20th Century Design

Episode 9: Design Through the Ages: The Counterpart Bench and George III Coronation Chair

By Sotheby's


“Historically when a new generation moved into this house, if they needed furniture, they got the best contemporary makers to make it,” says the 12th Duke of Devonshire, adding, “we have reverted to that practice.” The result is Chatsworth’s extraordinary mix of important antiques and daring contemporary designs. One such juxtaposition: the collection of coronation furniture, assembled by generations of Cavendishes, and Counterpart, a pair of commissioned benches by Tom Price. The benches were originally created for Make Yourself Comfortable, a 2015 exhibition at Chatsworth. Price created two elegant rectangular blocks of diametrically opposed materials: One is made from luminous geological crystal that appears lit from within and was inspired by an amethyst-coloured rock crystal given to the Duchess Georgina (wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire). The other is pitch black, made from coal to absorb light. “The coal dust was to reflect the fact that in the olden days my family had coal mines,” notes the Duke. “The old and new work phenomenally well. At times it can be jarring but I think to good effect,” says Price. “Museums or houses can be quite dull when you’re always seeing something you’d expect to see in a certain place. But when you are suddenly confronted with two elements that can stop you in your tracks, that makes you question what’s around you.”

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