THE HAMILTON PALACE INVENTORIES
The suite appears in the 1835, 1852/53, 1876 and 1915 inventories as follows:
The 1835 inventories of Hamilton Palace, Mademoiselle's Bed Room: '2 Arm Chairs, 4 Common Chairs ('4' crossed out and '6' added), and 1 Stool Covered with silk damask [£]18 ,, ,,', the Duke of Newcastle's Bed Room: '8 Chairs ('8' crossed out and '6' added), Gilt Hair Bottom Covered with Crimson Silk Damask [£]16 ,, ,, 1 Stool [£],, 15 ,,', and the Duke of Newcastle's Dressing Room: '3 Chairs covered with silk damask [£]7 ,, ,,' plus the added entry, 'a Dressing Stool covered same as Chairs'.
The 1852/53 inventory of Hamilton Palace, Mademoiselle's Room: '2 Walnut tree Arm Chairs & 8 single Do. & a Dressing stool covered with Damask to match curtains and brown holland Covers to the whole', the Duke of Newcastle's Bed Room: '2 Walnut tree Arm Chairs and 6 single Do. covered silk Damask to match Bed &c and brown holland Covers to the whole a Dressing Stool to match', and the Duke of Newcastle's Dressing Room: 'a Teakwood Dressing Stool as others 2 Do single Chairs covered ensuite An Arm Chair covered red Morocco Leather'.
The 1876 inventory of Hamilton Palace, Mademoiselle's Bed Room: '6 do [Ebonized] High Back'd Chairs, Seat & Backs stuffed & covered with crimson Silk Damask, the corners mounted with Gilt Metal A do Arm Chair to match A do Dressing Stool to match', the Duke of Newcastle's Bed Room: '6 Chairs inlaid wood legs, with Brass mounts, Back & Seat stuffed _ covered with Silk Damask to match 2 Arm Chairs do do do A Dressing Stool to match', and the Duke of Newcastle's Dressing Room: '3 High Back'd Chairs, the Legs of inlaid Wood with gilt Metal Mounting, Seats and Backs Stuffed and covered with crimson Silk Damask An Arm Chair to match A Dressing Stool to match'.
The 1915 inventory of Hamilton Palace, the Ebony Room (almost certainly the same room as Mademoiselle's Bed Room): 'Six ebonized Chairs, one Armchair and one Dressing Stool, with ormolu mountings, stuffed and covered in crimson damask', and the Duke of Newcastle's Bedroom: 'Three Queen Anne oak Chairs, one Armchair and one Dressing Stool, with ormolu mounts, stuffed square backs, and seats covered with crimson silk damask'.
THE HAMILTON PALACE PROVENANCE
The stools are part of an extensive marquetry suite that once formed part of the furnishings at Hamilton Palace, once Scotland's largest and most majestic country house that was demolished in the 1920s and 1930s. The ancient building of Hamilton Palace underwent three significant stages of transformation under the direction of architects James Smith in the 1690s, William Adam in the 1720s-1740s (whose work included the installation of the state rooms), and David Hamilton of Glasgow (under close supervision of the 10th Duke) between 1822 and 1830.
Based on the inventories and the two sales in which pieces were dispersed, the suite comprised four armchairs, fifteen side chairs and three stools, however it was apparent that the suite was enlarged in the early 19th century so the size of the eighteenth century commission remains slightly speculative (one of the Reilly stools is a copy, probably commissioned by the 10th Duke). Part of the suite (two armchairs, six side chairs and a stool) was sold in the celebrated sale of 1882 (lot 1792) when they were purchased by the London dealer, Colnaghi. A further group (two armchairs, nine side chairs and the two present stools) was later sold at Christie's in 1919 after the 12th Duke's death when they entered Lord Leverhulme's collection. Two armchairs and six side chairs entered the public collection at The Huntington Library, San Marino, California in 1944 (one side chair has the Leverhulme label X3728).
