THE DESIGN The golden framed side table is conceived in the George II 'Roman' fashion promoted by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (d.1753) and designed by his protégé the Rome-trained artist, architect and illustrator William Kent (d.1748), appointed Master Carpenter to George II's Architectural Board of Works in 1726.
Its antique fluted frieze is centred by a 'shell' badge of the nature deity Venus and hung with Roman acanthus foliage, while the foliate, imbricated and guilloche-enriched volutes issue swags of Jupiter's sacred oak leaves, a combination of features closely associated with the work of Kent. The pattern relates to Kent's original drawing which was published in Alexander Pope's translation of Homer's Odyssey in 1725. Similar tables associated with Kent include a pair formerly in Queen Caroline's Drawing Room at Kensington Palace (see David Watkin, The Royal Interiors of Regency England, London, 1984, p.67), four further tables originally commissioned by the Countess of Suffolk, mistress of George II, for the Great Room at Marble Hill, Twickenham (see Julius Bryant, London's Country House Collections, London, 1993, p.70, pl.1.), and another formerly at Devonshire House, London (see Margaret Jourdain, The Work of William Kent, London, 1948, pp. 84 and 173.
The table also bears comparison with those supplied around 1732 by Kent for Sir Robert Walpole's Norfolk mansion Houghton Hall, Norfolk, the designs for which were subsequently published in John Vardy's Some Designs of Mr Inigo Jones and Mr William Kent, 1744, pl.41.
WILLIAM KENT AT WANSTEAD
The present lot was among the furnishings commissioned by Richard Child, Earl Tylney of Castlemaine (1679-1743) to furnish his newly built Roman-style villa at Wanstead, Essex. Tylney had commissioned the Scottish architect Colen Campbell (d.1729) to design a magnificent Palladian mansion to replace an earlier house. Planned to rival Blenheim Palace, the vast house featured in the first edition of Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus, 1715, and was described in A New History of Essex, 1769, as 'one of the noblest houses in England. The magnificence of having four state-chambers, with complete apartments to them, are superior to anything of the kind in Houghton, Holkham, Blenheim, or Wilton'.
The interiors at Wanstead were designed by William Kent (d.1748), the foremost classical architect and furniture designer of the day and protégé of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington. Kent's work at Wanstead included the magnificent Drawing Room of 1731, the year in which Child was created Earl Tylney; here Kent's painted ceiling evoked the poets' history of banqueting Gods and love's triumph, a scheme which recalls his 1720s ceiling for the King's Kensington Palace Saloon/Drawing Room, which interpreted classical scenes from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Kent also designed the complementary suite of furniture comprising at least four 'love seats' or settees and five variously-sized stools with scrolled acanthus-wrapped and scaled supports and oak leaf swags. One of these was sold anonymously Christie's, London, The Collector of Collections, 24 April, 2008, lot 340 (£162,500 including premium).
The present table features in the painting by Joseph Francis Nollekens (1702-1748), The Tylney Family in the Saloon at Wanstead House (1740), now in the collection of Fairfax House, York. The Kent table with a marble slab top, presumably one of a pair, is depicted beneath an arched niche in the wall of the Saloon, the room filled with the Tylney family gathered around a card-game, providing an insight into the way in which a room such as this would have been used in the Georgian period: for family entertainment and recreation, and intimate socializing with friends.
The furnishings at Wanstead included no fewer than seventeen side tables very much in the Kentian manner. These were listed in An Inventory of the Household Furniture, Linen, China, Glass, Books, Wines and Effects of the Late Sir James Tylney Long Bart. Deceased at Wanstead House in the County of Essex appraised Feb'ry 23 1795 & Following Days, and include in the Grand Saloon a pair of side tables corresponding with that depicted by Nollekens. These tables in turn correspond exactly with the 1822 'Catalogue of the Magnificent and Costly Furniture of the Princely Mansion Wanstead House', a sale conducted by Mr. Robins over 31 days from 10 June. On the sixteenth day of the sale, Monday 1 July, Robins offered the contents of the Grand Saloon and the description of lot 27, 'A GRAND SQUARE VERD ANTIQUE SIDE TABLE, on a superb massive carved and gilt frame, with Grecian scroll truss supports, tastefully decorated with festoons of oak-leaves and acorns, shell and scroll ornaments in the centre, on deep moulded plinth, 5.feet.9 by 2.feet.5' matches the present table. The following lot was its pair and they were bought by Messrs. Payne and Killick respectively.
The history of the table immediately following the sale is not certain. Mr. Payne's occupation is not known while Killick is possibly the Richard Killick, appraiser of Marylebone listed in The Post-Office London Directory, 1835, p.310, who was almost certainly acting on behalf of a client, purchasing fifteen lots in total. The table must subsequently have been acquired by Richard Grosvenor, Viscount Belgrave, Earl Grosvenor, and 2nd Marquess of Westminster (d.1869) for Eaton Hall, Cheshire. It is almost certainly the table listed in the 1885 inventory in the Main Hall Gallery and Landing from the Ebury Rooms to Grand Stairs as '1 5-9 Marble top table with ornamental Gilt swags foliage & frieze on rich carved stand' and again in 1928 in the Ball Room as 'A gilt side table by William Kent, 69 in. wide'. It was subsequently photographed by Country Life in 1932 (unpublished) in the Waterhouse Hall Ballroom though at this time the base had been altered.
THE 1992 RESTORATION
The photographs of the table at Eaton Hall show it with a rectangular marble top which, in typical Kentian fashion, did not correspond to the shape of the frieze, the scrolled supports raised on end plinths rather than the solid platform illustrated in Nollekens painting. In 1992 it underwent restoration under the direction of W,Thomas, which involved the reshaping of the marble top, the front 'ears' formed from the excess marble cut away from the sides and the back edge trimmed of excess, and the repair and rejointing of the base to return it to original size and shape. At the same time modern oil gilding was removed to reveal the original preparation which was then repaired, regilded and toned.
In 1714, Sir Richard Child, Bt., later Viscount Castlemaine and Earl Tylney of Castlemaine (1679-1743), commissioned the Scottish architect, Colen Campbell (1676-1729), to design a magnificent Palladian mansion to replace an earlier house at Wanstead Park in Essex. The property, rendered with white Portland stone with a central section in the style of a Roman temple, a portico of six Corinthian columns (an innovation for this period) which faced towards London, and a vast square footage (260 feet by 70 feet) was illustrated in the first edition of Vitruvius Britannicus (1715) and was planned to rival Blenheim Palace. William Kent (1685-1748), the foremost classical architect and furniture designer of the day, protégé of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (1694-1753), was responsible for the interiors and for much of the furniture, which was en suite with the room it was intended for. The house was completed by 1720 at a reported cost ranging from £200,000 to 360,000.
Wanstead was described in A New History of Essex (1769) as 'one of the noblest houses in England. The magnificence of having four state-chambers, with complete apartments to them, and the ball-room, are superior to anything of the kind in Houghton, Holkham, Blenheim, or Wilton'. A further sense of its grandeur and the quality and magnitude of its contents can be gained from a household inventory of February 1795 and the thirty two day sale of its contents from 10 June - 23 July 1822 sale by the auctioneer, George Robins. The eleven state rooms on the principal floor are replete with splendid furniture and decorative works of art from André-Charles Boulle to imposing giltwood Kentian tables as in the present example.
Wanstead was ultimately demolished in 1824 after the family's fortunes had fallen into decline.