Inigo Jones (1573–1652), William Kent (1685-1748) and John Vardy (1718-1765) revelled in the architecture of Renaissance Italy and the Antique. Their published designs and drawings delighted wealthy patrons, who could demonstrate their sophistication having returned from cultivating Grand Tours.
The caryatid figures appear to be lifted from plate 51 of Isaac Ware’s (1704-1766) ‘Designs of Inigo Jones and Others’ (1731) (fig. 1). A Kent design for a chimneypiece and overmantel for the Saloon at Houghton Hall, only the lower section, without caryatids, was never realised. Interestingly, the satyr mask which crowns the present mirror relates closely to a table also designed by Kent for Houghton, which Vardy reproduced in ‘Some Designs of Inigo Jones and Mr William Kent’ (1744) (fig. 2). Evidently, the designer of this mirror was particularly close to Kent and his body of work, and none was more devout a follower than Vardy. A protégé of Kent, Vardy was appointed Royal Clerk of Works for the King at Greenwich in 1736 and effectively became Kent’s amanuensis.
Other elements of the design can be more firmly linked with Vardy’s own creations, in particular, the boldly carved palm fronds which are something of a leitmotif of his. Vardy designed the famous Palm Room at Spencer House, London (1756–65) and the beaded acanthus leaves as seen on the present mirror appear prominently on the Palm Room mirrors. Further, they feature prominently on a pair of mirrors designed by Vardy for the Duke of Bolton at Hackwood Park. It is perhaps these rushes or palms which had a particular resonance with Hodgkin, echoing his penchant for exotic foliage, a theme which recurs throughout his collection and artistic output.
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