N. Goodison, William Chambers's Furniture, Furniture History, 1990, vol. XXVI, p. 67-89.
N. Goodison, Matthew Boulton: Ormolu, London, 2002, pp. 38-41 and 85-86.
J. Harris and M. Snodin, eds., Sir William Chambers: Architect to George III, New Haven, 1996, pp. 160-62.
The authorship of this design of griffin candlesticks has long been securely given to Sir William Chambers (1726-1796), the architect to George III. Their design is published in the third edition of his Treatise on the Decorative Parts of Civil Architecture of 1791. Chambers descibes the designs on this plate as including 'ornamental utensils, designed for the Earl of Charlemont, for Lord Melbourne, and for some decorations for my own house'. A remarkably well-finished hand-colored presentation sketch by John Yenn (Victoria and Albert Museum, M.48, E. 5029-1910), who served as Chambers's assistant and pupil from 1764 to 1771, shows a much earlier version of this design with minor variations such as on the decoration of the plinth.
An excellent comparison of the present candlesticks can be drawn with another pair, in ormolu, at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. Based upon his examination of their quality and means of manufacture, Sir Nicholas Goodison has persuasively argued that the Blenheim pair was executed by Chambers's preferred metal-worker, Diederich Nicolaus Anderson, of Danish origin, prior to the latter's untimely death in 1767. An examination of Chambers's personal correspondence from this time reveals that Anderson's workshop was largely responsible for producing many of the high quality ormolu ornaments that Chambers' commissions demanded.
At least five other pairs of griffin candlesticks are known, all in ormolu: one pair was sold anonymously at Christie's London, 12 November 1998, lot 5 (£155,500); a pair sold Christie's New York, 19 April 2001, lot 250 ($116,000); the Blenheim pair already mentioned above; a fourth pair with Egyptian porphyry bases with the National Trust, Hinton Ampner House, Hampshire (illustrated in J. Harris and M. Snodin, ibid, p. 162, fig. 242); and a pair sold Sotheby's Florence, 6-7 April 1987, lot 590. The present pair and the pair sold in New York follow Chambers's design most closely particularly in the proportion of the base measuring six Greek-keys long and four wide. The bases to other pairs are are longer and narrower (each seven keys long and three wide) and are mounted upon marble or porphyry bases.