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Lot 1: A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU-MOUNTED APPLE-GREEN SEVRES PORCELAIN ASSEMBLED GARNITURE (VASE ET GOBELETS
Two Late Regency Collectors Philip John Miles and George Byng 1815-45
June 9, 2005
London, United Kingdom
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU-MOUNTED APPLE-GREEN SEVRES PORCELAIN ASSEMBLED GARNITURE (VASE ET GOBELETS A MONTER)
THE PORCELAIN CIRCA 1769, TWO WITH BLUE INTERLACED L'S MARKS, THE CENTRAL VASE WITH INDISTINCT DATE LETTER 'Q' FOR 1769 AND AN UNIDENTIFIED PAINTER'S MARK, ONE SMALLER VASE WITH INDISTINCT DATE LETTER AND PAINTER'S MARK 'P' FOR JEAN-JACQUES PIERRE, LE JEUNE, THE MOUNTS CIRCA 1770-75
Comprising:- a central two-handled vase with pine cone finial above a rope-twist and fluted collar issuing mille-raies panelled pierced handles with lion mask terminal, the body decorated with rose sprays within gilt foliate borders above a milled cup and acanthus and laurel bound socle, on a square plinth, faint crack to the base of the bowl; together with a matched pair of vase oeuf each with berried finial above a domed lid, the body similarly decorated, the pierced fluted and acanthus collar flanked by pierced twin scroll handles, on a spirally- fluted socle and guilloche moulded plinth, the cut corner square base with inset panels, one pounced, the other with mille-raies, each lid with old repair
The larger - 10 3/4 in. (27.5 cm.); the smaller - 8 in. (20.5 cm.) (3)
PHILIP JOHN MILES
Philip John Miles was born in 1773, the son of William Miles and Anne Barrow. Of Herefordshire stock, Miles senior travelled early in life to make his fortune in the sugar trade in Jamaica, before returning to England as a merchant in Bristol in 1766. At the time, Bristol was England's second city - its port dominating the Irish and West Indian trade, as well as being the principal centre for the slave trade. Miles assimilated himself rapidly into the city's prosperous merchant community, and was elected Mayor in 1780.
Philip John Miles continued the commercial enterprises of his father, both as a West Indian proprietor and ship owner. The family also diversified into banking - 'Miles, Miles, Harford, Miles and Miles, bankers of Bristol' - eventually dominating the bank established in 1752 by Thomas Goldney & Co., which became known as the Miles Bank, of which Philip John Miles was senior partner between 1794-1845. A Conservative politician, Miles also sat as MP for Westbury, Wiltshire (1820-26), Corfe Castle (1829-1832) and Bristol (1835-1837).
The first recorded millionaire citizen of Bristol, Miles invested widely in both commercial and residential property; aside from a substantial house and other properties in Bristol, he also owned No. 7 Hamilton Place, London. The lion's share of his fortune and attention, however, was lavished on his two country seats, Leigh Court, Bristol which he bought in 1811, and King's Weston in Gloucestershire, a Baroque masterpiece by John Vanbrugh, which he bought for the enormous sum of £210,000 in 1833.
Leigh Court - or Anor of Leigh - was founded as a monastery in 1143. Remaining monastic property until the Dissolution in 1536, the estate was transferred to Henry VIII's new Bishop of Bristol, Paul Bush. On his death it passed again to Sir George Norton of Bristol, who built the original Tudor house at Leigh in 1558. Miles acquired the impoverished estate from J.W. Hippisley Trenchard in 1811 and the old Tudor house was swiftly razed to the ground. In its place rose an uncompromising essay in Grecian revival architecture, executed entirely in Bath stone to designs by Thomas Hopper in 1815, its severe exterior only relieved by two Ionic porticoes and a garden loggia on the East side. Its Parkland was simultaneously refashioned in the latest taste by Humphrey Repton.
