THE ROBERT ADAM DESIGN
These golden tripod stands derive in part from pier-set stands commissioned for Bathurst House (Apsley House), London by Henry, Lord Apsley, later 2nd Earl Bathurst, and designed in 1778 by the architect Robert Adam (d. 1792). The latter, designed for Bathurst's 'Great Drawing Room', supported griffin-guarded 'vase' candelabra, that corresponded to the griffin-guarded urns on the companion pier-glass (E. Harris, The Furniture of Robert Adam, London, 1963, fig. 11 and E. Harris, The Genius of Robert Adam: His Interiors, New Haven and London, 2001, p. 15, fig. 11).
THE 'POETIC' ORNAMENT
Since the chimerical eagle-winged and lion-bodied griffin evoked lyric poetry and the triumph of Apollo as poetry deity; so the present stands 'vase' balusters are wrapped by the deity's sacred palms and wreathed by imbricated libation-paterae. Their festive altar pedestals display laurel-wreaths and bacchic ram-heads, while palms wrap the griffin monopodium.
THE ROMAN SOURCE
Their pattern was inspired in part by Santa Costanza's celebrated Roman marble candelabrum now in the Vatican Museum's Salle dei Candelabri II (ibid., fig. 75). No doubt this would have been drawn to Adam's attention while in Rome, by G. B. Piranesi, who popularised such antique furnishings with his engraved Vasi, candelabri, cippi etc., Rome, 1778.
The pedestal design also relates to those designed by Adam for a pair of Italian bronze sphynx-guarded urn fire-dogs after 'the style of Mich. Angelo' that John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute acquired in about 1770. Having been transformed into candelabra, they were illustrated in, The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1779.
The stands are likely to have been designed by John Mayhew of the Broad Street firm of Messrs. Ince & Mayhew, as their palm-wrapped pillars relate to those of the new table frame 'on turned legs, neatly carved', that they supplied in 1794 for Drawing Room at Croome. It accompanied the window-pier's mirror, which they had supplied back in 1769, and invoiced as being carved with a 'goates head'. The latter echoed the ram-headed stands depicted in the Gobelins tapestry that hung in the window-pier on either side of the mirror. Some years earlier, in 1778, Richard Joseph Sullivan had commented how George William Selwyn, 6th Earl of Coventry (d. 1809) was still carrying on improvements to the house, and also noted the 'handsome' drawing-room, as being 'hung and furnished with Gobelin tapestry, the finest, perhaps, in England'. The stands would have matched the table, and may have been supplied for the room corners in the fashionable manner.
This room, which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is discussed in J. Parker, 'Croome Coourt: The Architecture and Furniture', Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, November 1959 pp. 79-95; and J. Neill, Period Rooms in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1996, pp.157-170.