An important  polychrome and parcel gilt decorated oblique strung upright Exhibition Pianoforte by W
Lot 229Y
An important polychrome and parcel gilt decorated oblique strung upright Exhibition Pianoforte by Wright and Mansfield, circa 1860the painted decoration by Pincon and Prolisch, the movement by Erard, numbered 5862 for circa 1858, with underdamper action,
Sold for £24,000 (US$ 38,745) inc. premium

Lot Details
An important  polychrome and parcel gilt decorated oblique strung upright Exhibition Pianoforte by W An important  polychrome and parcel gilt decorated oblique strung upright Exhibition Pianoforte by W An important  polychrome and parcel gilt decorated oblique strung upright Exhibition Pianoforte by W Erard upright piano by Wright & Mansfield Erard upright piano by Wright & Mansfield Erard upright piano by Wright & Mansfield
An important polychrome and parcel gilt decorated oblique strung upright Exhibition Pianoforte by Wright and Mansfield, circa 1860
the painted decoration by Pincon and Prolisch, the movement by Erard, numbered 5862 for circa 1858, with underdamper action,
the case profusely decorated in the neo-Classical style on a pale blue ground, the rectangular hinged top with a diapered panel within a guilloche and paterae border above a shuttered and leaf moulded edge and a running anthemion painted frieze, with later gilt bronze twin-branch candle sconces above a pierced lattice soundboard flanked by musical trophies and en-grisaille panels of Cupid, the hinged fall enclosing ebony and ivory keys the reverse of the lid decorated with Cupid and his companions flanked by riband tied floral garlands and birds, the keyboard supported on stop fluted turned and stiff leaf carved legs and castors, the sides painted with grotesques, en-grisaille panels of dancing putti and further musical trophies within swagged borders, the silk backed pierced giltwood soundboard within further Classical borders on a plinth base, the reverse with a central circular en-grisaille painted panel of a Bacchanalian feast, surrounded by pierced giltwood fan spandrels backed by later cream silk within swagged bellflower borders, together with the matching Victorian polychrome and parcel gilt Music Chair, with lyre shaped back on an adjustable circular seat upholstered in gros point needlework on fluted tapering legs and spool feet, the seat with a Cope and Collinson patent winding mechanism, the piano, 150cm wide, 60cm deep, 115cm high (59" wide, 23.5" deep, 45" high).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Commissioned by Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, 1st Lord Tweedmouth (1820-1894) by descent to his son Edward Marjoribanks, 2nd Baron Tweedmouth (1849 – 1909)
    Sold with the contents of the house Guisachan in 1905 to
    Newton Wallop, 6th Earl of Portsmouth (1856 - 1917)
    by descent to his wife Beatrice Mary, Countess of Portsmouth (1866-1935)
    Acquired after her death by John Martin, Inverness, Scotland and given to his wife 1 June 1938 as an anniversary present
    by descent to their grandson John Hindle, Kelowna, British Columbia

    Exhibited
    The 1862 International Exhibition, London, May – December 1862

    Inventories and Primary Sources
    Inventory and Valuation of furniture and other effects at Guisachan, July 1905, A.Fraser & co, Inverness-shire. (Hampshire Record Office, Portsmouth Papers, Ref.15M84/3/2/4/6)
    An Inventory and Valuation of furniture and other effects in Guisachan House, Beauly, 26 December 1917 (Hampshire Record Office, Portsmouth Papers, Ref. 15M84/3/2/4/11)
    Articles abstracted from Guisachan valuation as having a bearing on National, Scientific and Historic Interest. A Fraser & co, (Hampshire Record Office, Portsmouth Papers, Ref. 15M84/3/2/4/13)
    Haddo Albums vol.1 (RCAHMS, Edinburgh, Ref. B67531)
    Notes and correspondence on the Erard piano (RCAHMS, Edinburgh, Ref. NH22NE.7.00)

    Literature
    Official Illustrated Catalogue of the International Exhibition London 1862. vol. II, The British Division, 1862, p.47, no.5862
    J.B.Waring Masterpieces of Industrial Art & Sculpture at the International Exhibition, 1862, (illustrated plate 132)
    Eileen Harris Adams in the Family: Wright and Mansfield at Haddo, Guisachan, Brook House and Grosvenor Square, Furniture History, vol. XXXII, 1996, pp. 141-157 (illustrated fig. 4)
    Ian Gow, Scotland’s Lost Houses, 2006, pp.166-171 (illustrated p.169)
    Jonathan Meyer, Great Exhibitions: London, Paris, New York, Philadelphia 1851-1900, 2006, p.123 (illustrated fig.D27)
    Max Donnelly, British Furniture at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition 1876, Furniture History, vol. XXXVII, 2001, pp.91-120

