A highly important Henry VIII parcel-gilt, polychrome-decorated and carved oak panel, circa 1545, possibly depicting King John, and reputedly from the London house of William Paulet, first Marques of Winchester (by 1488 – 1572)

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Lot 461
A highly important Henry VIII parcel-gilt, polychrome-decorated and carved oak panel, circa 1545, possibly depicting King John, and reputedly from the London house of William Paulet, first Marques of Winchester (by 1488 – 1572)
Sold for £ 184,900 (US$ 243,304) inc. premium

The Oak Interior

24 Feb 2016, 11:00 GMT

London, New Bond Street

Lot Details
A highly important Henry VIII parcel-gilt, polychrome-decorated and carved oak panel, circa 1545, possibly depicting King John, and reputedly from the London house of William Paulet, first Marques of Winchester (by 1488 – 1572) A highly important Henry VIII parcel-gilt, polychrome-decorated and carved oak panel, circa 1545, possibly depicting King John, and reputedly from the London house of William Paulet, first Marques of Winchester (by 1488 – 1572) A highly important Henry VIII parcel-gilt, polychrome-decorated and carved oak panel, circa 1545, possibly depicting King John, and reputedly from the London house of William Paulet, first Marques of Winchester (by 1488 – 1572) A highly important Henry VIII parcel-gilt, polychrome-decorated and carved oak panel, circa 1545, possibly depicting King John, and reputedly from the London house of William Paulet, first Marques of Winchester (by 1488 – 1572) A highly important Henry VIII parcel-gilt, polychrome-decorated and carved oak panel, circa 1545, possibly depicting King John, and reputedly from the London house of William Paulet, first Marques of Winchester (by 1488 – 1572) A highly important Henry VIII parcel-gilt, polychrome-decorated and carved oak panel, circa 1545, possibly depicting King John, and reputedly from the London house of William Paulet, first Marques of Winchester (by 1488 – 1572)
A highly important Henry VIII parcel-gilt, polychrome-decorated and carved oak panel, circa 1545, possibly depicting King John, and reputedly from the London house of William Paulet, first Marques of Winchester (by 1488 – 1572)
With traces of paint and gilt, some probably original, the central portrait carved from a deep separate board, showing a King, in slight profile to sinister, wearing a coronet-type crown of alternating trefoils and crosses above a jewelled band, his hair to his ears and with pronounced cleft to his chin, wearing armour beneath a cloak clasped at his neck, and a chain with pendant leaf, holding a sceptre in his right hand, and an orb with long shaft in his left, all within a moulded roundel with beaded inner sight and acanthus-carved outer frame, flanked to either side by a shield bearing a coat of arms, the three lions passant guardant of England, beneath an arched crown of fleur-de-lis and crosses alternating around a central cross, the shields issuing pendant Grotesque horned masks and a tablet defined by applied mouldings, the upper moulding centred by an arch, the left tablet painted and gilt with the word 'King', the right arch bearing traces of lettering, possibly '...hn', each tablet supported by the wings of a bird, above and beneath the roundel foliated scrolls, the uppermost with grotesque terminals, the lower terminating in the heads of horses, all within a later moulded frame applied with circular and pyramid bosses, the panel 58.5cm wide x 6.5cm deep x 44.5cm high; the panel and frame together 74cm wide x 9cm deep x 59.5cm high

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    From the private collection of Paul Fitzsimmons Esq.,

    Possibly one and the same as the panel noted as in the Long Hall in an inventory of Goodwood House, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Richmond, in 1903, 'an antique carved wood and gilt panel, 29 x 23 ins, with Coat of Arms and masks in relief & in the centre a representation of King John with the Orb & Sceptre'.

    The website of the Victoria & Albert Museum notes, 'a panel...known as the King John panel was at Goodwood House, Gloucestershire until 1939 but is thought to have disappeared during the war years.'

    Found in an outbuilding of a house in Chichester in 2013.

    Related panels
    Two, possibly three (if this is not the Goodwood panel) other panels from what must be the same series are known.
    1. A panel in the Museum of London (ID: 39.93)
    2. A panel in the Victoria & Albert Museum (Museum Number: 1585-1855), acquired by the Museum in 1855.

    All three panels are the same size and, although different in particulars, were clearly part of a single series or interior. This panel and the V & A panel share foliated scrolls with horse head terminals, shields carved with the lions (or leopards) of England, and identical surrounds to the central figure.

    It is the panel in the collections of the Museum of London which carried provenance to the London mansion of William Paulet, first Marques of Winchester. Purchased by a Dr Lippmann 'many years earlier from Mr Murray Marks of the firm of Durlacher Brothers of Bond Street, London', it was then sold in Berlin at Rud Lepke's Kunst-Auctions-Haus in November 1912 (Lot 132 ill), for the sum of 5,200 German marks (the equivalent of £254 at the time). At some point, either before or after it appeared at auction, it was re-coloured and gilded.