Although the suite does not appear in the 1825 Hamilton Palace inventory (this is hardly surprising as this listing dealt almost entirely with the first floor of the Palace), it may be identified in subsequent inventories of 1835, 1852/53, 1876 and 1915 - located in Mademoiselle's Bed Room and the Duke of Newcastle's Bedroom and Dressing Room, two of the best guest bedrooms on the second floor. By 1876 the eight pieces in Mademoiselle's Room had been ebonised. This corresponds to a citation in the 1919 sale ('part of the set has been ebonised') and a Moss Harris invoice to (then owner) Lord Leverhulme dated 7 May 1920: 'To stripping black polish from old Queen Anne Arm Chair, 6 Single Chairs & 1 stool & polishing the same to match remainder of Suite' 14 10s' (L. Wood, The Upholstered Furniture in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, vol. II, p. 1042; the '1 stool' is the present eighteenth century stool). The Mademoiselle's Room is certainly the same as the so-called Ebony Room listed in the 1915 inventory.
The suite may have been commissioned by the 10th Duke's ancester, James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton (d. 1712) or his son James, 5th Duke of Hamilton (d. 1743) for another of the family residences - including the Hamilton Apartments at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh. Although born at Hamilton Palace, the 4th Duke never actually lived there as an adult (his mother, born 3rd Duchess of Hamilton in her own right, outlived him). Little is known about the 4th Duke as collecctor, but his positions as Keeper of the Palace of Holyrood (a hereditary position inherited from the 1st Duke) as well as Master of the Bedchamber, Master of the Great Wardrobe, and Ambassador to the court of Louis XIV, would have provided him with immediate access to Royal suppliers. As Earl of Arran, the 4th Duke occupied the Hamilton apartments from 1693 for which he may have received commissions like his father, the 3rd Duke who ordered a state bed by upholsterer Jean Poictevin in 1687 (see G. Beard, Upholsterers and Interior Furnishing in England, London, 1997, fig. 54; and M. Swain, 'The State Beds at Holyroodhouse', Furniture History, 1978, pp. 58-60). Certainly, the suite's design bears a resemblance to furniture attributed to the Royal Cabinet-maker James Moore (d. 1726). It is compelling that Moore received a sizeable commission for another Scottish palace - Dalkeith Palace, near Edinburgh - as early as 1700-1701 by Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch (d.1732), the daughter-in-law of King Charles II and wife of the Duke of Monmouth.
The 4th Duke's shocking death by duel in 1712 allows that his son, the 5th Duke, may have commissioned the suite at a slightly later date. The 5th Duke was a known patron who engaged the architect William Adam to update Hamilton Palace (and later the Holyrood apartments) as early as 1722. Lord Leverhulme's 1926 catalogue includes an intriguing notation that the oval plaques 'engraved with the crest of the Dukes of Hamilton, have been removed'. It is compelling to believe that these plaques were original to the suite, and as such, would underscore a Hamilton commission.
However, it remains possible that the suite was acquired at a later date by Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, 10th Duke of Hamilton (d.1852), the legendary connoisseur who succeeded to the title in 1819. Over the years the 10th Duke amassed an outstanding collection of paintings, sculpture, furniture and silver for the Palace. The 10th Duke's taste was exceptionally grand and eclectic; together with the London decorator and designer Robert Hume, he set about refurbishing the Palace in a princely manner. European treasures displaced by the French Revolution and Napoleonic conquests were uncovered by the Duke's agents, and many of these boasted royal provenance. Further, a rich array of pietre dure, mosaics, hardstones and marbles, both ancient and modern - a passion of the Duke - was acquired on his Grand Tour (he was in Rome as early as 1802). While his continental purchases may have been grand, the Duke was also an active buyer in the greatest house sales of the day including Wanstead House (1822) and Stowe (1848). In 1810, he married to his cousin, Susan Beckford, the younger daughter of the equally celebrated connoisseur William Beckford (d. 1844), thereby inheriting remaining treasures from the latter's remarkable collection. If acquired by the 10th Duke, the possible sources of acquisition are many.
Christie's Hamilton Palace sale held in London between 17 June and 20 July 1882 created a sensation in its time and to this day is recognized as one of the greatest auctions of all time. Among the 2,213 lots sold at the behest of the 12 Duke were examples from the marquetry suite, sold on 17 July (the fourteenth day of the sale), lot 1792, and described as: 'A SET OF SIX OLD HIGH-BACKED WALNUT-WOOD CHAIRS, and a PAIR OF ARM-CHAIRS, the legs inlaid and mounted with metal-gilt, with flat chasing, the backs and seats stuffed and covered with rich satin damask; and a dressing-stool, en suite.'
