team of decorative artists, such as Antonio Zucchi, Kauffman’s husband.
· The conspicuous use of well finished and often richly-gilt ormolu mounts. It is tempting to ascribe the ormolu mounts to Boulton and Fothergill, the celebrated ormolu manufacturers of Soho, Birmingham, but to date very little evidence of significant collaboration between the two firms has surfaced except for correspondence concerning the Duchess of Manchester's cabinet (designed by Adam and executed by Ince and Mayhew), and a chimneypiece and tripods for Lord Kerry (L. Boynton, ‘An Ince and Mayhew Correspondence’, Furniture History, 1966, vol. II, pp. 23-36). Ince and Mayhew also supplied an ormolu-mounted urn and pedestal to Lord Kerry, which has a finely-chased goat mask probably by Bouton and Fothergill (C. Cator, ‘The Earl of Kerry and Mayhew and Ince, "The Idlest Ostentation"’, Furniture History, 1990, p. 28, figs. 3 and 4).

The ambition of these commodes, both stylistically and technically, cannot be understated, though it might be mentioned that there's no evidence that the Bathurst/Apsley House commode was ever executed; the contents of Apsley House were dispersed in 1807. However there was a single payment to `Mayhew &Co' of £79 in June 1779 which might well relate to the manufacture of the commode.

Sir Henry Paulet St John Mildmay, 3RD Bt. (d.1808) politician and only son of Sir Henry Paulet St John, Bt. and his wife Dorothea Maria Tucker, daughter of Abraham Tucker of Betchworth Castle, Surrey succeeded to the baronetcy and Dogmersfield Park in 1784. In 1786 he married Jane, the daughter of Carew Mildmay of Shawford House, Hampshire. Upon her great-uncle Carew Hervey Mildmay’s death in 1790 St John took the additional name of Mildmay.

It is possible that the present commode was commissioned on the occasion of the marriage of 1786. The painted decoration, taken from Angelica Kauffman’s interpretation of scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, depicting Venus crowned by cupid to the top of the commode, flanked to either side by mischievous putti and Diana and the sleeping Endymion to the front, would have been an appropriate decorative theme to adopt for a work commissioned to celebrate a marriage (ibid, p.254)

Dogmersfield Park in Hampshire was built in 1728 for Ellis St John of Farley Chamberlayne (c.1670-1729) in the Palladian style, it was completed by his son Sir Paulet St John, 1st Baronet (1704–1780). Pevsner noted, perhaps rather unjustly, that ’The interest of the house is wholly inside. Two rooms have sumptuous plaster ceilings with acanthus shells etc., …Two rooms also have good fireplaces. One of the two is outstanding, with two diagonally placed termini maidens’ (N. Pevsner and D. Lloyd, The buildings of England: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, London, 1967, p. 192). The park was remodelled by William Eames (c.1729-1803), a follower of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-1783), and a number of follies were added to the grounds-including John Fowler’s Hunting Lodge. The 7th Baronet died childless in 1929 and the remaining estate was sold.

Alexander Baring, 1st Baron Ashburton (d. 1848), merchant and banker, was a celebrated collector of wide-ranging tastes. In 1817, he acquired The Grange at Northington in Hampshire for £136,000 from Henry Drummond, a fellow banker, who had commissioned William Wilkins to transform it into one of Britain's finest neo-classical houses. As early as 1825 it was rumoured that Lord Ashburton had spent £1 million on land and by the time of his death in 1848 his estates extended across Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Herefordshire, Somerset, Wiltshire, Suffolk, and Norfolk. From about 1805, his London home was 25 Bruton Street and later he moved to 33 Portman Square. In 1821, he acquired Bath House, Piccadilly, and rebuilt it to create the ‘Palazzo di Piccadilly’. Baring collected magnificent pictures, and in particular was one of the earliest collectors of English 18th century furniture that might have included the present commode with which to furnish The Grange and Bath House. He bought from old English collections and from improbable sources such as Charles Maurice Talleyrand; a work by Van Dyck was acquired from Talleyrand’s collection in 1831. His enthusiasm for art lead to his appointment as a trustee of the National Gallery and the British Museum.

In the 20th century, the commode was acquired by The Hon. Mrs. Daisy Fellowes. Editor of Harper's Bazaar and dubbed by Vogue the best dressed woman in the world, Daisy Fellowes epitomised good taste between the thirties and her death in 1962. The daughter of the duc Decazes, she married firstly Prince Jean de Broglie and secondly in 1919 the Hon. Reginald Fellowes (1884-1953), second son of the second Baron de Ramsey. She was also American by descent, being the granddaughter of Isaac Singer. Among her various homes in London, Paris and Geneva, was Donnington Grove, Berkshire, built in the Gothick style in the 1760s by John Chute and childhood home to Beau Brummell. Donnington was the subject of a series of articles in Country Life in 1958, describing Fellowes’ revived Regency furnishing. The ‘sumptuous’ commode was photographed in the pale pink and apple-green painted drawing-room (C. Hussey, ‘Donnington Grove, Berkshire – III’, Country Life, October 2 1958, pp. 714 – 717, fig. 3).

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