    This extravagantly decorated piano, with its painted cherubs and colourful neo-classical decoration, was produced by the well known firm of cabinet makers Wright and Mansfield. It was commissioned by Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, 1st Lord Tweedmouth, a renowned art collector and connoisseur. Shortly after its manufacture, the piano was placed on Wright and Mansfield’s stand in the furniture section of the 1862 International Exhibition, where it attracted much attention and even a medal . The piano and its matching chair were recorded at Tweedmouth’s highland sporting estate Guisachan in inventories of 1905 and 1917 where they are shown as being in the drawing room, together with several other pieces from the 1862 exhibition. The fact that they were still there in 1917, indicates that when the house was sold by Lord Tweedmouth’s son Edward Marjoribanks in 1905, they became the property of the house’s new owner, the 6th Earl of Portsmouth. When the 6th Earl died in 1917, Guisachan was put on the market and the piano was inherited by his wife the Countess of Portsmouth. It was not until she died in 1935 that the piano left the Portsmouth collection and came into the possession of a John Martin, whose grandson brought it over to Canada where it has remained until very recently.

    Wright and Mansfield and the International Exhibitions of 1862, 1867 and 1876
    During the second half of the 19th century the partnership of Alfred Wright, a cabinet maker and Thomas Mansfield, a decorator became hugely successful. The company were the leading exponents of Adam and Sheraton Revival furniture and, as well as working for clients such as Lord Tweedmouth, regularly exhibited in the International Exhibitions in London, Paris and Philadelphia often winning medals for their furniture.

    The International Exhibition of 1862 featured over 28,000 exhibitors from 36 countries, representing a wide range of industry, technology, and the arts. It was housed on a 23 acre site in central London with its main facade running along the Cromwell Road on the site of the National History Museum. The building was famously ornamented by two crystal domes, described unflatteringly as ‘colossal soup bowls’.

    Wright and Mansfield’s stand at the 1862 Exhibition was well recorded in the Art Journal Catalogue of the exhibition and also in J.B. Waring’s Masterpieces of Industrial Art and Sculpture at the International Exhibition, whose chromolithograph of the piano (see illustration) was accompanied by an informative description as follows:

    Messrs. Wright & Mansfield received a commission from the well-known art connoisseur D.C.Marjoribanks, Esq.M.P., for the piano which we have selected for illustration. The style of the painted decoration, both in character and colour, harmonises peculiarly well with the form of the instrument, and was very excellently carried out by the decorative artist Messrs. Pincon & Prolisch, under the direction of Messrs. Wright & Mansfield. The carved enrichments were executed by Mr R.W. Godfrey; the whole forming a worthy case for one of the best of Mr Erard’s oblique-action pianos.

    Waring goes on to say that Wright & Mansfield had received a medal for the piano and their other ‘contributions’ which included a marquetry boudoir bookcase, a carved cabinet with Wedgwood plaques, a pair of ‘en suite’ torcheres and a large dwarf bookcase inset with black Wedgewood medallions of the Roman emperors.

    Wright and Mansfield were clearly aware of the marketing opportunities afforded by making ‘Exhibition Pieces’ and five years later they revealed a satinwood and marquetry cabinet inset with blue and white Wedgewood plaques at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867 where it was the only piece of furniture to be awarded a gold medal. J.H. Pollen noted that in making this piece Wright and Mansfield ‘..avoid the production or copy of any foreign period and .. illustrate English art in every respect’ . It was eventually purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum at the reduced price of £800 as a useful teaching object as well as for its exciting use of light satinwood at a time when dark woods such as ebony were in fashion. (Museum no.548-1868) . Nine years later a pair of side tables by Wright and Mansfield were shown at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 and illustrated in the Art Journal of the same year, together with a satinwood-veneered and painted sideboard which was described at the time as 'such an objet de luxe as was hardly surpassed of its sort at the Exhibition' . The side tables recently sold Sotheby’s London 26 November 2003, lot 120.

    Lord Tweedmouth, Wright and Mansfield and the Guisachan commission
    Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, 1st Lord Tweedmouth (1820-1894) sat in parliament as Liberal member for Berwick on Tweed from 1853-1868 and again from 1874-1881. He was famous as a collector of works of art and in particular Wedgewood. Tweedmouth had even bought important pieces from the naturalist Charles Darwin, whose mother Susannah was a daughter of Josiah Wedgwood. He had also purchased the a portion of the Wedgewood collection formed by the Bond Street dealer Isaac Falcke which he then sold on to Sir Richard Wallace . Finally when Lord Tweedmouth died in 1905 his entire collection was bought by Lord Leverhulme for the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight where it is still on display today.

    However, during his lifetime, this Wedgewood collection was vitally important to him and the papers at the Hampshire Record Office show how Wedgwood plaques and vases formed the basis of Wright and Mansfield’s decorative scheme at Guisachan.