    In Fifty Masterpieces of Woodwork (London, 1955) describing the panel in the collection of the V & A, the affinity with the Lippman (Museum of London) panel was noted, and it was said that Dr Lippman 'had acquired it in London many years before, with the tradition that it had come from the Palace of Austin Friars in the City.'

    Whilst there is no evidence to substantiate this claim, what is certain is that these three panels, highly sophisticated examples of the influence of the Italian Renaissance in England, adorned the property of one of the leading men of the day. William Paulet's career spanned the reigns of Henry VIII (1509 – 1547), Edward VI (1547 – 1553), Mary I (1552 – 1558) and that of Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) until his death in 1572. Such longevity was either the result of his ability to dissemble, or his abilities, depending on one's view, but he was clearly an able and efficient administrator and a trusted servant of the Crown. Thus, he was appointed Comptroller of the Royal Household in 1532, Treasurer of the Household in 1537, Lord Great Chamberlain in 1543, Lord Steward of the Household in 1545, Lord President of the Privy Council in 1546, and Lord High Treasurer of England in 1548. He attended the baptism of the then Princess Elizabeth in September 1533, and that of Edward VI, then Prince of Wales, in 1537. Eighteen years later, he was Chief Mourner at Edward VI's funeral. Having weathered the storm of the political and religious upheavals of the 1540s and 1550s, he retained his position as Lord High Treasurer under Elizabeth I.

    His rise from relative obscurity to great status was accompanied by the accrual of lands, estates and property, and it was thus that he was in a position to remodel (twice during the course of his long life) his ancestral home at Basing, Hampshire into what was reputed to be (it did not survive the Civil War) the largest and most opulent private residence in England.

    In January 1541, Paulet purchased lands from Thomas Wriothesley, first Earl of Southampton on the site of the Austin Friars in Bread Street Ward, adjacent to Throgmorton Street. According to a John Stow, Paulet promptly demolished the friary buildings, with the exception of the church, and replaced them with a large house which he went on extending into the next reign.' [see D. Loades, The Life and Career of William Paulet (2008)].

    Thomas Allen, in The History and Antiquities of London (1828), Vol. 3, pp. 256-7, records that in his day the remains of the building were partly occupied as a warehouse and the interior had 'been so much mutilated to suit the mechanical uses to which it is now put, that little of the original work appears. The spacious staircase, with its heavy balustrade, is one of the earliest introductions of the Italian style of building. On the first floor is a large and once handsome chimney-piece; the fireplace is spacious, and its jambs sustain on trusses the remains of a handsome composition in oak, carved and painted; two Ionic columns sustaining an entablature, still remain...Among the wainscotting still remains some of the arch-formed panels richly carved in relief, which are evidently portions of the original structure.' Paulet's house was demolished in 1839.

    The design
    The chimneypiece just described is reminiscent of a design by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8 – 1543) (see illustration) preserved in the British Museum, which features roundels and the same grotesque foliate ornament typical of early Renaissance woodwork in this country, and comparable to the carving of these three panels. The British Museum catalogue German Drawings in the British Museum... by artists born before 1530 (1993) 2 vols., No. 327, notes 'on stylistic grounds, the drawing may preferably be placed towards the end of Holbein's career, c. 1537 - 43. The design of this chimney-piece is reflected in English architecture of later decades, such as the grand chimney-piece, at Loseley, near Guildford, Surrey, of 1562-8. This could have been copied or adapted from such work at Nonsuch Palace...'

    Hans Holbein was in England between 1526 and 1528 and returned for a second visit in 1531/2 – 1543. His dates, therefore, overlap with these panels, and it is possible that he designed them. They certainly share features with his other known designs. Compare, for instance, the foliated scrolls and grotesque terminals to these panels, and those to a 1543 design of Holbein's of an elaborate clock salt for Sir Anthony Denny [British Museum Number 1850,0713.14].

    Other commentators have drawn comparisons between the V & A panel (in the same series as the panel offered here) and work which may have derived, in part, from Holbein's designs. Thus, the catalogue of the 'woodwork' in the V & A, published in 1874 noted that 'the character of the workmanship, as well as that of the design, so closely resemble those of the ornamental work on the stalls of King's College, Cambridge, that we may attribute them to the same period and the same hand - that of an Italian or German Carver, in all probability, though executed in England' [Ancient & Modern Furniture & Woodwork in the South Kensington Museum (London, 1874), p. 209]. In 1908, the same association was made by John Hungerford Pollen who, in describing the V & A panel, noted that 'the workmanship as well as the design so closely resemble the character of the carved ornament on the stalls of King's College, Cambridge, that the panel may certainly be attributed to the same period' [English Objects (Ancient and Modern) (1908), Vol. 1, p. 83, Figure 64]. Elements of the design of the carving at King's, for instance the 'HISA' cipher, carved twice in stone in the choir stalls in King's College chapel, are also preserved in a drawing in the British Museum [Sloane bequest 17052 – 5303 – 3], attributed to Hans Holbein.

