SOLD BY ORDER OF THE TRUSTEES OF THE 10TH EARL OF HARRINGTON'S WILL TRUST
London, Christie's King Street, 'Treasures of the North', 13th January - 13th February 2000, no. 111.
Manchester, The Whitworth Art Gallery, 'Treasures of the North', 25th February - 9th April 2000, no. 111.
Terence Rodrigues Ed., Treasures of the North, Exhibition Catalogue, London, p. 149, no. 111.
Peter Ward-Jackson, English Furniture Designs of the Eighteenth Century, London, 1958, fig.92.
Christopher Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978;
P. 67, fig. 103, the 'Panshanger Cabinets', displaying similar marquetry to the central lower doors and ram's mask mounts.
p. 125, figs. 221 and 222, a fustic and marquetry commode supplied for Lady Winn's Bedchamber at Nostell Priory.
p. 128, fig. 229 for the commode in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight.
Lucy Wood, Catalogue of Commodes, London, 1994, no. 20, pp. 180-190.
Terence Rodrigues Ed., Treasures of the North, Exhibition Catalogue, London, p. 148, no. 110, a commode attributed to Chippendale in a private collection with similar gilt-brass mounts.
This magnificent 'pier commode table' demonstrates Thomas Chippendale's genius as a designer and his ability to both define, and conform with, the current tastes. Thus, having successfully promoted his designs from the mid-1750s through contrasting Gothic, Chinese and French tastes he naturally adopted the more refined neoclassical 'antique' decoration of the late 1760s that was furiously promoted by King George III, his Court architect Sir William Chambers and Robert Adam. The final decade of his life culminated in what is arguably his greatest commission, a neoclassical triumph, that for Sir Edwin Lascelles at Harewood House, Yorkshire. The serpentine form of the present commode slightly predates many of Chippendale's most celebrated neoclassical pieces, the rectilinear furniture at Harewood, and the renowned commode supplied for Melbourne House, London (now at Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire) in the early 1770s. However, there are undoubtedly similarities in the design and treatment of the marquetry to his Harewood commission, the rosette-centred interlaced banding found to the frieze here is almost identical in design to the bandings on the metamorphic library steps at Harewood, whilst the ribbon-tied bellflower garlands on the sides of the current commode are very similarly conceived to those on the famous dressing-commode supplied to Lascelles. The urn to the front doors of the current commode closely resembles the design of the urn on the central lower panel of the widely published Panshanger cabinets, which also share the concave sides, ram-mask mounts and oak-leaf wreaths to the frieze that are apparent on the Harrington commode. The similarities to the commode supplied to Viscount Melbourne for the house designed by Sir William Chambers on Piccadilly are also evident when compared with the current example. The concave sides are once again flanked by ram-headed mounts above which sit near identical scroll-topped capitals issuing four pendant husks. The marquetry to the sides displays rosettes within concave-sided lozenges as apparent to the top of the Harrington commode. Furthermore, the commode supplied by Chippendale for Lady Winn's Bedchamber at Nostell Priory, Yorkshire, whilst of a slightly more rococo form, displays similarly shaped and double-crossbanded doors, with a fustic ground and likewise a rosette-centred top with foliate scrolls to the sides inset into the magnificently figured fustic veneers.
Direct comparison must be made with the commode in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, illustrated by Lucy Wood, Catalogue of Commodes, London, 1994, no. 20, pp. 180-190 along with a commode, possibly the pair to the Lady Lever example, sold Christie's London, 6 July 1995, lot 152. Whist straight fronted, both these commodes display a similarly conceived form, a drawer (in the Harrington example this is a false drawer) over a pair of cupboard doors, flanked by similar mounts to those on the current commode. The feet on these two are very similar in form to the Harrington commode and also appear on The Messer Commode, although in this instance in carved mahogany and not embellished with gilded mounts, sold Christie's London, 5 December 1991, lot 130. These all derive from a design by Chippendale held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, The Rogers Fund, 1920 [20.40.2(61)] and also a design that was published in the 1762 (third) edition of his Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, no. LXVIII, as designs for 'A French Commode' and reproduced in Peter Ward-Jackson, English Furniture Designs of the 18th Century, London, 1958, pl. 92. In Chippendale's notes to this design he comments 'The Ornaments may be Brass; That on the Right hath two Doors, which represent Drawers, and a long Drawer above: ' Chippendale's own inspiration appears to have derived from Louis XIV's reign in France and the designs of Jean Berain (d.1711) who published a design for a commode with strikingly similar foot in L'Oeuvre Complet de Jean Berain, Paris, n.d., pl.88.
