COLLECTING IN THE ROYAL TRADITION
Visitors to Harewood House today will quickly be aware of the dominating influence of its builder, Edwin Lascelles (1712-1795) and of his collaboration with England's greatest cabinet-maker Thomas Chippendale. Harewood was Chippendale's biggest commission. Succeeding generations have also contributed significantly to Harewood's collections and Sir Charles Barry was responsible for important changes in the 1840s. More recently, the 7th Earl of Harewood, who died in 2011 after a distinguished tenure of fifty-four years, saw the transformation of the house from a private residence to one of England's most popular and most visited country houses.
The two sales in this catalogue are part of the plans for the future of the estate made after his death, primarily selected from outside Harewood's core 18th century collection, while reflecting the layers of collecting by the Lascelles family down the generations. The 7th Earl's generosity in establishing the Harewood House Trust as an educational charity in 1986 brought about the reinstatement of many of Chippendale's great pier tables and glasses, the restoration of the state bed and the refurbishment of the South Terrace - the most successful element of Barry's work at Harewood.
The dominant elements of the King Street sale - and the source of the title Collecting in the Royal Tradition - are taken from the collection of Chinese works of art and Fabergé formed by the late Lord Harewood's mother, H.R.H. The Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood (1897-1965). The only daughter of H.M. King George V (d.1936) and of H.M. Queen Mary (d.1953), a connoisseur and life-long collector in her own right. It seems most probable that Queen Mary stimulated her daughter's interests in Chinese works of art, particularly jade. The Princess was very knowledgeable and had already formed a large collection by the time she and her husband moved to Harewood in 1929, where her mother and father, Queen Mary and King George V visited her, and are photographed on the steps to the north front. Princess Mary's arrival at Harewood did not herald the first Royal visit to Harewood, as the house had been visited in 1835 by Queen Victoria (d.1901) when Princess, accompanied by her mother the Duchess of Kent and prior to that by George IV, when Prince Regent accompanied by his mother Queen Charlotte in 1815.
Princess Mary shared the passion of many contemporary royal families for objets de luxe made by Fabergé and the sale includes pieces from her collection. H.M. Queen Alexandra, her grandmother, was the sister of the Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia (1847-1928) and the origins of the British royal collecting of Fabergé lie in the close relationship between the sisters and their exchange of presents. The Empress survived the Russian Revolution of 1917, returning to her native city of Copenhagen. She visited her sister, Queen Alexandra, and almost certainly would have met Princess Mary at Sandringham. This sale includes items that would originally have been given to, or bought by, earlier generations of the Russian and British royal families and subsequently passed on to Princess Mary. An example of this is the nephrite cigar cutter with the monogram of the Princess's grandfather King Edward VII (lot 606). The influence of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra was significant in the establishment of the firm's London branch in 1903 although gifts from the Russian royal family certainly continued after that.
The sale includes an important group of the work of Matthew Boulton, the celebrated English manufacturer, who for a brief period in the 1770s made ormolu objets de luxe to compete with the most glamorous products from France. The spectacular 'King's candle-vase' (lot 550) was bought at the auction at Christie's in 1947 of the collection formed by the Duke of Kent, the Princess Royal's brother, killed in 1942. The Faberg/ae objects, passing as they did to younger generations of the royal family, emphasised Queen Mary's influence as a knowledgeable royal collector and this was still apparent late in her life, when the Princess Royal and her husband bought her brother's Boulton candelabrum.
'Maker to his Majesty': A Vulliamy Commission at Harewood
The Pall Mall firm of Vulliamy & Son, headed by the Royal Clockmaker Benjamin Vulliamy (1747-1811) with his eldest son, Benjamin Lewis (1780-1854) as junior partner, began expanding their interests in the first decade of the 19th century into the production of a wide range of decorative objects in ormolu, bronze and marble. The acquisition of such objets de luxe in ormolu and bronze, previously focused on French centres of excellence, gained a new momentum during the 1770s and 80s with the challenge from Matthew Boulton and the Vulliamys to the dominance of French craftsmanship in this area of the decorative arts. These British makers continued to flourish into the 1800s since the traditional Parisian suppliers of luxury goods had been largely cut off by the wars in France.
These ornamental objects were usually designed by the Vulliamys themselves in the latest Empire or proto-Regency taste, drawing on their extensive library of art and architecture. They closely supervised the making of each object by the network of independent specialists already employed to manufacture their ornamental clocks and using the finest techniques and materials.
The majority of customers for such articles were the nobility, led by the Prince of Wales, Thomas Thynne, 2nd Marquess of Bath at Woburn Abbey and Edward Lascelles, 1st Earl of Harewood (1740-1820) with his eldest son, Edward 'Beau' Lascelles, initially for their London home in Hanover Square and then for Harewood in Yorkshire.
The following extract from the Benson Beevers manuscripts, compiled in the 1950s, details a bill dated 1810, the final year of Benjamin Vulliamy's life when his son was the dominant figure at 68 Pall Mall, revealing the breadth of commissions undertaken by the firm:
'Vulliamy & Son, Watch and Clockmakers to their Majesties, The Prince of Wales, and the Dukes of Kent, Cumberland and Cambridge...Ornamental Plate and Plate for table uses, designed in good taste, after antique models...Large or small orders executed in Silver or Silver-gilt in the best manner...Ornamental work in metal for lights or other purposes made and gilt in the best, or in common gilding'
A Geoffrey de Bellaigue describes in 'The Vulliamys and France', the full range of their activities extended to the supply of "anything from a chimney piece to a door handle, from a piano to a button" to the right customer (D. Vulliamy, The Vulliamy Clockmakers, London, 2002, p. 24.).
An invoice book from the archive at Harewood lists three entries for 'ornamental' commissions from the Vulliamy firm in 1805 - two for the 1st Earl of Harewood and the other for his son Beau:
'Delivered a Bronze Tazza supported upon the backs of Two Eagles mounted upon a circular foot with blocks and Lions Masks the whole executed in Bronze in the best manner & mounted upon Black Marble Plinth at 12 Guineas' (27 June 1805, C104/58 No. 31 p.243)
'Delivered Two Small Bronze Sphinxes with the fore Legs extended designed from the Antique fixed upon Gilt Plates at 10 Gs.' (31 December 1805, C104/58 No. 31 p.292)
The Tazza is almost certainly lot 2. With its stepped turned plinth and lion-headed paterae issuing eagle supports it relates to a similar Vulliamy commission, conceived in ormolu rather than bronze, which was formerly at Longleat and supplied to John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (1766-1839). By 1813 the Duke would appear to have given it to his sister-in-law, Elizabeth, Marchioness of Bath (d. 1830), daughter of the 4th Viscount Torrington and wife of Thomas, 2nd Marquess of Bath (1765-1837). The ormolu example was sold Furniture, Porcelain & Silver From Longleat, Christie's London, 13-14 June 2002, lot 303 (£19,120).
The Two Small Bronze Sphinxes (lot 1) are almost certainly one of two pairs of 'Sphinx Press Papiers' supplied 'for Mr. Lascelles'.
Those in the inventory are clearly the ones which remain in the Collection at Harewood Collection. They are mounted on Serpentine green marble plinths as distinct from the black marble examples offered here.
The third entry describes lot 4 which was supplied to the 1st Earl on an invoice dated 11 July 1805 at a cost of 18 guineas:
'Large antique tazza with handles...black marbel [sic] plinth'
(C104/58 No. 31 p. 248).