JAMES BRYDGES, 1ST DUKE OF CHANDOS AND CANNONS: A MAECAENAS OF THE EARLY GEORGIAN ERA
This pair of magnificent armchairs was commissioned by James Brydges, Viscount Wilton and Earl of Carnarvon, later 1st Duke of Chandos (1673/4-1744) for the Chapel at Cannons, Edgware, Middlesex. After a career of tirelessly pursuing political, business and court contacts, Chandos secured the position of paymaster of the Queen's forces. He achieved this highly profitable position under the patronage of the Duke of Marlborough and profited from this position by £600,000 when he resigned in 1713. This considerable fortune was to be realised at Cannons and it is for Cannons that he is chiefly remembered. 'Princely Chandos' furnished his mansion as the ne plus ultra princely palace of the Augustan era. It was, by most accounts, a brilliant house that was described by Daniel Defoe (d. 1731) in A Tour Thro' the whole Island of Great Britain, vol. II, Letter III, 1725, p. 129 as
The whole structure is built with Such a Profusion of Expence, and all finish'd with such a brightness of fancy, Goodness of Judgement; that I can assure you, we see many Palaces of Sovereign Princes abroad which do not equal it, which yet pass for very fine to either within or without. And as it is a Nobel and well contriv'd Building; so it is well set out, and no Ornament is wanting to make it the finest House in England ... The great Salon or Hall is painted by Paolocci for the Duke spared no cost to have everything as Rich as possible ... The inside of this house is as Glorious, as the outside is Fine; the Lodgings are indeed most exquisitely finished, and if I may call it so, royally Furnished ... two things extreamly add to the Beauty of this House, namely the Chapel, and the Library'
The poet Charles Gildon (d. 1724) also lauded Chandos's magnificent creation at Cannons in his poem: Cannons; or the vision. In the chapel, containing the present pair of chairs, on which the Duke and Duchess sat during religious proceedings, Dr Pepusch directed the choir and orchestra in music composed by Handel for the Duke. Handel had accepted an appointment as resident composer at Cannons and from 1717-18 composed eleven anthems, known as the Chandos Anthems, and a Te Deum. The musical establishment at Cannons at this time was impressive: in addition to George Frideric Handel, there included Francesco Scarlatti, brother of Alessandro, and Johann Christian Bach, cousin of Johann Sebastian Bach. The Duke wrote to his friend, the court physcian Dr Arbuthnot 'Mr Handel has made me two new Anthems, very noble ones...' Acis and Galatea, an early opera and Esther, his first oratorio were composed under his patronage and both were performed first at Cannons.
This pair of armchairs was specifically designed for the use of the Duke and Duchess of Chandos, on the dais in the Chapel at Cannons. They correspond to a suite of furniture also recorded in John Gilbert's 1725 inventory of Cannons for the 'Best Bedchamber' and the adjoining 'Dressing Room' (MSS in the Huntington Library, San Marino). Both this pair of armchairs and the suite, which included a Bed, four armchairs, eight side chairs and two stools, was conceived as a celebration of his elevation to the Earldom of Carnarvon in 1714, following George I's accession to the throne that year. He was later elevated to the Dukedom of Chandos in 1719. The Duke and Duchess's armchairs [the present lot] have the addition of a 'show rail' at the base of the back and interestingly, this refinement does not appear on the 'Best Bedchamber' suite. The confronted 'C' cypher on the seat-rails is employed not only throughout the suite, but also on the staircase balustrade by Jean Montigny (now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York). Some of the chairs from the 'Best Chamber' are at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, and a pair was sold from there at Christie's, London in 1994 (see below).
It was to James Gibbs (d. 1754) that Chandos, the Paymaster-General of Marlborough's army, turned for designs for his new house at Cannons. Although work had commenced there by 1713, Gibbs can be credited with the overall design of the south and east elevations, and the Chapel is wholly his work. Although not known as a furniture designer, Gibbs' hand would appear to be behind the design of the suite. In his Book of Architecture, 1728, Gibbs displed a design for an imbricated dolphin-scale baluster with husk festooned scallop-shell badges, emblematic of Venus. This is closely related to the Cannons chairs' arm-supports, while husk trailed and seraphim headed scrolled terminals can be seen in his design for an ormolu tabernacle, executed circa 1730 for Thomas, 8th Duke of Norfolk's (d. 1732) chapel at Arundel Castle, Sussex (illustrated in T. Friedman, James Gibbs, Yale, 1984, p. 72, fig. 56). Gibbs was already supplying designs for the new castle at Arundel, circa 1716, and the 8th Duke was simultaneously engaged in building schemes at Worksop Manor, Nottinghamshire. It is, therefore, interesting to note that a closely related chair with scrolled, serpentine arms carved in relief with husk trails, supported on mask-headed spreading hoof feet, is retained in the Duke of Norfolk's collection at Arundel (illustrated in S. Jervis, 'Furniture at Arundel Castle', Connoisseur, March 1978, p. 213, fig. P).