THE DESIGN AND POSSIBLE AUTHORSHIP OF THE SUITE
The possibility of a James Moore attribution is strengthened by the design of the suite. The distinctive line of the legs and rail, as well as the baluster-shaped arm supports on the corresponding armchairs (the armchairs illustrated in H. A. Tipping, op. cit., p. 721, pl. 9) which are strikingly similar to the suite of bedroom furniture supplied to James Brydges, later 1st Duke of Chandos (1673/4-1744) for Cannons, Middlesex when he received the title of the Earl of Carnarvon in 1714. It was to James Gibbs (d. 1754) that Chandos, the Paymaster-General of Marlborough's army, turned for designs for his new house at Cannons. Although not known as a furniture designer, Gibbs' hand would appear to be behind the design of the Cannon suite. In his Book of Architecture, 1728, he displayed a design for an imbricated dolphin-scale baluster that is closely related to the Cannons chairs' arm-supports, while other elements relate to his work at Arundel Castle. A closely related chair is retained in the Duke of Norfolk's collection at Arundel (illustrated in S. Jervis, 'Furniture at Arundel Castle', The Connoisseur, March 1978, p. 213, fig. P). The Channon masterpieces have been attributed to Moore, whose partner John Gumley (d. 1729), the glass-manufacturer, had employed Gibbs to design his own house at Isleworth, Middlesex. It is relevant to note that the Captain-General of the army, the Duke of Marlborough, Chandos's patron at court, and his Duchess Sarah, employed Moore extensively for the furnishings at Blenheim Palace at this same time (I. Caldwell, 'Moore at Blenheim', The Antique Collector, September 1991, pp. 80-83). Some of the chairs from the 'Best Chamber' at Cannons are currently in the collections at Houghton Hall, Norfolk; two of these descended at Houghton until sold 'Works of Art from Houghton', Christie's, London, 8 December 1994, lot 135. A pair of corresponding armchairs, supplied for the Chapel at Channons a few years later, was sold by the Trustees of Sir William Turner's Hospital, Kirkleatham, Christie's, London, 8 June 2006, lot 50.
The Cannons suite was conceived in gilt-gesso. A highly unusual feature on the Hamilton suite is the gilt-metal mounts which imitate this effect with their low relief decoration. Another unusual feature is the marquetry which can also relate to the work of the London cabinet-maker Henry Williams, who succeeded Richard Roberts as chair-maker to the Royal household in 1729 (see L. Wood, The Upholstered Furniture in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, vol. I, nos. 15 and 16). Williams is recorded working at a slightly later date (from 1717); however, a related stool with the same broken cabriole leg profile and inlaid pendant husks was supplied to Sherborne, Gloucester in circa 1730 (see L. Wood, op. cit., p. 224, figs. 146-147). The marquetry, which is inset as a panel, does introduce the possibility that a specialist marqueteur may have supplied these panels to the maker in question.
Christie's would like to extend our gratitude to Dr. Godfrey Evans, Principal Curator of European Applied Art, National Museums Scotland for his invaluable assistance with the cataloguing of this lot. An essay by Dr. Evans with full details from the Hamilton Palace inventories can be read below.
THE HAMILTON PALACE SUITE - INVENTORY DETAILS
Research conducted by Dr. Godfrey Evans
Principal Curator of European Applied Art, National Museums, Scotland
In 1915 the two armchairs, nine side chairs and two stools which were sold at Christie's Hamilton Palace sale on 5 November 1919 as lot 24 were recorded in the 'Duke of Newcastle's Bedroom' and the so-called 'Ebony Room': two of the best guest bedrooms on the second floor of Hamilton Palace. The descriptions in the 1915 Hamilton inventory are inaccurate and poor, but clearly refer to the thirteen pieces in this part ebonised set. 'Three Queen Anne oak Chairs, one Armchair, and one Dressing Stool, with ormolu mounts, stuffed square backs, and seats covered with crimson silk damask'(1), valued at £65, were in the 'Duke of Newcastle's Bedroom', while 'Six ebonized Chairs, one Armchair and one Dressing Stool, with ormolu mountings, stuffed and covered in crimson damask' (2), valued at £100, were in the nearby Ebony Room.
