The golden side table with 'antique' green marble top was designed by the Rome-trained architect Robert Adam (d.1792) and was supplied to Sir Lawrence Dundas (d.1781) for his London house at 19 Arlington Street by the royal cabinet-maker William France working in partnership with John Bradburn.
SIR LAWRENCE DUNDAS
Sir Lawrence Dundas was a towering figure of the 18th century, an outstanding merchant-venturer, banker, property magnate, politician and patron of the arts. He was raised to the Baronetcy in 1762, and the following year he purchased Moor Park in Hertfordshire and 19 Arlington Street in London, engaging Adam to make improvements at both properties.
Dundas was elected to the Society of Dilletanti in 1750, and Sir Lawrence and Lady Dundas went on to create lavish interiors at all their properties, acquiring the finest furniture and pictures, and securing their reputations among the finest connoisseurs of the 18th century.
For a more detailed account of Sir Lawrence Dundas and the furnishing of Arlington Street see note to the previous lot.
Robert Adam trained initially under his father William Adam but from 1754 he spent five years in Rome studying architecture under Giovanni Battista Piranesi among others. On his return to London he established his practice in Grosvenor Square, quickly making his reputation as the leading proponent of classical architecture, and under George III he was promoted to architect to the King's Board of Works. By 1763 he was at the height of his powers, recognised as the most fashionable architect of his generation, and promoting the neo-classical style, still in its infancy in England.
Sir Lawrence Dundas was likewise in the ascendant, newly ennobled and elected to Parliament, so it was natural that he should turn to Adam for advice on the aggrandisement of his St. James's mansion overlooking Green Park. Adam appears to have been given a free hand at Arlington Street, supplying designs for a wide range of furnishings, and he and his patron sought the very best of London's thriving cabinet trade to execute the designs. Thus Adam worked in tandem with the likes of Chippendale in 1764 supplying the magnificent suite of giltwood seat furniture for the Great Room, of which one armchair is offered here (lot 16), Pierre Langlois for marquetry commodes, and for the superb carved and gilt wall furniture he engaged the St. Martin's Lane cabinet-maker William France.
FRANCE AND BRADBURN
William France (d.1773) worked in partnership with John Bradburn (d.1781) from 1764. France had been employed in 1759 by William Vile (d.1767) and John Cobb (d.1778), and during the tenure of Vile and Cobb as cabinet-makers to King George III, 1761-63, he often signed accounts on behalf of his employers. Bradburn was established in his own right in Hemming's Row, Long Acre, by 1758 but was also credited with some work for Vile and Cobb in the 1750s.
In partnership they succeeded Vile and Cobb in the service of the Royal Household, an appointment they retained until 1773. Among their first major commissions outside the royal residences was that for Sir Lawrence Dundas at Arlington Street, and at Moor Park, though France may initially have been engaged on his own; the first account signed by both France and Bradburn is dated 13 July, 1764, totalling £990 12s 11½d. They also worked at Croome Court, Worcestershire, from 1763- 65 for the 6th Earl of Coventry, supplying amongst other furniture, a set of ten 'scrole' sofas, again to the designs of Adam, and employing the specialist carver Sefferin Alken in their execution (one sold anonymously Christie's London, 3 November 2011, lot 69, £50,450 including premium), and for John Chute at The Vyne, Hampshire and Charles Street, London, including a pair of 'half circle sideboard tables' delivered between March 1765 and January 1767 (G.Beard and C.Gilbert, Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660 - 1840, Leeds, 1986, pp. 95 - 97 and 316 - 317).
THE DESIGN AND EXECUTION
Adam's design for the present lot was dated 1765 and inscribed 'A Table Frame for Long Room next to the Eating Parlour', for which Sir Lawrence was charged 15 gns (A.Coleridge, 'Dundas and some Rococo Cabinet-Makers', Apollo, September 1967, pp.214-215). On January 12, 1765 France and Bradburn invoiced the table as:
'For a Circular
Frame, for a Marble Table,
richly carv'd with ramsheads
at Top, and Husks falling
down the 3 Shaped Legs, &
gilt in burnished gold and £ s. d.
puting up the above...... 37 10 0
This is almost certainly the table that was listed in the 1768 Inventory of the Furniture of Sir Lawrence Dundas Bt. at his house in Arlington Street 12th May 1768, listed in the Gallery 'A Marble Slab on a gilt frame'.
A second table of closely related design but with an entrelac frieze rather than the Vitruvian scroll motif featured on the present lot, and illustrated in P. Macquoid and R.Edwards, Dictionary of English Furniture, rev. edn. 1954, vol III, p.296, fig.63, was invoiced on December 30 the same year at the same price, presumably the table listed in the Drawing Room.
The tables remained at Arlington Street until Christie's sale, A Catalogue of Highly Important Adam Furniture... The Property of The Most Honourable The Marquess of Zetland, P.C, 26 April 1934, when the two tables were sold for 210 gns as a pair though stating differences. Notably it was recorded in the catalogue entry that one table had a green marble top (the present lot), the other a yellow marble top. The present table was offered again anonymously and with a well matched green marble top, Christie's London, 30 November 1978, lot 99 (£13,200 including premium), while the companion, having been in the collection of William Randolph Hearst (inventory no. 518292), was sold Christie's New York, 28 March 1981, lot 213. ($77,000 including premium)