JAMES BRYDGES, 1ST DUKE OF CHANDOS AND CANNONS: A MAECAENAS OF THE EARLY GEORGIAN ERA
This pair of magnificent armchairs was commissioned by James Brydges, Viscount Wilton and Earl of Carnarvon, later 1st Duke of Chandos (1673/4-1744) for the Chapel at Cannons, Edgware, Middlesex. After a career of tirelessly pursuing political, business and court contacts, Chandos secured the position of paymaster of the Queen's forces. He achieved this highly profitable position under the patronage of the Duke of Marlborough and profited from this position by £600,000 when he resigned in 1713. This considerable fortune was to be realised at Cannons and it is for Cannons that he is chiefly remembered. 'Princely Chandos' furnished his mansion as the ne plus ultra princely palace of the Augustan era. It was, by most accounts, a brilliant house that was described by Daniel Defoe (d. 1731) in A Tour Thro' the whole Island of Great Britain, vol. II, Letter III, 1725, p. 129 as
The whole structure is built with Such a Profusion of Expence, and all finish'd with such a brightness of fancy, Goodness of Judgement; that I can assure you, we see many Palaces of Sovereign Princes abroad which do not equal it, which yet pass for very fine to either within or without. And as it is a Nobel and well contriv'd Building; so it is well set out, and no Ornament is wanting to make it the finest House in England ... The great Salon or Hall is painted by Paolocci for the Duke spared no cost to have everything as Rich as possible ... The inside of this house is as Glorious, as the outside is Fine; the Lodgings are indeed most exquisitely finished, and if I may call it so, royally Furnished ... two things extreamly add to the Beauty of this House, namely the Chapel, and the Library'
The poet Charles Gildon (d. 1724) also lauded Chandos's magnificent creation at Cannons in his poem: Cannons; or the vision. In the chapel, containing the present pair of chairs, on which the Duke and Duchess sat during religious proceedings, Dr Pepusch directed the choir and orchestra in music composed by Handel for the Duke. Handel had accepted an appointment as resident composer at Cannons and from 1717-18 composed eleven anthems, known as the Chandos Anthems, and a Te Deum. The musical establishment at Cannons at this time was impressive: in addition to George Frideric Handel, there included Francesco Scarlatti, brother of Alessandro, and Johann Christian Bach, cousin of Johann Sebastian Bach. The Duke wrote to his friend, the court physcian Dr Arbuthnot 'Mr Handel has made me two new Anthems, very noble ones...' Acis and Galatea, an early opera and Esther, his first oratorio were composed under his patronage and both were performed first at Cannons.
This pair of armchairs was specifically designed for the use of the Duke and Duchess of Chandos, on the dais in the Chapel at Cannons. They correspond to a suite of furniture also recorded in John Gilbert's 1725 inventory of Cannons for the 'Best Bedchamber' and the adjoining 'Dressing Room' (MSS in the Huntington Library, San Marino). Both this pair of armchairs and the suite, which included a Bed, four armchairs, eight side chairs and two stools, was conceived as a celebration of his elevation to the Earldom of Carnarvon in 1714, following George I's accession to the throne that year. He was later elevated to the Dukedom of Chandos in 1719. The Duke and Duchess's armchairs [the present lot] have the addition of a 'show rail' at the base of the back and interestingly, this refinement does not appear on the 'Best Bedchamber' suite. The confronted 'C' cypher on the seat-rails is employed not only throughout the suite, but also on the staircase balustrade by Jean Montigny (now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York). Some of the chairs from the 'Best Chamber' are at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, and a pair was sold from there at Christie's, London in 1994 (see below).
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 work had commenced there by 1713, Gibbs can be credited with the overall design of the south and east elevations, and the Chapel is wholly his work. Although not known as a furniture designer, Gibbs' hand would appear to be behind the design of the suite. In his Book of Architecture, 1728, Gibbs displed a design for an imbricated dolphin-scale baluster with husk festooned scallop-shell badges, emblematic of Venus. This is closely related to the Cannons chairs' arm-supports, while husk trailed and seraphim headed scrolled terminals can be seen in his design for an ormolu tabernacle, executed circa 1730 for Thomas, 8th Duke of Norfolk's (d. 1732) chapel at Arundel Castle, Sussex (illustrated in T. Friedman, James Gibbs, Yale, 1984, p. 72, fig. 56). Gibbs was already supplying designs for the new castle at Arundel, circa 1716, and the 8th Duke was simultaneously engaged in building schemes at Worksop Manor, Nottinghamshire. It is, therefore, interesting to note that a closely related chair with scrolled, serpentine arms carved in relief with husk trails, supported on mask-headed spreading hoof feet, is retained in the Duke of Norfolk's collection at Arundel (illustrated in S. Jervis, 'Furniture at Arundel Castle', Connoisseur, March 1978, p. 213, fig. P).
JAMES MOORE & JOHN GUMLEY
These sculptural masterpieces are almost certainly the work of James Moore (d. 1726), cabinet-maker to King George I, whose partner John Gumley (d. 1729), the glass-manufacturer, had employed Gibbs to design his own house at Isleworth, Middlesex. Chandos's reputation as a Maecenas of the arts would naturally suggest the King's cabinet-maker as the author of the state furnishings at Cannons and it is, therefore, 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).
BEYOND CANNONS: THE TURNERS OF KIRKLEATHAM
Sir William Turner (1615-1692), the builder and founder of the Hospital (almshouse) at Kirkleatham was by 1633 apprenticed to a wool merchant and was later a money scrivener, having amassed a considerable fortune. By 1660 he was an Alderman of the City of London and was knighted in 1662. Following the Great Fire of London in 1666, he and Sir Christopher Wren set about the rebuilding of the City. He was Lord Mayor in 1668. Sir William Turner had no heirs, so the Kirkleatham Estates eventually passed to his great-nephew, Cholmley Turner (1685-1757) who set about some ambitious building works. Like Chandos, some ten years previously, it was to James Gibbs that Cholmely Turner turned. Gibbs' designs of 1727, published in his Book of Architecture (1728) for 'a large House for a Gentleman in the County of York' can be identified with Cholmley Turner's ambitious project to rebuild his Jacobean house, Kirkleatham Hall. The latter's demolition in 1954 without accurate records leave only an attribution to Gibbs possible. In any case, Gibbs returned to Kirkleatham in 1740 to build a mausoleum to Turner's son, Marwood, who had died suddenly whilst on the Grand Tour. There remains a strong possibility that the design of the Chapel at the Hospital was by Gibbs, on account of similarities with his unexecuted design for St John's, Marylebone, 1741 (T. Friedman, James Gibbs, New Haven and London, 1984, pp. 296-7).
THE HOUGHTON CHAIRS
The Cannons suite, from the Best Bedchamber & Dressing Room, was later acquired by George, 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley (1749-1827) for Houghton Hall, Norfolk, and a pair of chairs from the Best Bedchamber at Cannons was sold from Houghton at Christie's, London, 8 December 1994, lot 135 (£881,500). The pair of 'square stools' remain at Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire, the ancestral home of his bride, Georgiana (d. 1838), daughter of the 3rd Duke of Ancaster.
THE GILDING & UPHOLSTERY
The present gilding is the original water-gilding. The chairs were previously over gilded with oil gilding, by Kenneth Bowers & Sons in 1968 however, this layer was recently removed by W. Thomas & Sons. A condition report prepared by them is available upon request. The seat covers were woven by H. H. Henderson of Redcar, using silk especially woven in Italy and following an 18th century pattern.