With their serpentined frames, richly carved trusses, and rich ormolu mounts in the Louis XV style, these commodes are inspired by 'French Commode Tables' illustrated by Thomas Chippendale (d. 1778) in his The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Directors of 1754 - 62. Although almost Continental in their exaggerated form, with splayed sides, bold cabriole legs, originally terminating in voluted scrolls, and sculpted apron centred by Venus' stylised scallop-shell emblem framed by Roman foliage, their construction is undoubtedly English. In both form and character, they relate to a commode formerly in the collection of the Hon. Oliver Lyttelton, later created Viscount Chandos, which was sold in these Rooms, 9 July 1992, lot 124. This latter commode may well have been supplied to George, 1st Lord Lyttelton (d. 1773), for Hagley Hall, Warwickshire and it is, therefore, pertinent that a suite of seat-furniture of similarly robust character was supplied to Hagley by Paul Saunders between 1758-60 (J. Cornforth, 'Hagley Hall, Worcestershire - II', Country Life, 4 May 1989, pl. 155). For Saunders is closely identified with Richard Wright of the celebrated Wakefield firm of Wright and Elwick.
Although scarcely documented, Wright and Elwick seem to have worked almost exclusively for Yorkshire clients, and it is interesting to note, therefore, that the distinctive and unusual handles of the Chandos commode also featured on a further exaggerated and sumptuously carved bombé commode from another Yorkshire house, Serlby Hall - a house for which 'Mr. Elwick's Valuation of Furniture' still remains - which was commissioned before 1755 by the 2nd Viscount Galway (d. 1772) and later sold from the collection of the late Samuel Messer Esq., in these Rooms, 5 December 1991, lot 105.
Finally, the celebrated commodes supplied to Captain The Hon. George Townshend for Raynham Hall, Norfolk circa 1755 (of which one is in the Philadelphia Musuem of Art and the other was sold aonymously, in these Rooms, 7 July 1988, lot 146 (£147,000)) displays several of the robust characteristics of these commodes (illustrated in O. Brackett, English Furniture Illustrated, London, rev. ed., 1950, p.188, pl.CLX). In particular, they share the deeply carved, swollen profile of the angles and the unusually pronounced cockbeading of the drawers and display identical florid rocaille drop-handles.
For an extensive discussion of Messrs. Wright and Elwick see the introduction to lot 33 of the Wentworth catalogue, Christie's London, 8 July 1998.
First recorded in the possession of Frederick, 2nd Marquess of Ripon (d. 1923) at Studley Royal, Yorkshire, these commodes may well have been supplied to his ancestor Thomas Robinson (d. 1770), either for Studley Royal or Newby (now Baldersby) Park, Yorkshire. Raised to the peerage as Baron Grantham in 1761, Robinson had a distinguished diplomatic and political career, culminating in his appointments as Master of the Wardrobe to George II between 1749-54 and 1755-60 and as one of the Regents of the Realm in 1755. Newby Park had been built by his father, Sir William Robinson (d. 1736) to designs by Colen Campbell around 1720-8 and although Thomas Robinson's wife, the scion of another Yorkshire dynasty, Frances Worsley of Hovingham, had died in 1760, he continued to make improvements to Newby as late as 1765, when he commissioned Sir William Chambers to erect a Pheasantry and Menagerie. Likewise, Studley Royal had been commissioned almost simultaneously by Sir William's father-in-law, John Aislabie, from Campbell circa 1730. Although Newby (renamed Baldsersby) Park was later tragically destroyed by fire in 1902, the contents had been removed with the sale of the house by Thomas, 3rd Baron Grantham and Earl de Grey in 1845 and in that same year, his brother the Prime Minister Frederick, later 1st Earl of Ripon (d. 1859) inherited the Studley estate. As the commodes remained at Studley until the early 20th Century, it would seem that Studley, as opposed to Newby (Baldersby) Park is the most likely provenance, although the contents of the latter may well have been divided as the 3rd Baron Grantham had already inherited both Wrest Park and Newby Hall.
THE MARBLE AND JASPER SLABS
With their distinctive combination of Sicilian jasper veneer within a carved white marble border, these slabs are closely related to the documented oeuvre of the sculptor, Thomas Carter the Younger (d. 1795). The nephew and sometimes partner of Benjamin Carter (d. 1766), who carved a marble chimneypiece for Asburnham Place, Sussex in 1760, Carter is known to have collaborated extensively with Pierre Langlois and supplied closely related tops in 1763 for the commodes delivered to Horace Walpole for Strawberry Hill (P. Thornton and W. Reider, 'Pierre Langlois, Ebéniste', The Connoisseur, January 1973, pt. 1, no. 25), as well as for the commodes at Powis Castle (ibid., pt. 3, p. 179) and those from Ashburnham Place (sold anonymously, in these Rooms, 16 November 1995, lot 67).