JAMES MOORE & JOHN GUMLEY
These sculptural masterpieces are almost certainly the work of James Moore (d. 1726), cabinet-maker to King George I, whose partner John Gumley (d. 1729), the glass-manufacturer, had employed Gibbs to design his own house at Isleworth, Middlesex. Chandos's reputation as a Maecenas of the arts would naturally suggest the King's cabinet-maker as the author of the state furnishings at Cannons and it is, therefore, relevant to note that the Captain-General of the army, the Duke of Marlborough, Chandos's patron at court, and his Duchess Sarah, employed Moore extensively for the furnishings at Blenheim Palace at this same time (I. Caldwell, 'Moore at Blenheim', The Antique Collector, September 1991, pp. 80-83).
BEYOND CANNONS: THE TURNERS OF KIRKLEATHAM
Sir William Turner (1615-1692), the builder and founder of the Hospital (almshouse) at Kirkleatham was by 1633 apprenticed to a wool merchant and was later a money scrivener, having amassed a considerable fortune. By 1660 he was an Alderman of the City of London and was knighted in 1662. Following the Great Fire of London in 1666, he and Sir Christopher Wren set about the rebuilding of the City. He was Lord Mayor in 1668. Sir William Turner had no heirs, so the Kirkleatham Estates eventually passed to his great-nephew, Cholmley Turner (1685-1757) who set about some ambitious building works. Like Chandos, some ten years previously, it was to James Gibbs that Cholmely Turner turned. Gibbs' designs of 1727, published in his Book of Architecture (1728) for 'a large House for a Gentleman in the County of York' can be identified with Cholmley Turner's ambitious project to rebuild his Jacobean house, Kirkleatham Hall. The latter's demolition in 1954 without accurate records leave only an attribution to Gibbs possible. In any case, Gibbs returned to Kirkleatham in 1740 to build a mausoleum to Turner's son, Marwood, who had died suddenly whilst on the Grand Tour. There remains a strong possibility that the design of the Chapel at the Hospital was by Gibbs, on account of similarities with his unexecuted design for St John's, Marylebone, 1741 (T. Friedman, James Gibbs, New Haven and London, 1984, pp. 296-7).
THE HOUGHTON CHAIRS
The Cannons suite, from the Best Bedchamber & Dressing Room, was later acquired by George, 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley (1749-1827) for Houghton Hall, Norfolk, and a pair of chairs from the Best Bedchamber at Cannons was sold from Houghton at Christie's, London, 8 December 1994, lot 135 (£881,500). The pair of 'square stools' remain at Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire, the ancestral home of his bride, Georgiana (d. 1838), daughter of the 3rd Duke of Ancaster.
THE GILDING & UPHOLSTERY
The present gilding is the original water-gilding. The chairs were previously over gilded with oil gilding, by Kenneth Bowers & Sons in 1968 however, this layer was recently removed by W. Thomas & Sons. A condition report prepared by them is available upon request. The seat covers were woven by H. H. Henderson of Redcar, using silk especially woven in Italy and following an 18th century pattern.
A PAIR OF GEORGE I GILT-GESSO OPEN ARMCHAIRS
THIS IS THE PROPERTY OF THE TRUSTEES OF SIR WILLIAM TURNER'S HOSPITAL, KIRKLEATHAM
SOLD FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE ALMSHOUSES AND ITS CHARITABLE ACTIVITIES
This lot should have a red circle against the catalogue entry indicating that Christie's has a financial interest in this lot.
As Paymaster-General of Marlborough's army, James Brydges (1674-1744) built a fortune that placed him among the richest men of his day in England, rising through the peerage to become successively Viscount Wilton, Earl of Carnarvon, and Duke of Chandos. But it is as a patron and collector that 'Princely Chandos' is chiefly remembered; and his greatest achievement was Cannons, Middlesex, built by the Italian-trained architect, James Gibbs, and described by Daniel Defoe as 'the finest House in England'. The chapel at Cannons, which was wholly the work of Gibbs, originally housed this magnificent pair of chairs, described in John Gilbert's 1725 inventory of Cannons as standing on a platform reserved for the Duke and Duchess themselves:
'His Grace's Dais lined with crimson velvet two large seat cushions, and two guilt framed chairs cover'd with crimson velvet and trimmed with Gold Lace (£) 58.10s'.