The above comparisons together with the types of timber employed and the remarkable quality of the workmanship on this commode suggest that this piece almost certainly originated in Chippendale's St. Martin's Lane workshops.
A POSSIBLE HARRINGTON/HAREWOOD CONNECTION
Unfortunately the original commission or the point at which this commode entered the collection of the Earls of Harrington currently remains undiscovered. It would appear unlikely that it was commissioned by the Stanhope family, both William Stanhope, the 2nd Earl of Harrington (1719-1779) and Charles his son and later 3rd Earl (1753-1829) were military men without substantial wealth, the 2nd Earl dying with considerable debts, embroiled in legal negotiations. However, a possible introduction of the commode into Harrington ownership is through the marriage of the 3rd Earl to Jane Fleming (1755-1824), eldest daughter of Sir John Fleming, 1st Bart., (1701-1763) of Brompton Park, Middlesex and Jane Colman (1732-1813), a niece of the 8th Duke of Somerset. Upon her father's death in 1763, Jane Fleming inherited an extraordinary £100,000 fortune. Her mother subsequently married Edwin Lascelles, later 1st Baron Harewood (1713-1795), one of Chippendale's most important patrons. They had no children of their own and as such there is an intriguing and tempting connection between the current commode and Lascelles.
Charles Stanhope, married Jane Fleming on 23rd May 1779, barely more than six weeks following the death of his father and his accession as the 3rd Earl of Harrington. The new Countess of Harrington generously settled her new husband's debts and re-purchased the former Harrington London home, Harrington House in St. James's Stable Yard, where Robert Adam had previously been commissioned for a design for a Dressing Room circa 1770 which was probably executed (see Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, 3rd Edition, Yale, 1995, p. 57). Shortly before her marriage Jane Fleming's mother, now Jane Lascelles, commissioned a portrait of her daughter from Sir Joshua Reynolds, now held in the collection of The Huntington Library, California. This is of interest as this picture is known to have reverted to the Countess of Harrington upon the death of her mother as other pieces may have done so. Edwin Lascelles' will stipulated that his widow was to retain all the 'Pictures and furniture which belonged to her before our marriage, or which she has since purchased or acquired, in which ever of my houses the same may be'. Furthermore, the Countess' mother, Jane, Baroness Dowager Harewood bequeathed '...all my Jewels Watches Rings Trinkets Gold and Silver Plate useful and ornamental China Pictures Prints and all my household Furniture Books Linen Carriage live and dead Stock and other effects...in and about my houses in Portman Square and Sunning Hill (not before specifically bequeathed) In trust for my dearest beloved Jane, Countess of Harrington...' (extract of Probate of Will [22 Feb 1811] of Jane, Baroness Dowager Harewood, 14 May 1813, held in Derbyshire Record Office, Matlock, D664 M/F 22). Unfortunately no further documentary evidence has surfaced regarding the pieces that were bequeathed by the Baroness Dowager Harewood. Whether this commode once furnished one of her and Edwin Lascelles' homes may escape conclusion. Other important furniture was and is however evident in the Harrington Collection where it is unknown at what point it was acquired, in particular a large part of the famed Palm Room suite by Vardy supplied to the 1st Earl Spencer for Spencer House, some of which was sold by the 11th Earl of Harrington at Sotheby's London on 8th November 1963.