This monumental pagoda was almost certainly introduced to Woburn around 1815 under Jeffrey Wyatt's guidance by John, 6th Duke of Bedford (d.1839). Destined for one of the Chinese Rooms, it would have perfectly complimented the Chinese wallpaper he had recently acquired from the 1803 cargo of the Royal George (see lot 83).
The English taste for pagodas had been triggered by the publication of Sir William Chambers' Designs for Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines and Utensils in 1757. Subsequently fed by the erection of the great pagoda at Kew in 1762, fashionable collectors of the late 18th Century - including the 9th Earl of Exeter at Burghley and Sir Robert Child at Osterley - ordered Chinese Export pagodas in both ivory and porcelain to accompany imported Chinese wallpaper.
It was the Prince Regent, however, who fully embraced the full-blown Chinoiserie style at his Marine Pavilion in Brighton. No longer satisfied with the mere impression of Chinese décor, as he had been in his earlier days with the Chinese Drawing Room of 1790 at Carlton House and in the earlier phase of the Pavilion with its affected Eastern interiors in 1803, he turned to Jeffrey Wyatt (d.1840) and subsequently Joseph Nash to realise his ambitions. The interiors of 1815-22 were principally the work of Frederick Crace, and it is almost certainly his scheme for the Chinese Gallery of 1815-1819 that first illustrates a pagoda of this type. Now in the Cooper Hewiit Museum, New York, it is discussed by E. Maurice Bloch, 'Regency Styling The Prince and the Decorator', Connoisseur, June 1953, p.130.
In 1817, George, Prince of Wales acquired six pagodas for the Music Room at Brighton from the dealer Robert Fogg at an overall cost of £2,004 18s. 10d. Placed against the window piers, with the smaller pair either side of the chimneypiece, they were extended in height over and above their ten hexagonal tiers to over 5 metres, in order to fit the Music Rooms' 41 foot ceiling height. These 'improvements' included ormolu finials and mounts supplied by Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy (£1,406), including '192 Bells, or Molu for the large Pagodas 192 dolphins for - do -216 dogs for - do-, a Spode porcelain plinth (£305 17s.) and a further scagliola plinth by Westmacott (£159.1s.4d.). Amusingly, pagodas were also painted by Lambelet on the re-japanned doors of the Music Room. Transferred to Buckingham Palace in the 1840s where they are recorded in 1855, the Brighton Pagodas are discussed in J. Roberts, Royal Treasures A Golden Jubilee Celebration, 2002, no.317, pp.353-4).
It is extremely rare to find pagoda models of such large size and elaborate design and only a few similar examples survive. These comprise an identical pagoda now in the Victoria & Albert Museum (illustrated by Craig Clunas in Chinese Export Art and Design, London, 1987, pp.76-77, no. 59) and a further one from Kenneth Clarke's collection, which is now at the Brighton Pavilion. The V & A example stands 276 cm. high and consists of nine stories, the eaves of each story are adorned with gilt carps suspending chained bells, the pillars of the balustrades support gilt lions, the roof is fitted with a double-gourd-shaped finial applied with dragons, and a charming little figure has been placed inside each storey to bring the whole model to life. Although made for the export market, the decoration and details on these pagodas, such as the simulated-bamboo effect on the frames around the landscape panels, the fine stippling on the chilong dragons, and the faux bois detailing on the pillars, are of a very high quality.
Compare also a smaller, seven-storied Kangxi-style pagoda enamelled in the famille verte palette, sold at Christie's New York, 22 and 23 September 1987, lot 179.