An early 19th century Egypto-Roman revival white marble chimneypiece

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Lot 108
An early 19th century Egypto-Roman revival white marble chimneypiece

Sold for £ 25,000 (US$ 31,075) inc. premium
An early 19th century Egypto-Roman revival white marble chimneypiece
The rectangular shelf with a foliate carved moulded lower edge and a recessed egg and dart moulding, the frieze with a central tablet depicting an Isiac procession flanked by a continuous series of relief-carved Roman figures including pairs of Egyptian slave figures either side, the jambs each with a conforming Egytpian figure standing on a single flower stylised lotus flower stem pedestal supported by addorsed cranes, on stepped plinths with rope-twist beading and foliate carving; together with a mid 19th century brass register grate mounted with Copeland Garret ceramic insets decorated with bouquets of flowers within gilt rocaille borders,196cm wide, 28cm deep, 136cm high, (77" wide, 11" deep, 53.5" high), internal aperture 123cm wide, 101.5cm high, (48" wide, 39.52 high).


  • Provenance: by repute Admiral Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton.
    Purchased by the present owner's mother from Charles Thornton of York.

    The present chimneypiece was bought by the present owner's family as having reputed provenance from Admiral Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton. Although Nelson is known to have bought the house Roundwood in Suffolk during 1798, he never lived there, hence it would seem an unlikely original location for the chimneypiece here. A more credible provenance would be Merton Place which he acquired in 1801, thus realising his dream to buy a residence which he could share with Sir William and Lady Hamilton when on leave. He had plans to retire there and his correspondence with Lady Hamilton speaks of his ambitions to extend and improve the property. However these intentions were curtailed by his death in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar. The house was sold in 1823 and prior to being demolished in 1846 (see Dr Colin White, The Nelson Encyclopædia, Chatham Publishing, London, 2002). In 1808 it was reported that Lady Hamilton had accrued considerable debts and was left with no option but to sell the property for the sum of £13,000. A series of advertisements in The Times bear testimony to the subsequent history of Merton Place include the following entries:

    The Times 3rd, 11th and 15th May 1815, 'Sales by Auction. Merton Place Estate, Surrey - By Mr Leonard, at Garraway's on 17 May 1815 in 2 lots. A CAPTIAL FREEHOLD family MANSION and OFFICES, called Merton-Place, formerly the residence of the late Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson.......22 acres. Also 3 contiguous inclosures or arable land, containing 17 acres.'

    The Times 7th and 9th June 1817, 'Valuable Building materials, Merton-place, Surrey.- By Mr. LEONARD, on the premises, on Tuesday, June 24, and two following days, in Lots, unless on or before the 10th of June an acceptable offer is made for the purchase of the whole by private contract, with the Gardens, Orchard, Pleasure-grounds, and Paddock, containing altogether 22 acres.

    ALL the BUILDING MATERIALS of that capital MANSION and Offices, called MERTON-PLACE, formerly the residence of Admiral Lord Nelson, situated at Merton, in the county of Surrey, 7 miles from London: consisting of 1,600 feet of deal sash frames and sashes, glazed with german sheet and crown glass, in squares of large dimensions, numerous well finished folding sash and other doors, moulded box shutters, architraves, linings, grounds, and skirtings, excellent deal batten and wainscot floors, feather-edged deal and other boarding, a wainscot staircase in three flights, with mahogany hand-rail &c., Sienna, veined, and other marble chimney-pieces and slabs, a large quantity of fir timber in purlines, rafters, plates, beams, girders, and joists, &c.; 160 feet cube of Portland stone in cills facia, and steps, &c.; 3,200 feet super of Portland, York, and Purbeck stone paving; 400 feet run of portland stone coping; about 400,000 of bricks; 36 squares of slating; 42 squares of plain tiles, and 8 tons of lead: also the materials of two large timber-built barns, and a granary: numerous valuable fixtures, in bookcases, dressers, drawers, shelves, locks, bolts, bars, and fastenings, &c.: all the above materials are conveniently situated for easy carriage to any part of the kingdom, they being within a mile of the Surrey railway, leading to the river Thames. To be viewed 10 days previous (Sundays excepted); catalogues on the premises; at Garraway's; of Mr Leonard , surveyor, Parson's-green, Fulham: and at his office, Covent-garden chambers, London.'

    The sale of contents advertised on 7th and 9th June 1817 tantalising mentions 'Sienna, veined, and other marble chimney-pieces and slabs'. However this sale was in fact postponed to take place on 10,12 and 17th September 1821 when similar mention of 'statuary, Sienna and neat modern veined marble chimney-pieces' was included in the particulars. Although the 1815 sale particulars promoted by Mr Leonard are held in the Surrey History centre, Woking (ref: G85/2/1/1/103, no corresponding documents have come to light in relation to the later sales. It is possible that these might include detailed descriptions of the chimneypieces which would allow comparison with the offered lot.

    Regardless of its provenance, it is probable that this chimneypiece formed an integral part of an Egyptian themed interior of the Regency period. The art and architecture of ancient Egypt became the inspiration for all aspects of the decorative arts in the wake of Napoleon's Egyptian campaign and Nelson's Victory at the battle of the Nile in 1798. Although precedents for Egyptian-revival inspired interiors feature in Europe as far back as the Renaissance period, it was not until the late 18th century that the style had fully evolved in England. An example of this is the billiard room designed by Edward Playfair at Cairness House, Aberdeenshire, in 1793. This was the precursor to such celebrated interiors as the Egyptian Hall at Stowe House, Buckinghamshire and Thomas Hope's iconic Egyptian Room at Duchess Street, London. The style was further promoted through the Egyptian interiors featured in the latter's pattern book Furniture and Interior Decoration, published in 1807 and selected designs in George Smith's, Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Guide, 1826.

    Rare instances of English Chimneypieces in the Egyptian Revival style include a grey marble example, similarly with figures to the jambs, anonymously sold Sotheby's London, 19 November 1993, lot 39.

    The design source for the frieze figures is likely to be from Bernard de Montfaucon's (1655-1741), L' Antiquité expliguée et représentée en figures which he published in ten volumes in Paris between 1719 and 1724. Interestingly Montfaucon based his extensive study of Egyptian and Classical antiquities soley on travels in Italy. The Isiaac procession on the tablet, which directly relates to Montfaucon op. cit II, 2, pl. CXVI, No. 2, replicates those carved on a grey-granite column formerly in the Isaeum Campense in Rome, since removed to the Museo Archieologico in Florence (see James Stevens Curl, Egyptomania, The Egyptian Revival: A Recurring Theme in the History of Taste, 1994, pp. 77-79, pls. 33 and 34.
An early 19th century Egypto-Roman revival white marble chimneypiece
An early 19th century Egypto-Roman revival white marble chimneypiece
An early 19th century Egypto-Roman revival white marble chimneypiece
An early 19th century Egypto-Roman revival white marble chimneypiece
An early 19th century Egypto-Roman revival white marble chimneypiece
An early 19th century Egypto-Roman revival white marble chimneypiece
An early 19th century Egypto-Roman revival white marble chimneypiece
An early 19th century Egypto-Roman revival white marble chimneypiece
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