No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium, which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.
This lot is subject to storage and collection charges.
**For Furniture and Decorative Objects, storage charges commence 7 days from sale. Please contact department for further details.**
"If God bought chimneypieces he'd buy them from Nigel Bartlett!"
Nigel Bartlett began his career in the antiques trade after being involved in the demolition of a chemist's shop in Cheltenham in 1969. It's extraordinary to think that this innocuous event would seed a career seeing him rise to the pinnacle of the market. For now thirty six years later his name is synonymous with the very best in chimneypieces. The adverts with his name emblazoned in his familiar chequered cartouche, on the back cover of countless editions of Country Life, World of Interiors and Architectural Digest have cemented him in the minds of all in the trade as the guru of the hearth.
Nigel has sold literally thousands of chimneypieces over the years, some by his own admission more than once. His international client base is wide and varied and includes pop stars, prime ministers and institutions - Nigel provided many chimneypieces and firegrates for Temple Newsam House in Leeds. His passion for chimneypieces is plain to see, he talks of marble dust as "..addictive, in the blood and under the fingernails". He possesses an uncanny knack of assembling the dissassembled components of a chimneypiece, laid out on the floor or on a pallet into the finished article in his mind. This talent has enabled him to purchase many jewels over the years, and equally important avoiding purchases that did not meet the standard. It is a talent that has also enabled him to reunite the components of chimneypieces, he regales the story of purchasing the jambs of a fine early 18th century chimneypiece in an auction in West Sussex which languished in his warehouse for twenty years, before he discovered the frieze and shelf amongst the chattels of Christopher Gibb's sale in Oxfordshire, conducted by Christie's some twenty years later.
Nigel is now looking towards retirement and this sale will instigate a serious scaling down of his business. The lease on his present warehouse is due to expire soon, and this along with the recent aquisition of a pretty costal cottage in the West Country has brought him to the decision to have a sale with Christie's. It's Nigel's hope that the chimneypieces, bas-reliefs and other works of art which form his collection will excite and inspire new potential owners, and bring them as much pleasure as he gleaned in their chase and aquisition.
Nigel Bartlett's remarkable collection including chimneypieces and bas relief tablets recall the important role played in the past by the chimneypiece in providing the focal point for a room. This particularly applied to the eighteenth century fashionable parlour or apartment, whose furniture was generally ranged out of the way and against the wall when not in use. The chimneypiece ornament was often designed to harmonise with the rooms architecture and stuccoed decoration on ceiling or wall cornice, while its sculpted tablet could serve as a label to indicate the room's use.
Today the introduction of a handsome chimneypiece, especially if sculpted in marble, still provides a sense of style and character to the plainest of modern living rooms.
The composition of the Georgian chimneypiece involved the combination of the Cardinal Arts of Architecture and Sculpture, so past architects and sculptors, especially amongst those who boasted training in Rome or Florence, were in competition to have their inventions adopted. It was classical architecture that dominated eighteenth century fashion, and its form evolved over the decades from fat classic through thin classic to the massy fat classic of the nineteenth century.
The historical importance of the fireplace in England was stressed by the architect Sir William Chambers in his Treatise on Civil Architecture, 1759 . He pointed out that the warmer climates enjoyed by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans had caused them to make little contribution to the chimneypiece as a branch of Architecture, so it was the seventeenth century English court architect Inigo Jones (d.1652), who was the first to 'arrive at any degree of perfection in this material branch of the art'. It was Jones's robust Roman style, with its columns, pilasters and rectilinear tablets, that was popularised by a number of the early eighteenth century pattern books. Of these, the most celebrated was John Vardy's, Some Designs of Mr. Inigo Jones and Mr. William Kent, 1744. The designs provided inspiration for chimneypieces executed for Holkham Hall, Norfolk and they were later illustrated in Matthew Brettinghams, Plans, Elevations and Sections of Holkham in Norfolk, 1761. During the 1760s a revolution was being brought about in the English interior by architects such as Robert Adam (d.1792), who introduced a lighter and more graceful antique style based on studies of Roman interior decoration combined with Grecian elements.
Throughout the century there was also strong competition from other styles such as those introduced from France, or the romantic old English gothic or 'gothick', favoured by antiquarians such as the Langley brothers or the bibliophile Horace Walpole, and the whimsical and novel styles of the Chinese held sway in the richly flowered bedroom apartments.
Eighteenth century French influence can be seen in Bartlett's flowered and curvaceous Aurora chimneypiece (Lot 214) that dates from the nineteenth century, but it is the classical style that predominates in the collection, which is particularly strong in pieces dating from the reign of George III (1760-1820). By the start of this reign, connoisseurs considered that the English were surpassing the Italians in the execution of chimneypieces. When the Florence-trained sculptor Joseph Wilton went to study the work of the sculptors in Rome in the 1750s, he reported it to be 'vastly defective', so was not surprised that a dozen chimneypieces that had recently been sent over from Italy by the architect Matthew Brettingham Junior ( d.1803) had had to be corrected by the London sculptors Michael Rysbrack (d.1770) and Louis Francois Roubiliac (d.1762). Wilton was to become a leading sculptor of chimneypieces in succession to John Cheere (d.1787) and his brother Sir Henry Cheere (d.1781). The latters 1770 sale of stock catalogue included a wide range of reliefs in marble and stone, as well as tablets for chimneypieces, which are likely to have resembled those included in this sale. It should also be remembered that in addition to the architects and sculpture, there were many eighteenth century firms of cabinet-makers and upholsterers involved in the design and manufacture of chimneypieces, such as the Chippendales of St. Martins Lane and the Linnells of Berkeley. Their inventions were assisted by publications such as Designs for Chimney-Pieces printed for I. & J.Taylor at the High Holburn Architectural Library.
L.A. Shuffrey published a book entitled, The English Fireplace, 1912: and this was followed in 1968 by Alison Kelly's, The Book of English Fireplaces. However the wider study of the history of the chimneypiece was encouraged by an exhibition held in 1985 at Temple Newsam House, Leeds and by its accompanying catalogue entitled The Fashionable Fire Place 1660-1840. It was Nigel Bartlett who supplied chimneypieces for this magnificent Yorkshire mansion/museum, whose recently decorated rooms are to be the subject of a forthcoming article in The World of Interiors.