    Subject Matter
    The V & A note that these panels are thought to represent the Nine Worthies, traditionally three Pagans – Hector, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar; three Jews – Joshua, David and Judas Maccabeus; and three Christians – Arthur, Charlemagne and Godefroi de Bouillon. All popular figures in the 16th century, suites were designed by the finest artists and engravers of the day, including Hans Burgkmair, Daniel Hopfer, Lucas van Leyden, Cornelis van Oostsanen, the monogrammist MG, Virgil Solis, Maarten van Heemskerck and Nicolaes de Bruyn, Maarten de Vos and Antonio Tempesta. A less familiar set was engraved by Nicolaes de Bruyn, and individual figures also appear in single prints, for instance in a titlepage border by Hans Holbein, Michael Kirmer, Conrad Hildebrand and Johann Hauer [see A. Wells-Cole, Art & Decoration in Elizabethan & Jacobean England (1997), p. 115]. Prints and engravings of the Nine Worthies inspired decorative schemes in England throughout the 16th and 17th centuries and so their identification with these panels is understandable.

    In 1903, however, when the Goodwood panel (which this panel may be) was inventoried, it was specifically called 'King John'. Now, only traces remain of the title in the right-hand tablet, but the second letter from the end appears to be an 'h' and the final letter an 'n'. Perhaps, in 1903, more of the original paint remained?

    Discounting the painted titles for the moment, however, (the Museum of London painting is later anyhow, and no paint at all remains to the panel in the V & A) they all share several features which suggest that they were, in fact, intended as royal portraits.

    First, the regalia with which they are furnished is stylised, but bears a resemblance to that with which English kings were furnished in printed works which pre-dated this panel. John Rastell (1468 – 1536, Sir Thomas More's brother-in-law) published The Pastyme of People or The Cronycles of Englande and of Dyvers other realmys [STC 20724], in 1529/1530, a chronicle which included the novelty of single page woodcut illustrations of every King of England since the Conquest, rendering them with orbs, sceptres and swords very like those which appear on this series of panels. In addition, their crowns – coronet like, rather than arched or enclosed – bear alternating fleur-de-lis and either trefoils or crosses in their upper band, as do the crowns to the three busts in this, the V & A's and the Museum of London's panel.

    Giles Godet's A Brief Abstract of the Genealogie and Race of All the Kynges of England [1552 [STC 10022], which drew on Rastell, a Dutch work of 1534 (Alle De Coninghen, in Enghelant) also containing portraits of English kings, and another – lost – work which is known to have influenced all three, depicts Richard I with a clasp on his cloak very like the cherub clasp to the figure in the panel in the V & A.

    It is the heraldry, however, which most compellingly suggests that these panels may well represent English kings. The Museum of London panel, later painted with the title 'King Stephen', probably does represent him. The symbol given in the shields flanking his roundel is a single equine centaur or 'sagittary', which is known to have been one of the personal badges that King Stephen used. Rastell's Pastyme of People shows Stephen standing beneath a shield charged with three 'sagittarii'.

    Victoria & Albert Museum: Fifty Masterpieces of Woodwork (London, 1955), no. 18 notes that the heraldry to these panels is explicitly English, in that the central bust is flanked by 'a crowned shield bearing three lions passant guardant, from the Royal Arms of Henry VIII'. The same shields flank the bust in the panelled offered here. The motifs to the shield are, indeed, the three lions passant guardant of the Royal Arms, and it is true that during the 16th century it was commonplace, if not de rigueur, for gentle and aristocratic families to display the Royal Arms in their homes, but to say that these are the lions passant guardant from the arms of Henry VIII is open to a different interpretation. True, his arms did encompass these three lions passant guardant in the first and fourth quarters, but his arms also featured in the second and third quarters the three fleur-de-lys of France, representing the English claim to the French throne.

    The three lions were first used by Richard I (or Lionheart) from c. 1198 and used by his successors until 1340. That is to say that they were used by King John (1199 – 1216), Henry III (1216 – 1272), Edward I (1272 – 1307), Edward II (1307 – 1327), and Edward III (1327 – 1377) until 1340. In Rastell's Pastyme, this convention is observed, with Stephen given three sagittarii, and his successors up until Edward II the three lions passant guardant. Godet, following Rastell, Alle de Coninghen and another, now lost, English source, follows the same pattern in 1552 [see H. Dragstra, 'Between Customer and Court: A Brief Abstract of the Genealogie and Race of All the Kynges of England and its Lost Source' in The Library, 7th Series, Volume 9, No. 2 (June 2008).]
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