The interiors of Leigh echoed the Greek revival vein, but were embellished with lighter touches of 'Louis Quatorze' revival. Dr Waagen who visited the 'splendid mansion', reported 'I rejoice to see what has been done here in various ways, with refined taste'. Rich classical plasterwork decorated the principal rooms, with a 'riot of anthemion ornament' similar in style to Hopper's work at Amesbury Abbey, Wiltshire. The ground floor of Leigh Court consisted of a suite of eight public rooms set in a square surrounding a central Staircase Hall, which rose to the full height of the house and contained a magnificent double staircase which swept up to a first floor gallery, lit by a painted glass dome and supported by twenty marble columns. The hall, dominated by a unique organ built by Flight and Robson of London which played Mozart to visitors of the house, inspired a late nineteenth century visitor to comment that immediately upon entering the great Hall 'The visitor sees that he is in the abode of taste and luxury.'
An inveterate collector and connoisseur, Miles was perfectly placed to capitalise on the swathe of collections that came onto the art market as a result of the vagaries of luck, financial impropriety and inheritance during the first half of the 19th century. Particularly drawn to celebrity sales, he was geographically well placed to capitalise on such legendary sales as Wanstead in 1822, William Beckford's at Fonthill in 1823, where he bought seven lots including the magnificent Empress Josephine centre table from Malmaison (P. Hewat-Jaboor, B. McLeod et al., William Beckford An Eye for the Magnificent, London, 2001, no.88, p.3620), and the the Watson-Taylor sale at Erlestoke Mansion, Wiltshire.
The watercolour of the Morning Room at Leigh Court circa 1845, preserved in the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, as well as the black and white photographs prior to the sale of the estate in 1915, give a lucid visual record of the sumptuous 'Louis' white and gold interiors created at Leigh. They also lay bare his 'antiquarian' taste. His motivation, in part was no doubt to give a sense of 'antiquity' to the family's new-found fortune. Thus, fashionable Regency furniture in the latest taste is juxtaposed with earlier Georgian gilt-gesso chairs and tables of 1715-30, as well as Regency 'Kent revival' furniture. Much of this apparent anomaly is explained by Miles' compulsive purchases at the Wanstead sale in 1822 (see introduction to lot 20). The watercolour also reveals his conscious 'antiquarianism' in the rich crimson floral damasks and 'turkey work' upholstery of the seat-furniture. The impression is one of heavy opulence - the elaborate architraves and stucco fusing Louis Quatorze and Italian Baroque motifs in a unique interpretation of the French Grecian taste, masculine in its heaviness, which in many ways pre-empts the Crace dynasty.
The Morning Room also reveals Miles' considerable appetite for Old Master Pictures. In 1815, as Leigh Court was nearing completion, Miles purchased an eminent collection of predominantly Dutch and Italian paintings from Richard Hart Davis (1766-1842). Hart Davis, Member of Parliament for Bristol, is recorded as Miles's 'partner in business'. Foremost amongst these were the celebrated Altieri Claudes; The Landing of Aeneas and The Sacrifice of Apollo, now at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. These two paintings had been acquired privately by William Beckford of Fonthill for £7,000 in 1790; Beckford subseqently sold them to Hart Davis for £12,000 only shortly before Mile's purchase. Also from Beckford (via Hart Davis) was The Calling of Abraham by Poussin from the Palazzo Colonna, alongside treasures from Hart Davis' own collection, such as The Conversion of St. Paul by Rubens and St. John the Evangelist in a Vision by Domenichino, which Miles was reputed to have purchased from Hart Davis for the extraordinary price of 12,000 guineas.
Having bought the Hart Davis pictures en bloc, Miles continued to expand his holdings, in particular at the Henry Hope sale in 1816 with The Vision of St. Jerome by Parmigianino, Saint John writing the Revelation by Murillo, Woman taken in Adultery by Rubens and Diana and Acteon by Annibale Carracci. Perhaps equal to the Altieri Claude's in fame, however, was Miles' Raphael predella panel from the Grand Altarpiece for the Convent of the Nuns of St. Antonio of Padua at Perugia, painted by Raphael in 1505. In 1663 this and five other predella panels were sold to Queen Christina of Sweden for 601 scudi, before entering the Duke of Orléans' Collection, which was sold in London in 1798.
In 1822 John Young produced an illustrated catalogue of the pictures at Leigh Court, and Waagen's commentary of 1838 - full of admiration - no doubt created further demand for tours. Miles opened Leigh Court to public visitors on Thursdays, admission tickets being obtained from Miles' Bank, 61 Queen Square, Bristol. In total, Miles is believed to have spent £100,000 on the picture collection alone. Largely dispersed in sales at Christie's in 1884 and 1899, no less than five pictures in the 1884 sale were bought for the National Gallery by Sir Frederick Burton.
