The set of four originally supplied to Sir John Chester, 4th Bt. (1666-1725/6), for Chicheley Hall, Buckinghamshire.
Thence by descent at Chicheley until sold with the house to David Field Beatty, 2nd Earl Beatty (1905-1972) in 1952.
This pair sold to Partridge Fine Art Ltd by a Beatty Family Trust in 2008, the other pair remaining with the family.
Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies archives Inventory of furniture and other goods of Sir C.B. Chester, deceased, at Chicheley, 1755 (D-C/4/75)
Marcus Binney, 'Chicheley Hall, Buckinghamshire - III', Country Life, 27 February 1975, pp. 498-501, figs. 6 & 7.
Christopher Gilbert, The Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, Leeds, 1986, p.661
The magnificent baroque house, Chicheley Hall, for which these mirrors were originally commissioned, was built for Sir John Chester, 4th Bt. (1666-1725/6) to designs by Francis Smith of Warwick between 1719 and 1723. The mirrors appear to have been designed for a large drawing room on the first floor of the house, where there is evidence of a decorative scheme, the capitals of the pilasters reflecting the carving of berried and fruited clusters of flowers on the sides of the mirror frames.
The mirrors, according to Sir John's account book, appear to have been supplied by a mysterious Mr. Odell, Sir John recording in August 1722, 'Paid Mr. Odell his bill for Glasses - gold carved frames Executed...Tax and Carriage £132.0.0'. Nothing beyond his work at Chicheley is known about Odell, his first commission which involved silvering and framing glasses was settled in February 1710 at the relatively meagre cost of £2. A decade passes before he is next recorded, his prices increasing substantially when in the April prior to the payment of the current pair he was paid £10 for two sconces in burnished gilt frames. In 1724 a further bill was settled amounting to £24. 12s. in return for gilt tables, frames and glass. A further invoice in 1725 was submitted for the supply of a coach costing £105 (see Christopher Gilbert, The Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, Leeds, 1986, p.661).
`An Inventory of the household furniture plate China Jappan & Linnen of the late Sr Charles Bagot Chester Bart Deceas'd taken at his late seat at Chichley In the County of Bucks, June ye 10. 1755' (see Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, op. cit. D-C/4/75) lists five mirrors in the following locations, four of which may be the same supplied by Mr Odell in 1722. However the last entry in the `Ladys drawing room' would appear to be inconsistent with the dimensions of the present mirrors:
In the Best Bedchamber
A Large Pier Glass in a Gilt Frame
In the Blew Mohair Bedchamber
A Large Sconce in a Gilt frame
In the Dining Room
2 Large pier Glasses in Glass & Guilt frames
In the Ladys drawing room
A Large Pier Glass carved & Guilt & glass frame 28½ by 52 & a pr of old double Brass arms
Inspired by French designs of the late 17th or early 18th century, the mirrors were undoubtedly designed to form part of a larger decorative scheme within Chicheley. Sir John's very conscious decision over the form of both the building and the interiors would have been inspired and surely aided by his association with William Kent whose studies in Rome were partly funded by Sir John. The inspiration of French interiors is particularly relevant when considering the unusual commission of four mirrors, Marcus Binney noting in Country Life, op.cit, 'it would be interesting to know if they were intended from the start to hang opposite each other, as Lord Beatty arranged them; if so it would be an early instance of the French fashion for creating endless reflections.'
The mirrors, whilst of a fairly conforming form and shape to others dating to a similar period, are executed to a very sophisticated design and taste, the carved garlands to the sides and the scroll-bevelled plates to the corners set them apart from many contemporary examples. The closest documented examples known from a similar date are those supplied to John Mellor at Erddig in the 1720s which are illustrated by Martin Drury, 'Early Eighteenth-Century Furniture at Erddig', Apollo, July 1978, p. 48, fig. 3 and p. 49, fig. 4, which were supplied by John Belchier and John Pardoe respectively. A further undocumented mirror with marginal eared plates displaying the scrolled bevel to the ears is illustrated in Graham Child, World Mirrors, 1650-1900, London, 1990, p. 77, fig. 48. A further mirror illustrated in Child, op.cit, p. 74, fig. 44, shares similar faceted square mirrored blocks to the Chicheley mirrors.
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