    Tweedmouth had purchased the house and its estate in 1856. He immediately set about enlarging it, adding new bay windows and a conservatory. He then commissioned Wright and Mansfield to decorate the interiors in an Adam revival style in order to provide a sympathetic backdrop for the porcelain. The Haddo Albums of photographs taken by his daughter (op.cit) show Wedgwood plaques incorporated into the chimneypiece and walls of the drawing room together with numerous free standing vases and bowls. These Albums also contain an image of the piano in the drawing room (see illustration) showing that it was there, rather than in Marjoribank’s London home Brook House which was also decorated by Wright and Mansfield. So good was Tweedmouth’s relationship with the company that when his daughter married the Earl of Aberdeen in 1878 and moved to Haddo House the firm were employed once again to re furnish and re decorate the house.

    The decline of Wright and Mansfield
    Unfortunately by the late 1880’s this successful partnership had dissolved and the company was forced to sell off its stock in 1886 and 1887. It is not yet clear why they had got into such difficulties, but it seems likely they had spent too much money on their exhibition pieces as well as their authentic 18th century examples of furniture. On June 22, 1876, The Times reported that as well as furniture the sale contained ‘some extremely interesting examples of decorative panelling and chimneypieces in carved wood designed by Sir Christopher Wren, … and a grand architectural chimneypiece and fireplace of the time of Queen Ann, all in carved wood.’ However it was a marquetry piano by Erard that received the most attention in the newspaper which stated, ‘there is nothing in the rooms which does more credit to English art workmen….than the piano ([lot] 294) which is really quite equal in the exquisite finish of the inlay work and splendid colour of the different patterned tulip and king woods to any of the Marie Antoinette furniture which sold for thousands of pounds in the Hamilton Palace and Blenheim sales.’ Afterwards in July 1886 the magazine The Cabinet Maker & Art Furnisher, summed up their contribution when it said: 'They must be accounted the leaders of that passing fashion which has happily brought back into our houses many of the charming shapes of the renowned eighteenth century cabinet makers .... the best forms of Chippendale, Hepplewhite and particularly Sheraton have been made to live again under the renovating influence of these able manufacturers' .

    The Earl and Countess of Portsmouth and the purchase of Guisachan
    Newton Wallop ((1856 - 1917) became 6th earl of Portsmouth in 1891. He was a member of parliament from 1880 to 1891 and under secretary of state for war from 1905 to 1908. He married Beatrice Mary in 1885, daughter of Mr Edward Pease. In 1905 the Earl bought Guisachan House and its estate from Lord Tweedmouth’s son Edward, who had inherited the house on his father’s death in 1894. Prior to the sale a full inventory and valuation of the house was carried out by A.Fraser and Co. and the piano and its matching chair are fully described in the drawing room:

    p.13 PIANETTE by Erard, finely decorated all over. The finger board, cover & sides of pianette painted with oval panels, bearing Cupids, festoons of flowers etc, the back fitted fine old round oil painting of Baccanels £150.00
    p.11 1 painted lyre back piano chair, upholstered in tapestry & with chintz slip cover £4.10

    On 8th December 1905, Newton Wallop paid Lord Tweedmouth £12,000 for the ‘furniture and other effects in and about Guisachan’ , including the piano. Some months earlier this rather unusual arrangement of buying the entire contents of a house, was explained in a memo from Lord Tweedmouth’s solicitor which said:

    ‘Lord T would, with a view to that Lord P, be quite willing to let him have the use of the furniture and effects, and in fact to hand over the property to him just as it is, in full working order, for the coming season, so as to save Lord P the trouble of having to furnish, etc, and start afresh ..’

    The Portsmouths divided their time between Scotland and their main house Hurstbourne Park in Hampshire. They had no children, so when the 6th Earl died in 1917, he left all his property and possessions in trust for his wife. An inventory of Guisachan taken just after his death in December 1917 records the piano and the chair still in the drawing room. In a separate document the piano is listed as ‘having a bearing on national, scientific and historic interest’. There is a cross beside the piano indicating that the Countess wanted to ‘retain it as an heirloom under the terms of the will’. Between 1917 and 1938 when the piano was acquired by John Martin, there were five separate auction sales and four inventories of Portsmouth collections all of which included property from Guisachan , but none included this piece so it likely that it was bought privately by Mr Martin soon after the Countess’s death.

    As for Guisachan, it was put on the market in 1919 and frequent advertisements in the Times indicate that it did not sell until 1935 when it was bought by private treaty by Edward Place of Northallerton . A few years later it was sold on to Lady Islington who had it completely stripped out so that it could be used as a ‘Fitness training school for Londoners’ during the Second World War. Today the house still exists – although now sadly in ruins.

    Not only as a piece from Guisachan, but also as a musical instrument, this piano is a rare survival from Wright and Mansfield’s oevre. The firm did however make a number of cases for Broadwood including one sold Sotheby’s London 3 April 1992, lot 57 and another offered Sotheby’s New York 12 November 1993, lot 252. A satinwood and painted grand piano by Broadwood, the case attributed to Wright and Mansfield sold Sotheby’s The Leverhulme Collection, 26 June 2001, lot 151.
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