Chimneypieces at Sotheby’s

Posted in Art Market by Editor on September 6, 2010

Press Release (PDF) from Sotheby’s:

Chesney’s Chimneypieces and Fire Furniture, Sale L10311
Sotheby’s New Bond Street, London, 14 September 2010

Chimney piece, designed by G.B. Borra c.1755, from one of London’s great “Lost Palaces” Norfolk House, in St James’s square. Estimate: £200,000-300,000

On Tuesday, September 14, Sotheby’s will hold its first-ever sale dedicated entirely to antique chimneypieces and fire grates. The sale –among the first of its kind at a leading auction house – will bring to the market some 200 rare, important and unusual pieces, ranging in date from the 1600s to the 19th century, and emanating from all corners of Europe. Amassed with a discerning eye over a period of some 25 years by Paul Chesney, founder of the leading eponymous fireplace suppliers, the pieces to be sold represent almost the entire antique stock of the company. With the business now focusing on its increasingly international operation of producing and supplying fine reproduction fireplaces, the company’s antique stock is to be released onto the market in a vast sale that will occupy almost all of Sotheby’s New Bond Street gallery space. While the sale as a whole will allow for an overview of chimneypiece design over the course of some 300 years, many of the individual pieces to be offered have interesting stories to tell: some are pieces of great architectural importance; some demonstrate the extraordinary craftsmanship of names such as Robert Adam; some are quirky and unusual; and all are fine examples of their period.

The Norfolk House Chimney Piece
This extraordinary example of the best in fireplace design and execution was, for over half-century, believed to be lost. The crisp, fluently carved piece was once the centerpiece of the Saloon, or “Green Damask Room,” in one of London’s most celebrated “private palaces”: Norfolk House. This splendid palace, the interiors of which were “infinitely superior to anything in this Kingdom… and to most things… in Europe” (Capt. William Farrington, 1748) was built between 1748 and 1752 on the site of an earlier house (also Norfolk House).

While each of the rooms was decorated in a slightly different manner, it was – thanks to the influence of the incurable Francophile Mary, 9th Duchess of Norfolk – the rococo style that dominated. But even the wildest dreams of the indomitable Duchess (or “My Lord Duchess,” as Horace Walpole referred to her) could not have been made real without the creative genius of Italian architect Giovanni Battista Borra (1713-1770), who was responsible for almost every decorative detail inside the house, from the grimacing monkeys above the doorcases in the ballroom, to the rococo extravagance of the Music Room (“the most fluent expression of the rococo to be found in England,” now fully recreated in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London), to the fireplace that, long considered to be lost, now forms the centerpiece of September’s sale. (more…)

Current Issue of ‘The Art Bulletin’

Posted in books, journal articles by Editor on September 6, 2010

Eighteenth-century coverage in the current issue of The Art Bulletin 92 (September 2010):

Richard Taws, “Material Futures: Reproducing Revolution in P.-L. Debucourt’s Almanach National,” pp. 169-87.

Abstract: Philibert-Louis Debucourt’s 1790 Almanach national, intended to serve as a frame for a pasted calendar for the subsequent year, is a unique combination of allegory and everyday scene. Dominated by a bas-relief representing the National Assembly, the image presents responses to the French Revolution organized in terms of race, age, and social class and features a singular representation of a female newspaper vendor at work. Debucourt’s image effectively mobilizes print to conceptualize the reproduction of Revolution across temporal and national boundaries, providing a means of thinking about the relation between Revolutionary time and the materiality of the image.

Darius A. Spieth, “Giandomenico Tiepolo’s Il Mondo Nuovo: Peep Shows and the ‘Politics of Nostalgia’,” pp. 188-210.

Abstract: What was the historiography of Il mondo nuovo, a fresco painted in 1791 by Giandomenico Tiepolo? How did its title emerge? Giandomenico likely found the inspiration for his subject in popular entertainment on Venice’s Piazzetta. The houselike structure in the fresco’s middle ground—a peep show—had been labeled il mondo nuovo by the eighteenth-century playwright Carlo Goldoni. Yet the fresco was not named until after 1906. Art historian Pompeo Molmenti introduced the Goldoni-inspired title, his efforts seconded by Corrado Ricci, a powerful art administrator. Both were steeped in the “politics of nostalgia,” associated with the Italian Aesthetic movement.

Satish Padiyar, Review of Erika Naginski’s Sculpture and Enlightenment, pp. 256-58.

“. . . This ambitious book is the result of a productive interaction between the new cultural history, which has sought to rethink a history of cultural objects and practices beyond disciplinary confines, art histories of French sculpture and architecture, the history of philosophy, and the study of iconoclasm, or demonumentalizing acts of destruction. Over the last twenty years, the sculptural work of Augustin Pajou, Jean-Antoine Houdon, Clodion, Pierre Julien, and Jean Guillaume Moitte has received monographic and curatorial attention: it is thus no longer true to say that eighteenth-century French sculpture is a neglected field. But a careful reframing of key sculptural projects (either realized or planned) within the shift from a theological to a secular idea of immortality, leading to the radical minimalism of sculpture produced during the French Revolution, is long overdue — and very welcome. It begins to do for the eighteenth-century French public funerary monument what has already been achieved so impressively for the British . . .”

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