The stands for vases and candelabra were designed for Crichel, Dorset in the George III 'antique' fashion popularised by The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1773, and are likely to have been executed for Humphrey Sturt (d. 1786) under the direction of his architect James Wyatt (d. 1813). Evoking lyric poetry, they are conceived as tripod-altars dedicated to the sun and poetry deity Apollo, whose sacred Pythian serpents guard their Grecian-scrolled and 'Etruscan' pearl-strung pilasters. Laurels festoon bacchic ram heads that are ribbon-tied to their altar-drums, and these are wreathed by imbricated libation-patera in the French Grecian fashion.
Their form can be traced from a French-pattern of table-stand, introduced in the mid-18th century as an 'Athénienne', an engraving of 1765 after a Joseph Vion painting of 1763 (see below). Robert Adam invoiced the Earl of Coventry in 1767 for a related 'Tripod altered from a French design', and illustrated the pattern in his Works. Here the tall tripod supported a vase-candelabrum, and reflected Adam's 'Etruscan' furnishings appropriate for his Roman 'Columbarium' or vase-chamber style (A. Coleridge, 'Robert Adam and the 6th Earl of Coventry', Apollo, February 2000, pp. 8-19 and figs. 5 and 3).
The Crichel stands derive in part from an altar-stand featured in the 1765 engraving entitled 'La Vertueuse Athénienne'. The latter incorporated a bacchic pine 'thyrsus' wreathed by a serpent; while its ram-monopodiae pilasters were festooned with imbricated patera and raised on a plinth. These same elements, apart from serpents, feature on two French-fashioned 'athéniennes' with ormolu-wreathed marble tops that are in the Lichfield collection at Shugborough, Staffordshire and have been attributed to the architect James 'Athenian' Stuart (d. 1788) (Susan Weber Soros, James 'Athenian' Stuart, London, 2006, no. 45). The Lichfield stands are also festooned with poetic laurels, but these are executed in the 'baguette' manner or French Grecian fashion.
James Wyatt's payments for work carried out at Crichel between 1767 and 1780 included the embellishment of a Drawing Room, whose magnificent Grecian-vaulted ceiling was embellished with festive tablets celebrating the Histories of Dionysus Bacchus and other deities. This pair of candlestands, together with their matching pair (sold anonymously, but with Crichel provenance, Christie's, London, 18 November 1982, lot 33) would have provided appropriate furnishings for the room corners. Wyatt's interest in the Grecian Roman tripod form is demonstrated by his collection of drawings preserved in the Noailles Album (see J. Cornforth, 'On his Own Legs: James Wyatt's work as a designer', Country Life, 28 September 1995, pp. 71-73). In particular they can be related to the design for a set of four Drawing Room torchere candlestands supplied CIRCA 1780 for Chirk Castle, Wales by Messrs Ince and Mayhew, following its redecoration under the direction of Wyatt's pupil Joseph Turner (d. 1807) (private collection). A further closely related drawing, acquired in 1877 by the South Kensington (Now Victoria & Albert) Museum, may be from the Wyatt Office (the latter was discussed, but not attributed to Adam by A. Rowan in Catalogue of Architectural Drawings in the Victoria & Albert Museum: Robert Adam, London, 1988, no. 195).