The Ebony Room had been formed after the death of Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton (1767-1852), the great collector and son-in-law of William Beckford, who had added a very impressive Neo-classical north front to the baroque palace between 1822 and 1830 and amassed most of the great pieces of French furniture for which Hamilton Palace is still renowned. The Ebony Room was almost certainly called 'Mademoiselle's Bed Room', 'Mademoiselle's Room' (later annotated 'Mademoiselle d'Este's Room') and 'Mademoiselle's Bed Room' in the 1835, 1852/53 and 1876 Hamilton Palace inventories. Its focal point was the ebony four-poster bed decorated with mother-of-pearl and ivory (now at the Dukes of Hamilton's present seat of Lennoxlove), which the 10th Duke had purchased in the 1820s but had subsequently placed in storage and apparently ordered to be sold after his death.(3)
The 1876 Hamilton Palace inventory clearly records the 10th Duke's unloved ebony, ivory and tortoiseshell bed in 'Mademoiselle's Bed Room' in 1876 (4), along with many pieces of 'ebonized' furniture. The eight ebonised items recorded in the Ebony Room in 1915, and sold in 1919, are likely to be
do [Ebonized] High Back'd Chairs, Seat & Backs stuffed & covered with crimson Silk Damask, the corners mounted with Gilt Metal.
A do Arm Chair to match.
A do Dressing Stool to match(5)
The other (non-ebonised) arm chair, three side chairs and stool sold in 1919 and the two arm chairs, six side chairs and stool included in the 1882 Hamilton Palace sale as lot 1792 are probably all listed in the 1876 Hamilton Palace inventory in the 'Duke of Newcastle's Bed Room' and 'Duke of Newcastle's Dressing Room', which were next to Mademoiselle's Bed Room. In 1876 the 'Duke of Newcastle's Bed Room' contained:
6 Chairs inlaid wood legs, with Brass mounts, Back & Seat stuffed covered with Silk Damask to match.
2 Arm Chairs do do do
A Dressing Stool to match (6)
The 'Duke of Newcastle's Dressing Room' was furnished, in part, with:
3 High Back'd Chairs, the Legs of inlaid Wood with gilt Metal Mounting, Seats & Backs Stuffed and covered with Crimson Silk Damask.
An Arm Chair to match
A Dressing Stool to match[.] (7)
One can only speculate as which of these pieces went into the 1882 sale and those that ended up in the 1919 sale. However, it is worth noting that all the items in the two 1882 and 1919 lots are accounted for in these entries and that there are no 'spare' or 'missing' pieces.
It is not immediately clear where the four arm chairs, fifteen side chairs and three stools were prior to 1876, but it looks as though the majority were in Mademoiselle's Room and the Duke of Newcastle's Bed Room in the early 1850s. The 1852/53 Hamilton Palace inventory records eleven potentially relevant items in 'Mademoiselle's Room' as:
2 Walnut tree Arm Chairs & 8 single Do. & a Dressing stool covered with Damask to match curtains and brown holland Covers to the whole[.] (8)
It also lists nine apparently related items in the Duke of Newcastle's Bed Room as:
2 Walnut tree Arm Chairs and 6 single Do. covered silk Damask to match Bed &c and brown holland Covers to the whole
a Dressing Stool to match[.] (9)
Thus we seem to be able to place all four of the armchairs, 14 of the 15 side chairs and all three of the dressing stools in Mademoiselle's Room and the Duke of Newcastle's Bed Room in 1852/53. At this time the Duke of Newcastle's Dressing Room contained the following pieces of seat furniture, but the two side chairs are described as being made of teakwood, rather than of walnut:
a Teakwood Dressing Stool as others
2 Do single Chairs covered ensuite
An Arm Chair covered red Morocco Leather[.] (10)
In all probability, many of the items in the set had been in Mademoiselle's Room and the Duke of Newcastle's Bed Room during the 1830s and 1840s and there is clear evidence of pieces being moved around and added to these rooms. The 1835 Hamilton Palace inventories at Lennoxlove and Hamilton Town House Library both list '2 Arm Chairs, 4 Common Chairs, and 1 Stool Covered with silk damask', valued at £ 18, in Mademoiselle's Bed Room. Both inventories record that two more side chairs were subsequently added to the room. (11)
The 1835 Hamilton Palace inventory in the Hamilton Archive at Lennoxlove lists the relevant seat furniture in the Duke of Newcastle's Bed Room as '8 Chairs, Gilt Hair Bottom Covered with Crimson Silk Damask [£]16 ,, ,, 1 Stool  ,, 15 ,,' (12). The number '8' has subsequently been crossed out and '6' substituted, and 'A Settle to match the Chairs' has been added, in red ink, between the two entries. In this inventory the seat furniture in the Duke of Newcastle's Dressing Room is described as '3 Chairs covered with silk damask [£]7 ,, ,, 1 Arm Chair covered with red Morrocco [£]3 10 ,,'. Among the three additions in red ink at the bottom of the page relating to the dressing room is 'a Dressing Stool covered same as Chairs' (13).