Miles married twice. Firstly, in 1795, he married Maria Wetham (d. 20 July 1811), daughter of the Very Rev. Arthur Wetham, Dean of Lismore. They had one son and three daughters, of whom William, a partner in the Miles bank, was created 1st Baronet 19 April 1859. Miles' second marriage, to Clarissa Peach, took place on 11 May 1813. She was the daughter of Samuel Peach of Tockington, Gloucestershire and together they had four daughters.
Miles died on 24 March 1845, aged 72, leaving an estate valued at more than a million pounds. His son William, the 1st Baronet, inherited the Leigh Court estate and was succeeded in turn by his son Philip John William Miles and his grandson, Cecil Miles. Cecil Miles died without issue, and Leigh thus passed to his uncle Henry Robert William Miles, following whose death in 1915 the estate was disbanded and sold to settle crippling death duties.
In 1859, Philip John Miles' granddaughter Florence had married the Hon. Rev. Francis Edmund Byng, later 5th Earl of Strafford. Their eldest son, the 6th Viscount Enfield acted as the executor for his mother's will in 1915, and it was through this union that so many of the treasures from Leigh Court found their way into the collections of the Byng family, Earls of Strafford.
GEORGE BYNG, M.P.
The great Palladian mansion at Wrotham Park was designed circa 1754 by Isaac Ware (d.1766) for that unfortunate victim of 'Judicial murder' Admiral John Byng (d.1757). Executed by firing squad on the quarterdeck of HMS Monarque in Portsmouth Harbour in 1757 for the loss of Menorca, it was Byng's demise that prompted Voltaire's celebrated quip:'Dans ce pays-ci il est bon de temps en temps de tuer un amiral pour encourager les autres'. The Admiral had been the fourth son of another Admiral Sir George Byng, whose victory over the Spanish fleet off Cape Pessaro earned him the Viscouncy of Torrington in 1721 (lot 99). Although less successful as a naval commander than his father, he obviously amassed enough prize money to purchase the Kick's End estate around 1750, which he renamed Wrotham after the place of origin of the Byng family. Though the Admiral probably never lived there, his memory is sustained by architectural allusions to his naval career. Thus the Great Portico of the façade proudly displays a carved tympanum of Neptune with attendant sea nymphs, and these nautical references continued inside the house in two chimneypieces designed by Ware which displayed maritime subjects, as well as on the celebrated Mathias Lock picture frame for his portrait by Thomas Hudson (T. Knox, 'Wrotham Park, Hertfordshire - 1', Country Life, 14 February 2002, fig.2).
Admiral Byng, a bachelor, left his property to a nephew, George Byng (d.1789), who probably completed the fitting-up of the house. He certainly extended the park, enclosing fifty-three acres of the Royal domain of Enfield Chase in 1770. In 1761 he married Ann, the daughter of the famous Speaker Connolly of Castletown, Co. Kildare and it was her mother, Lady Anne Wentworth, who was sister and co-heiress of the 2nd Earl of Strafford of the second creation (lots 77-79).
Their son, George Byng was born 17 May 1764 and inherited Wrotham upon his father's death in 1789. Although his father had made some improvements with the creation of new State Appartments, in 1810-12 George Byng 'augmented the commodiousness of his residence by raising the two wings; the effect will be greatly heightened if the building be covered with stucco according to a design presently entertained' (Brewer).
George Byng had been educated at Westminster (1773-80) and in 1797 married Harriet, 8th daughter of Sir William Montgomery, 1st Baronet of Macbie Hill, Peebles. A member of the Whig club and Brooks's in 1789, he led a successful political career, retaining his seat as MP for Middlesex for 56 years and becoming Father of the House of Commons. His Whig principles were obviously popular and in a Parliamentary dinner commemorating his 50th year of service he was complemented as: 'a fine old English Gentleman, full of humour and benignity'.
Byng was also one of the wealthiest Whig commissioners of his time - Faringdon calculated his income at £20,000 a year - and he subscribed £500 in 1793 to assist in the settling of Fox's debts (see lot 90). Though his political activities are not intimately connected to his art collecting, it is perhaps no coincidence that Byng was consistently opposed to the French war throughout the 1790s and in 1815 voted against a war of extermination against Bonaparte.