A near-identical suite of seat-furniture had been selected by Chandos for the Best Bedchamber at Cannons, comprising four armchairs, eight chairs and two stools. The only significant difference between the two sets is the addition of a 'show' rail at the base of the back of the pair in the Chapel. Both sets have the conjoined and confronted 'C' cipher on the centre of the seat-rail. This motif was further employed on the Cannons' staircase-balustrade by Jean Montigny (now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).
The suggestion that Gibbs had a hand in the design is bolstered by their presence in 'his' chapel, along with the inclusion, in his Book of Architecture, 1728, of a design for an imbricated dolphin-scale baluster with husk festooned scallop-shell badges, emblematic of Venus, which closely relates to the arm-supports.
The execution of the chairs is almost certainly the work of James Moore (d. 1726), cabinet-maker to King George I, whose partner, John Gumley (d. 1729), the glass manufacturer, had employed Gibbs to design his house at Isleworth. At this time, interestingly, Moore was also employed on the extensive furnishing of Blenheim Palace for the Duke of Marlborough, with whom Chandos was on familiar terms.
The everlasting glory of Cannons was not to be. Following the Duke's death in 1744, the house was demolished and the contents dispersed on the 1st June 1747, and over the following ten days! Mr Cock of the Great Piazza in Covent Garden (whom James Christie was to follow), sold from the Chapel and Passage leading thereto, Number XLIX, lot 4, Two arm chairs, with rich carved and gilt frames, covered with crimfon velvet and ferge falfe cafes, £3.3s, (3 guineas).
The pair was bought by Chomley Turner of Kirkleatham in the North Riding, and by the 19th century, if not earlier, was standing in the chapel of the almshouse or 'Hospital' founded by his great-uncle, Sir William Turner, Lord Mayor of London. Remarkably, the chapel at Kirkleatham is thought to have been remodelled by Gibbs, the architect of Cannons, who also worked for Chomley Turner on the construction of the latter's family mausoleum.
The Best Bedchamber suite of seat-furniture was also sold in 1747, the four armchairs for six guineas, and the eight chairs and two stools for eight guineas. They were subsequently acquired by George, 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley (1749-1827) for the Marble Parlour at Houghton Hall, from where a pair of armchairs was sold at Christie's in 1994 (£881, 500), whilst the stools remain at the ancestral home, Grimsthorpe Castle, of his bride, Georgiana (d.1838), daughter of the third Duke of Ancaster. This pair of chairs is offered for sale by the Trustees of Sir William Turner's Hospital to raise funds for the charity, which provides sheltered accommodation for people in need.
THE PROPERTY OF THE TRUSTEES OF SIR WILLIAM TURNER'S HOSPITAL, KIRKLEATHAM
SOLD FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE ALMSHOUSES AND ITS CHARITABLE ACTIVITIES
EUROPEAN FURNITURE & WORKS OF ART
46¼ in. (117.5 cm.) high; 28 in. (71 cm.) wide; 28 in. (71 cm.) deep (2)
John Gilbert, An Inventory of his Grace the Duke of Chandos's Seat att Cannons taken June 19th 1725:
Chappell & two Colonadoes, No. 84.
His Grace's Dais lined with crimson velvet two large seat cushions, and two guilt framed chairs cover'd with crimson velvet and trimmed with Gold Lace ... (£) 58 10:- (Huntington Library, ST VOL 83, folio 151).
The Visitors Guide to Redcar in the North Riding of the County of York, 1847, p. 116.
Victoria County History, Yorkshire, North Riding, vol. II, 1923, p. 372.
Rev. F. Cosgrove, Sir William Turner's Hospital at Kirkleatham, 1962.
Rev. F. Cosgrove, Sir William Turner's Hospital at Kirkleatham, rev. ed. 1970.
J. Cornforth, 'Kirkleatham, Cleveland - II', Country Life, 20 January 1977, p. 137, fig. 9.
T. Friedman, James Gibbs, New Haven and London, 1984, p. 80.
P. Philo, Kirkleatham: A history of the Village Estate and Old Hall Museum, 1990, p. 11.
P. Sotheran (ed.), Sir William Turner and his Hospital at Kirkleatham, Guidebook, 2001, pp. 7, 13-14.
Supplied to James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos (1673/4-1744), for the Chapel at Cannons, Edgware, Middlesex.
Sold from Cannons at the house sale conducted by Mr Cock on 1st June 1747 and for the following ten days, page 41:
Number XLIX The Chapel and Paff(ss)age leading thereto, lot 4. Two arm chairs, with rich carved and gilt frames, covered with crimf(s)on velvet and f(s)erge falf(s)e caf(s)es £3 3s 0d (3 guineas).
Acquired by Cholmley Turner (1685-1757) for the Chapel of his great uncle Sir William Turner's Hospital, Kirkleatham, Cleveland.