A rare and important pair of George II carved giltwood mirrors Probably supplied to Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle
Lot 9
A pair of important George II carved giltwood mirrors attributed to John and Thomas Vardy
Sold for £120,000 (US$ 201,698) inc. premium
Lot Details
A pair of important George II carved giltwood mirrors
attributed to John and Thomas Vardy
The original cartouche shaped plates within frames carved with wheatsheaves issuing from scrolls, surmounted by female masks flanked by acanthus leaves and ducal coronets, with lapet and shell carved aprons below, one labelled to the reverse BRITISH ANTIQUE DEALERS ASSOCIATION, ART TREASURES EXHIBITION, CHRISTIES 1932, No 140, one numbered '3', the other numbered '4' on the reverse, each 100cm high, 73cm wide, (39" high, 28.5" wide).. (2)

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Presumably commissioned by Henry, 4th Earl
    of Carlisle (1694-1758)
    for Castle Howard, Morpeth, Yorkshire
    and thence by descent to:

    Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle
    (1748-1825) and thence by descent to:

    George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle
    (1773-1848) and thence by
    descent to:

    William George Howard, 8th Earl of Carlisle (1808-1889) and thence
    by descent to:

    George James Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle (1843-1911) and thence
    by descent to his son:
    The Hon Geoffrey William Algernon Howard (1877-1935) and sold in 1929 to:

    Lionel Harris Junior, Kent House, King Street, St James's; London, and sold in 1932 via R.W Symonds to:

    Francis A Lauder, Bowden Hall,
    Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire

    Exhibited:
    One mirror from the original set of four exhibited at the Art Treasures Exhibition, 1932, held under the auspices of The British Antique Dealers Association by Lionel Harris Junior, exhibit 140, A set of four George II gilt mirrors. Carved with foliage, corn and strapwork. The top centred with a female mask, surmounted by the coronet of the Earl of Carlisle. Formerly at Castle Howard. Illustrated on page 26 of the accompanying catalogue.

    The Gilding

    The gilding scheme is the original oil gilt finish straight on to the wood with a size coat layer over the gold. Although water gilding is the more standard finish at this time oil gilt schemes have been recorded on important items of this period.

    R.W Symonds

    Francis A Lauder employed the services of the leading furniture historian and advisor R.W Symonds. Lauder was seeking a pair of mirrors for Bowden Hall, Derbyshire and Symonds managed to negotiate the purchase of the above pair of mirrors - although being sold as a set of four - from the London dealer Lionel Harris Junior. The depressed economic circumstances seem to have led Harris to consider splitting the set and also selling them at a loss. In September 1932 Harris wrote to R.W Symonds

    'I am sending you as requested a photograph of one of the set of four gilt mirrors. These Mirrors as I told you, were designed for Castle Howard by William Kent for the Earl of Carlisle for Castle Howard, and bear his coronet. I purchased them from the Honorable Geoffrey Howard, who is a descendant of the Earl of Carlisle, and they were hanging in the entrance hall of Castle Howard in Yorkshire. The four cost me £650. As I understand your client would require a pair, I would be willing today to sell one of the pair for £250 (two hundred and fifty pounds) cash. At this price, they are very cheap, as in 1929 I was asking £900 for the four, and it is only in order to do some business that I am willing to cut a loss. As I told you, one of these mirrors is being exhibited at the Art Treasures Exhibition at Christies on 12 October'.

    Symonds was behind the formation of some of the most important early twentieth century collections including those formed by Geoffrey Blackwell, Percival Griffiths, J. S. Sykes, James Thursby Pelham, E. B. Moller and Frederick Poke liaising between dealers and the collectors themselves.

