Lot Content

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A REGENCY BRONZE-PAINTED AND PARCEL-GILT PLASTER PIER MIRROR AND TABLE,
This lot is offered without reserve. PROPERTY OF A MIAMI COLLECTOR
A REGENCY BRONZE-PAINTED AND PARCEL-GILT PLASTER PIER MIRROR AND TABLE,

BY P. CHENU, DATED 1805,

Details
A REGENCY BRONZE-PAINTED AND PARCEL-GILT PLASTER PIER MIRROR AND TABLE,
BY P. CHENU, DATED 1805,
the sphinx's collar engraved P. Chenu fecit pub Oct 1805
87in. (221cm.) high, 37in. (94cm.) wide, 18in. (46cm.) deep
Provenance
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 19 November 1993, lot 126.
Special Notice

This lot is offered without reserve.

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Lot Essay

The mirror and table reflect the revived taste for all things Egyptian following Napoleon's Egyptian campaign and Nelson's subsequent victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. One of the earliest propogators of this revival was James Playfair who designed an Egyptian billiard room at Cairness House, Aberdeenshire in 1793. By the beginning of the 19th century, Egyptomania had swept across the country, widely promoted by the designs of Thomas Hope, who created an Egyptian room in his Duchess Street mansion.

The plaster sphinx bears the signature of 'P. Chenu' (previously thought to read 'S. Chenu') who is likely the sculptor Peter Chenu (d. 1834), who was working at various London addresses until 1822. Chenu attended the Royal Academy in 1784, exhibiting at both the Academy and the British Institution over the next thirty years. He bought stock in the sales of other London sculptors and plasterers, such as Joseph Rose (1799), Thomas Scheemakers and Thomas Banks (1805) (see T. Clifford, 'The Plaster Shops of the Rococo and neo-Classical Era in Britain', Journal of the History of Collections, vol. 4, no. 1, 1992). Upon his retirement, a sale was held on his premises comprising 'a collection of fine bronzed groups, figures, candelabras, historical busts, brackets, lustres, lamps and various ornaments' and with a further sale of moulds and casts the following month (The Times, 20 May and 11 June 1822). While ornamental plaster figures formed much of his business, he was also known to have worked in bronze; a Seated Hercules similarly marked 'P. CHENU Fecit 1819' was sold Sotheby's, London, 12 December 2003, lot 203.

The form of the sphinx support bears remarkable similarity to the trade label of William Bullock, the brother of the renowned cabinet-maker George, who opened an Egyptian Hall in Liverpool in 1805 advertising the sale of 'marble tables...consoles, glasses and mirrors'. Although no link can be traced between Chenu and Bullock, it is possible that they were acquainted as they both specialized in decorative Egyptian style sculpture.
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