These candelsticks epitomise the neo-classical style of the second half of the 18th century as promoted by the architects Robert Adam (1728-1792), James 'Athenian' Stuart (1713-1788) and James Wyatt (1746-1813). The tripod base and the baluster stem are inspired by the studies of ancient classical architecture recorded by Stuart and Revett in Antiquities of Athens, first published in 1762 and Caylus' Recueil d'antiquités égyptiennes, étrusques, grécques, romaines et gauloises published in seven volumes between 1752 and 1767. The aristocratic patrons of the day who had been inspired by the sights of anitque Roman and Greek architecture, which they had admired on the Grand Tour, turned to these architects to design their London and country houses.
The candlesticks are each engraved twice with the Percy crest. The head of the Percy family, Hugh, 1st Duke of Northumberland (1714-1786) was a champion of the neo-classical style. However, the absence of a duke's coronet, and the provenance of the candlesticks with the descendants of the Earls of Beverley would suggest that the crest is for the Duke's second son Lord Algernon Percy, who succeeded his father as 2nd Baron Lovaine on the latter's death and was later created 1st Earl Beverley in 1790.
Lord Algernon Percy went on the Grand Tour on two occasions. He left for France immediately after leaving Eton College in 1768. He travelled in the company of Louis Dutens, with whom he was to return to Italy in 1782, after his marriage to Isabella Burrell in 1775. On his first tour Lord Algernon's travelling companion noted that he did not dislike 'parade and splendour and evinced great taste in his expenditure'. After travelling through France he visited Genoa and from there Florence, arriving in Rome in November 1769. There, in the following year, he was painted by Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787). No doubt inspired by Rome and the designs of the architect Robert Adam, who had worked for his father at Northumberland House, Syon House and Alnwick Castle, Lord Algernon commissioned Makepeace and Carter to fashion a set of candlesticks in the latest neo-classical style.
Makepeace and Carter were in parntership for a short period between January 1777 and December 1778. A. Grimwade suggestes in London Goldsmiths, 1697-1837, London, 1976, pp.459-460, that Richard Carter was either the younger brother, or perhaps cousin of John Carter. John Carter had provided Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn with a set of four candelabra for his London house in St. James's Square. The candelabra of 1774 were to a design by Robert Adam, as were the Temple Newsam candlesticks he produced in 1767. There are a number of similarities between these candelsticks and the Adam designed Williams-Wynn candelabra. Both stems rise from an 'altar' tripod base and the openwork stems are formed from three monopodia. The also both display a consistently sophisticated use of neo-classical vocabulary. The connections with Adam and the Percy family and the design similarities between surviving Adam drawings and his surviving commissions suggest Adam as a possible designer.