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GEO-ZD60

A very important George II Statuary marble chimneypiece dating to the period 1750–1755 and representing an outstanding example of the growing influence of Rococo design on the strict formality of Palladianism.

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£ Price On Application (ex-VAT)

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Occasionally a chimney-piece is of particular interest for reasons that extend beyond its purely visual appeal. The Folly Farm chimneypiece is one such. The chimney-piece displays many outstanding intrinsic qualities that can immediately be appreciated in terms of its design, execution and the quality of the material employed in its manufacture. These aspects alone make it a chimneypiece of extraordinary quality but beyond this it also has a history or provenance that is intriguing and significant.

The chimneypiece was removed from Folly Farm, Sulhamstead, Berkshire in 2008 and its removal was only permissible following the grant of Listed Building Consent. Folly Farm is a Grade 1 listed building of considerable importance, having been originally built c. 1650 but enlarged in 1906 in a free William and Mary style by the renowned British Architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens and further enlarged by him in 1911 in a Neo Vernacular style.

The Folly Farm chimneypiece was not an original component of Lutyens design for the property and was a replacement for one that he had specifically designed but which had been removed or destroyed. Listed Building Consent was granted in order that the Folly Farm chimneypiece could be removed and a chimneypiece replicating the original Lutyens chimneypiece design could be re-instated.

Following Lutyen’s work at Folly Farm, the interiors were photographed for Country Life and published in the 1913 Country Life book “Houses and Gardens by E. L. Lutyens” and the original chimneypiece by Lutyens can be seen in situ. However by 1951 when the property was listed the Lutyens chimneypiece had been removed and its replacement mentioned as being in the “1906 Block” double height hall.

Except under the unusual circumstances described above it would be very unusual for a chimneypiece or any other significant architectural feature to be legally removed from a Grade 1 listed building.

Folly Farm had served as a Nursing Home during the 2nd World War but was acquired shortly afterwards by Hugh Waldorf Astor of the famous American Astor family, son of Lord Astor of Hever, the proprietor and chairman of The Times newspaper. Astor appreciated Folly Farm as one of the most enchanting and idiosyncratic of Lutyens houses with a marvellous garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll and his half century of stewardship saw the house and gardens regularly opened to the public. Astor undertook a series of improvements to the house following its years of institutional use and it is assumed that The Folly farm chimneypiece was installed as part of this programme of refurbishment and improvement. It is not known whether the original Lutyens chimneypiece had been damaged or was simply removed to make way for a more elaborate and impressive architectural feature.

The chimneypiece itself is handsomely proportioned and exquisitely carved in flawless Italian Statuary marble. It is one of a small number of chimneypieces that were made during the transitional period of 1750–1755 when style and taste were changing and the heavy, somewhat sombre classical decoration was being replaced by a lighter, more fanciful enrichment. This was the beginning of the French Rococo influence on English architecture which was to become ever more exuberant and exaggerated for the relatively short period during which it enjoyed popularity. A series of photographs in the archives of Country Life Magazine recording the interiors of Norfolk House, the London palace built by The Duke and Duchess of Norfolk at the time, following visits to the French Court during this period provides a striking example of the unfettered adoption of the Rococo idiom.

The Folly Farm chimneypiece is a perfect and very rare example of this early movement, incorporating from the established architectural vocabulary of the preceding period, details such as the “Dog Leg” jamb hung with beautifully rendered drapery – a feature frequently seen in the early designs of Inigo Jones and William Kent in conjunction with the new Rococo influence as seen in the flamboyantly conceived frieze panels. The centre tablet is carved with a Lion’s mask which signified strength and fortitude. An almost identical mask can be seen on a chimneypiece designed by James Paine in the Dining Room at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk, circa 1753. The central tablet is flanked by exquisitely carved frieze panels in the rococo manner with serpent heads terminating in Acanthus arabesques. The “ End Blocks “ are in the form of corbels similar to those used by William Kent in earlier chimneypieces but these are lighter and more delicately carved. The chimneypiece is surmounted by a break fronted corniced mantel shelf decorated with egg and dart, typical of the period.

Every decorative detail in the chimneypiece is executed with precision and artistry. The drapery, arabesques, central frieze tablet and corbels display the carver’s art at its very finest. Close examination of even the more commonplace shelf decoration in the form of egg and dart moulding reveals an unwavering consistency and quality in the repeating motif.

Although provenance prior to the installation of the chimneypiece at Folly Farm cannot be established, it was almost certainly the work of one of the renowned chimneypiece makers operating in London in the mid eighteenth century such as Sir Henry Cheere and the brothers Carter, Thomas and Benjamin. The chimneypieces produced in the marble yards by London’s leading Statuaries during the period displayed a degree of quality and sophistication second to none and The Folly farm chimneypiece is an outstanding example of this rich tradition.

DETAILS
overall size
1797mm W x 1524mm H
opening
1327mm W x 1016mm H
shelf
1930mm L x 292mm D
DOCUMENTATION
RELEVANT LINKS
DETAILS
overall size
1797mm W x 1524mm H
opening
1327mm W x 1016mm H
shelf
1930mm L x 292mm D
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