THE DOLPHIN TABLE PATTERN
This pattern of table was possibly invented by the architect Henry Flitcroft, Clerk to the Board of Works, under the direction of William Kent (d. 1748), for John, 2nd Duke of Montagu (d. 1749). Flitcroft supervised the building and furnishing of Montagu's residence at Privy Gardens, Whitehall Palace. A group of Palladian furniture is known to have been removed from Whitehall to Montagu's house at Boughton, Northamptonshire, which may have included such Dolphin pier tables. These tables, which remain at Boughton, are attributed to Flitcroft and Benjamin Goodison (d. 1767). Payments to Goodison from Montagu appear in the Boughton accounts from 1737-1742 (T. Murdoch (ed.), Boughton House, 1992, p. 135, fig. 136, n. 27). Goodison is also known to have supplied a 'carved and gilt dolphin frame to match another' to George Brudenell, 4th Earl of Cardigan (d. 1790) in 1741, who also employed Flitcroft as architect for his London residence in Dover Street in 1732.
THE DOLPHIN: ATTENDANTS OF VENUS'S SHELL-CHARIOT
The Homeric pier-table, designed in the George II Roman fashion popularised by the Rome-trained artist William Kent (d.1748), evokes the triumph of Venus with embowed dolphins in the manner of Kent's 'fountain' tail-piece illustrating Alexander Pope's translation of Homer's, Odyssey, 1725/6 (M. Wilson, William Kent, 1984, fig. 18). Related marble-topped tables designed for Kensington Palace under the direction of Kent in his role as 'Master Carpenter' to King George II's Architectural Board of Works, also featured the nature diety's shell (D. Watkin, The Royal Interiors of Regency England, London, 1984, p. 67).
Other related examples, beside the pair at Boughton are: a pair possibly formerly at Rushbrooke Hall, Suffolk and sold anonymously, Christie's, New York, 20 January 1995, lot 452 ($189,500); A single table from the collection of Sir John Ramsden, Bt. and illustrated in P. Macquoid & R. Edwards, Dictionary of English Furniture, 1954, rev. ed., vol. III, p. 287, fig. 42 and its pair sold from the collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Parke Bernet Galleries, New York, 7 May 1960, lot 490; a single table illustrated by Partridge, Summer Exhibition, 1990, no. 13; another single table was sold by the late O. V. Watney, Esq., Cornbury Park, Christie's, London, 22 May 1967, lot 15; another single table was offered by the 10th Duke of Northumberland's Will Trust, Sotheby's at Syon House, 14-16 May 1997, lot 32.
SIR OSBERT SITWELL, 5TH BT. (1892-1969)
The elder son of Sir George Reresby Sitwell, Osbert, along with his brother Sacheverell and Edith, devoted his life to the arts and literature. Raised at Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire and Scarborough, another Sitwell home, after Eton (1906-9) his father steered him away from Oxford and into a military career, initially with the Sherwood Rangers and later, happily, with the Grenadier Guards. Osbert, ever the aesthete, was not cut out for soldiering. Fortunately when called up for the trenches in November 1914, he saw action at Ypres and miraculously found his calling in poetry when composing a short poem entitled 'Babel', grieving over the futility and barbarity of armed conflict. For the rest of his life he devoted himself to the arts; and in particular poetry, art criticism and controversial journalism, forming one part of the famed literary and aesthetic trio that were the Sitwell siblings. From the end of the First World War until 1944 Osbert produced several novels, a collection of short stories, a book of essays and a selection of poems, all of which received moderate acclaim. His breakthrough came following his father's death and his succession to the baronetcy in 1943, when, filled with thoughts of his own mortality, he concentrated on his autobiography, Left Hand, Right Hand (1945) which eventually ran to five volumes. This became his magnum opus - and the work for which he is best remembered. His last book, Pound Wise, was finished in 1963 and on 4 May 1969 he eventually succumbed to Parkinson's disease and died at Castello di Montegufoni, Tuscany, the sprawling Baroque Palace bought by his father, Sir George, for Osbert in 1905.
The photograph of Osbert Sitwell's interior at Carlyle Place was captioned: 'A well-known Modernist Poet's taste in furniture and decoration', Illustrated London News, 16 October 1926.