Supplied under the direction of William Kent to William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire (1698-1755), for the Second Drawing Room, later part of the The Ballroom, Devonshire, House, Piccadilly, London
A chimneypiece in the Red Velvet room at Lord Burlington's Chiswick Villa, designed by William Kent in the 1730s, shares corbels and jambs of a nearly identical design and proportion to those on the offered lot (see John Harris, The Palladian Revival, Lord Burlington, His Villa and Garden at Chiswick, 1994, pl. 95). It appears that Kent has once again borrowed elements from Inigo Jones, for certain features on the current chimneypiece demonstrate similarly conceived bold scrolling foliage to the frieze, the designs for which were published by John Vardy, Some Designs of Mr Inigo Jones and Mr Wm Kent, 1744, p. 11, 13 and 14. In several of the Jones chimneypiece designs the recurring decorative devices of masks and cartouches also appear. It is also almost identical to one by William Kent, installed in the Green Drawing Room at 10 Downing Street, residence of the British Prime Minister (see Anthony Seldon, 10 Downing Street, London, 1999, p. 52, 53). In 1732 King George II presented three properties to Sir Robert Walpole who accepted on the condition that they be a gift to the office of First Lord of the Treasury, rather than to him personally. It was Kent to whom Walpole turned to combine these buildings into the structure that we see today.
The frieze on the offered chimneypiece is interspersed with sunflowers, a motif that is echoed on the Summer Parlour ceiling at Chiswick which also employs scrolled cartouches of a similar form to that framing the mask on this central frieze tablet (see Harris op. cit., p. 177, fig. 106). The sunflower is representative of warmth, nourishment and power and also infatuation. In Greek mythology the sunflower stems from Clytie, a water nymph, who falls in love with Apollo but is consistently ignored. Taking pity, the other gods transformed Clytie into a sunflower in the hope of garnering the attention of Apollo.
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