    Castle Howard and the Earls of Carlisle

    Sir Charles Howard (1629-1685) was created Baron Dacre of Gillesland in the County of Cumberland, Viscount Howard of Morpeth and Earl of Carlisle in 1660. Charles Howard was the great grandson of Lord William Howard (1563-1640), third son of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk (1536-1576). Through Lord William Howard's wife, Elizabeth, the family acquired both Naworth Castle and Henderskelfe in Yorkshire which was to become to known as Castle Howard.
    The original Castle at Henderskelfe which had stood for hundreds of years was seriously damaged by fire in 1693 when Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle (1699-1738), asked the architect William Talman (1650-1719) who had previously worked at Chatsworth, to submit plans for a new house. The relationship was short lived and after disagreements between the two, Howard turned to the inexperienced John Vanbrugh (1664-1720). The flamboyant imagination of Vanbrugh was tempered by the practical involvement of Nicholas Hawksmoor who brought technical experience to the project. Vanbrugh's lack of formal training resulted in many of the conventions of country house building being dis-regarded ranging from the change in orientation of the house to exploit its setting to the scale of the dome and the extent of ornamentation. At Vanbrugh's death in 1726 the West Wing was still un-built, when completed, although it was a successful Palladian design it did little to compliment Vanbrugh's design and the interiors were only completed by C.H Tatham in around 1800 with the wing being externally remodelled in the late 19th century to improve synchronicity with the rest of the building. Henry, 4th Earl of Carlisle inherited Castle Howard in 1738. He lived in Rome for many years and was responsible for bringing much of the antique statuary to Castle Howard.

    During the 19th century Castle Howard was passed rather in-directly through the Howard family. George William Howard, 7th Earl of Carlisle (1802-1864) was succeeded by his brother the Rev.William George Howard, 8th Earl of Carlisle (1808-1889) who suffered from mental infirmity and his brother Admiral Edward Howard, Lord Lanerton lived at Castle Howard. After the death of the 8th Earl the title passed to a nephew of the two previous holders, George Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle (1843-1911). George Howard moved in artistic circles and was himself a painter and associate of Burne-Jones and William Morris, as well as being a dedicated Liberal and member of the Temperance Movement. After the death of his wife Rosalind, Countess of Carlisle in 1921, the estates where divided by strict Liberal principles. Castle Howard was to go to The Hon. Mary Murray the couple's eldest daughter, as their eldest son had died in 1912 and had succeeded to Naworth Castle. Mary was not prepared to take on Castle Howard, and it was decided by the family that it should be granted to her brother the Hon. Geoffrey Howard (1877-1935) who was married to Ethel Methuen, the daughter of Paul Sandford, 3rd Baron Methuen. Geoffrey Howard began dispersing items from the Castle Howard Collection after succeeding to the house in the 1920s and this included the sale held by Boulton and Cooper of Malton in 1924 comprising 17th century oak furniture from the house. After the death of Geoffrey in 1935, the trustees assumed that the house would not be lived in again and started once again to disperse contents when George Howard returned from World War II. George Howard, later Lord Howard of Henderskelfe (1920-1984) was devoted to Castle Howard and alongside his wife did much to improve the house and secure its future. The house was opened into to the public in 1952. Although it has not been possible to identify the mirrors in The Country Life images of the Castle Howard taken prior to 1930 or in any correspondence it is possible that further information lies in the un-catalogued Howard family papers from the post 1921 period. Property was also transferred between the families other properties which included Ampthill and Brackland in Surrey and 56 Park Street in Mayfair as well as Naworth Castle.

