January 31, 05:43 PM GMT
30,000 - 50,000 USD
A George III Parcel Gilt Cream and Polychrome-Painted Papier-Maché and Giltwood Console Table attributed to Henry Clay, Circa 1780
the decoration in the manner of Cipriani and Pergolesi
height 33 in.; width 59 1/2 in.; depth 22 in.
84 cm; 151 cm; 56 cm
This console appears to form part of a group that includes at least five other recorded tables of identical model and size and sharing similar or virtually identical painted and parcel gilt decoration. One pair and a single table acquired from Frank Partridge were in the collection of Arthur H. Spero, Scarsdale, New York sold Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 5 November 1943, lots 72, 80 and 81 (one table illustrated in a photograph of Spero's dining room in Town and Country, 15 December 1930). Another pair was with the dealer C. J. Charles (Charles Joel Duveen, brother of Joseph Duveen, who traded under the name Charles of London), and later in the collections of Mrs John Rovensky, New York (sold Parke-Bernet Galleries, 15-19 January 1957, lots 968 and 969) and subsequently Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. (sold Parke-Bernet Galleries, 6-7 May 1960, lots 507 and 508). One table from the latter pair is illustrated in Herbert Cescinsky, English Furniture of the Eighteenth Century, London 1911, Vol. III p. 35 fig. 22 and in F. Lewis Hinckley, Hepplewhite, Sheraton & Regency Furniture, New York 1987, p. 185, plate 151. The central oval on the top depicts a standing male figure holding a globe and a goat, said to represent the Tropic of Capricorn, and its pair is described as painted with a female figure accompanied by a crab symbolising the Tropic of Cancer. Interestingly, the Hyde Park Console is decorated with a comparable medallion of a standing male figure holding a globe with a goat at his feet, dressed in an Levantine cap and heavy clothing and adjacent to an open fire, suggesting he could also be intended as an allegorical figure of Winter in addition to personifying the Tropic of Capricorn.
Comparable arabesque decoration on a cream and parcel gilt ground, including oval medallions of classical female figures standing in landscape backgrounds, also appears on a bonheur-du-jour formerly in the collection of the Dukes of Portland (sold Christie's London 22 April 2004, lot 100). Like the tables, the bonheur-du-jour also incorporates an anthemion border on a dark ground, a motif that occurs frequently on work by the Birmingham and Covent Garden japanner Henry Clay, including a Pembroke table supplied to the Adam-designed Etruscan Dressing Room at Osterley Park, Middlesex and a corner cupboard formerly at Shrubland Hall, Suffolk and now in the Victoria & Albert Museum. Henry Clay (fl.1772-1812) patented a formula in 1772 for 'new Improved Paper-ware’, essentially a form of papier-mâché, that he used to produce painted and lacquered trays, boxes, panels for doors, carriages and sedan chairs and table tops. Based at 18 King Street in Covent Garden, Clay described himself as 'Japanner in Ordinary to His Majesty and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales' and enjoyed great financial success, and in additional to the Royal Household his client list included Horace Walpole, the Dukes of Bedford and Northumberland and Nathaniel Curzon at Kedleston Hall (see Christopher Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, Leeds 1996, p.22).
Conservation work carried out on the Hyde Park Table in 2001 by Arlington Conservation, London, revealed that the demilune top and frieze of the Hyde Park table are constructed with papier-maché panels fixed to the carcase, strongly suggesting the hand of Henry Clay, and technical examination of the other five tables and bonheur-du-jour would be needed to determine if these works are also constructed using papier-maché panels and could all emanate from the same workshop, possibly as part of a single commission. Interestingly, Clay is now believed to have produced at least six demilune tables decorated on 'baked paper' with Italian views and classical scenes for the Earl of Bristol in 1792 (Yvonne Jones, 'A Recent Discovery of Two Papier-Maché Pier Tables by Henry Clay,' FHS Newsletter, May 2006).
The trailing husks, arabesque scrolls, anthemion frieze, winged harpies and circular reserves of putti representing Jupiter and Juno all form part of the standard 'Etruscan' ornamental repertory popularised by the fashionable neoclassical architect Robert Adam (1728-1792), and parallels the painted and stucco wall and ceiling decoration of his interiors carried out by the Italian artists Michelangelo Pergolesi and Giovanni Battista Cipriani. Pergolesi arrived in England in 1760 following Adam's return from his Continental Tour in 1754-58, and he executed the plasterwork for several of Adam's most important decorative commissions, notably the Duke of Northumberland's Long Gallery at Syon House in the mid-1760s. Many of Pergolesi's designs were published between 1777 and 1792 in a series of engravings described as 'a great variety of Original Designs of Vases, Figures, Medallions, Friezes, Pilasters, Panels (sic) and other ornaments, in the etruscan grotesque style'. The Florentine painter Cipriani (1727-1785) emigrated to England at the behest of the architect Sir William Chambers in 1755 and specialised in decorating interiors and furniture with classical and allegorical scenes and providing drawings for publishers that were widely disseminated through engravings produced by his friend and fellow Italian expatriate Francesco Bartolozzi (d.1815). Cipriani worked with both Chambers and Adam and was a founder member of the Royal Academy in 1768.