The 1835 inventory in Hamilton Town House Library has the same amended entries for the chairs and stools in the Duke of Newcastle's Bed Room (14). It also has the later addition 'Mahogany' after 'Stool' and the slightly more informative later entry 'A Settle to match the Chairs £3' between the lines relating to the chairs and the stool. The entry relating to the '3 Chairs covered with Silk Damask [£]7 ,, ,,' in the Duke of Newcastle's Dressing Room has been amended by crossing out the '3' and the 's' of 'Chairs' and adding '1' (i.e. '1 Chair'). '2 Gilt framed chairs covered with Crimson damask' has subsequently been added above this entry, without a valuation, and there is also the later addition 'Dressing Stool covered as Chairs' at the bottom of the page (15).
Unfortunately, the trail fades out after this. The pieces do not seem to be recorded in the 1825 Hamilton Palace inventory, but as this deals almost entirely with the first floor of the palace, this is not altogether surprising.
(1) Unfortunately, the trail fades out after this. The pieces do not seem to be recorded in the 1825 Hamilton Palace inventory, but as this deals almost entirely with the first floor of the palace, this is not altogether surprising.
(2) Ibid, p. 3.
(3) There is a persistent oral tradition that the bed was a gift from the Emperor Napoleon's notorious sister, Princess Pauline Borghese, with whom the 10th Duke was heavily involved between 1817 and her death in 1825. However, recent research has revealed that the bed was made in London around 1826 or 1828 by John Stuart, under the direction of Buhard Orwin of Charlotte Square, for the Bond Street dealer John Webb: see SCRAN 000-000-308-216-C. The 1852/53 Hamilton Palace inventory lists the bed in a 'Store Room' as 'The richly Carved Ebony 4 Post Bedstead with Canopy top &c all inlaid with Mother of Pearl Tortoiseshell and Ivory &c also the rich crimson silk Damask Furniture lined with silk &c'. Somebody has subsequently added 'ordered by the late Duke to be sold': Hamilton Archive, Lennoxlove, Volume 1228, p.173.
(4) 'A Magnificent 4 Post Ebony Bedstead richly carved and inlaid with Ivory & Tortoiseshell. Rich Brocade curtains, Valance &c.': Hamilton Town House Library, Hamilton, Hamilton Estate Books and Papers, item 387, Inventory of the Furniture, Pictures, Articles of Vertu, etc, at Hamilton Palace in 1876, p.145.
(6) Ibid, p.151.
(7) Ibid, p.149.
(8) Hamilton Archive, Volume 1228, p.89.
(9) Ibid, p.93.
(10) Ibid, p.92.
(11) In both cases the '4' was crossed out and '6' added: Hamilton Archive, Volume 1223, p.59, and Hamilton Town House Library, Hamilton, Hamilton Estate Books and Papers, item 386, Inventory of Furniture and Pictures, etc, in Hamilton Palace taken in February 1835, p.75. The word 'silk' is in upper case in the latter inventory.
(12) Hamilton Archive, Volume 1223, p.63.
(13) Ibid, p. 61.
(14) Hamilton Town House Library, Hamilton, Hamilton Estate Books and Papers, item 386, Inventory of Furniture and Pictures, etc, in Hamilton Palace taken in February 1835, p.79. The original entry about the chairs is set out as '8 Chairs Gilt, hair bottom covered with crimson silk damask [£]16 ,, ,,'.
(15) Ibid, p. 77.