    The Design of the Howard Mirrors

    The lower portion of the mirrors reflect the 1758 designs of elaborate mirror frames ( both conceived en-suite with a console table) by Vardy in the collection of the British Museum. The designs were intended for the Great Dining-Room and Parlour and the Little Dining-Room at Spencer House although it is uncertain as to whether they were actually realised. The overall design of the frames offered here also relates to the architect John Vardy's frontispiece for 'Some Designs of Mr Inigo Jones and Mr William Kent', 1744. The sculptural and idiosyncratic quality the design is typical of Vardy's work as a designer. Vardy is recognised for his inclusion of the palm frond in his designs notably in the three pairs of giltwood pier mirrors which were supplied to Charles Powlett, 5th Duke of Bolton for Grosvenor Square, London or Hackwood Park, Hampshire, later sold by order of the Executors of Viscount Camrose, Christie's London, 8 July 1999, lots 50, 52 and 54 and again in Vardy's giltwood lantern designed for the Entrance Hall at Spencer House and now at Althorp. It also anticipates its more dramatic use in the adjoining Palm Room. The quality of the carving suggests the possible involvement of John Vardy's brother Thomas, a sculptor and carver who is known to have worked alongside his brother on commissions such as Spencer House and reflected in the records preserved at Hoare's Bank in Fleet Street. A Pair of similar mirrors sold at Sotheby's, London in 1963 from Elvaston Castle in Derbyshire are closely related to the mirrors offered here, although there are certain differences notably the absence of coronets and the addition of sea horses to either side of each mirror. The Elvaston Castle mirrors are also illustrated in G.Wills, English Mirrors, County Life 1965, p.85, pl.57. Interestingly the larger part of Vardy's Spencer House Palm Room suite appears to have been acquired by the Earl of Harrington, who was the Spencer's sometime neighbour in St. James's Place. Harrington took his part of the Palm Room Suite to Elvaston Castle. The Palm Room sofa remains in the Harrington Collection, and four armchairs were sold by the Earl of Harrington in the aforementioned 1963 Sotheby's sale. A mirror illustrated in R.Edwards ' The Dictionary of English Furniture', p 338, pl.70 from the collection of the Duke of Richmond at Goodwood House employs the same palm fronds and flora mask head but in pier mirror form and is almost certainly part of the same group of mirrors. A further mirror following the basic pattern of those offered here was sold Sotheby's London, 15 November 1991, lot 50 as in 'the manner of Benjamin Goodison'. It is possible that the 4th Earl of Carlisle had a preference for the inclusion of the Ducal coronet as it appears on a pier mirror at Castle Howard, in the manner of Pelletier and dating from the 1720s (photographed by Country Life). An unexecuted design by Vardy for a pier mirror intended for the 5th Duke of Bolton at Hackwood Park, Hampshire also included a ducal coronet supported by palm branches (now in the collection of The British Architectural Library, R.I.B.A, London).

    John Vardy
    The architect John Vardy was born in Dublin and although little is known of his early training, his career is well documented after his arrival at the Office of Works in 1736. Vardy's senior at the Office of Works was the architect William Kent (1685-1748) and the two worked closely together. Vardy's career at the Office of Works included appointments as Clerk of Works at Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace and Whitehall and he was later to become Surveyor to the Mint. Vardy prepared the 1744 publication Some Designs of Mr. Inigo Jones and Mr. William Kent. Vardy worked alongside Thomas Robinson on the completion of William Kent's Horse Guards after Kent's death in 1748. Vardy's work for the Office of Works hampered the opportunity to work extensively for private clients but his buildings include Spencer House in St James and he is the likely architect of Dorchester House (now demolished) on Park Lane. Vardy's will mentions his brother Thomas Vardy, carver in Park Street, Grosvenor Square, and his son, John Vardy, Jr. who succeeded his father as Surveyor to the Royal Mint. It is possible that John Vardy could have been introduced to Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle through his sister Elizabeth Howard who had married the amateur architect and collector Sir Thomas Robinson (1702-1777) in 1728. Robinson was a vigorous proponent of neo-Palladianism and invested significant energy in promoting the careers of both Daniel Garrett and William Robinson (who was not related to him); Robinson was a colleague of John Vardy's at the Office of Works and they were to work together on the completion of Horse Guards. Thomas Robinson also acted as intermediary between the Earl of Malton and William Kent in the designs for Wentworth Woodhouse and was not an admirer of Vanbrugh's work at Castle Howard. Horace Walpole recorded them ..spitting and swearing at each other at Castle Howard, (Walpole 257). Thomas Robinson would almost certainly relished the opportunity to introduce members of his coterie of neo-Palladians to the house in the post-Vanbrugh years.
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