Byng was an avaricious collector - as the manuscript 'List of Furniture, Porcelain, Paintings & C., purchased by George Byng Esq. for Wrotham Park 1816-43' testifies. To accommodate his burgeoning art collection, Byng instigated significant improvements to both Wrotham and St. James's Square. Interestingly, the 1847 Inventories display a remarkable consistency in taste for objets d'art, buhl and Sèvres porcelain-mounted furniture as well as Old Master Pictures - both in London and the country. The French furniture he acquired - much of which was purchased on at least four trips to Paris - typified the fashionable 'gout' expounded by the marchand-mercier Edward Holmes Baldock, to whom he is known to have gone as early as 1829. Improvements were certainly well under way by 1816, when Brewer visited Wrotham: 'The interior comprises a very noble suite of principal apartments well adapted to the purposes of dignified entertainment; the pictures which adorn this capacious family residence are selected with much good taste and liberality.'
The pictures at Wrotham were dominated by works from the Italian, Dutch and Flemish schools, and led Waagen to comment in 1838 'His treasures greatly exceeded my expectations'. The collection of paintings including works by Domenichino, Murillo, Pieter de Hooch, Ribera, Parmigianino, Paul Bril and Annibale Carracci were all bought in sales in the first half of the 19th century, along with contemporary artists like George Hayter. Described somewhat unjustly as 'a thorough-bred, true-hearted gentleman yet neither learned, eloquent, nor profound' in his obituary, George Byng's lasting legacy as a Collector has stood the test of time.
The remarkable - and hitherto unpublished series of amateur watercolours of the interiors at Wrotham, executed by Jaen Paris in the 1840s, underline just how little the Collections have changed in the intervening period in spite of what was to follow. This included further improvements undertaken by George Stevens Byng, Viscount Enfield (d.1886) under the watchful eye of Cubitt & Company, working in conjunction with the London firm of upholsterers and decorators Morant & Boyd in the 1850s. Elevated as 3rd Earl of Strafford in 1860, it was to Cubitt & Co. that Lord Strafford again turned following the disastrous fire of March 1883, when almost all of the bulding was razed to the ground. Miraculously, the magnificent collection was preserved almost unscathed, the result no doubt of rigorous fire drills.
On the death of the 2nd Earl of Strafford, he was succeeded by his son, George 3rd Earl. However, whilst the Heirlooms were entailed, the late Earl's personal fortune and non-heirloom possessions were left to his widow Harriet. According to the new Lady Strafford, she and her daughters stripped Wrotham of 'everything, all the furniture, all the 'plenishings', down to the most homely items', including door mats; 'what they carried off filled 8 vans'. Thankfully the rapacity of the 2nd Earl's widow was curtailed by the Heirloom status of the best items in the Collection and thus the legacy has stayed remarkably untouched since George Byng's demise in 1847.
Frustratingly no inventories survive of Leigh Court - and the only archival material that has so far come to light in relation to Miles' buying activity is an undated late 19th or early 20th century list of 'Pictures at Leigh Court', cross-referred with John Young's 'Catalogue' of 1822, with a purchase date, price and collection it came from, if known, and a sold date and price.
In contrast, a reasonably comprehensive picture of George Byng's collecting activity is made possible by the remarkable survival of key documents in the family archive. From an art historical point of view, by far the most illuminating document is the handwritten 'List of Furniture, Porcelain, Paintings & C., purchased by George Byng, Esq, for Wrotham Park 1816-43'. Although it survives today only in photocopied form, it provides a perfect insight into the machinations of the art market in the early 19th century. Two variants exist: the first, presumably in George Byng's own hand, is accompanied with occasional marginal drawings, references by name to some of the dealers in Paris during his visits of 1816-1817, and occasionally identifying the actual vendors at auction (for instance at the Christie's 'Chevalier Francchi' sale (lot 31), for which there is a marginal reference Mr Beckford). The second version, in a clearer hand but somewhat abbreviated, was presumably written from the original at a slightly later date as a 'daybook' copy. The acquisition lists are not without problems, however, as many of the original sale catalogues are untraceable, particularly Oxenham's. This is compounded by the fact that Byng's chronology is not always accurate - the Franchi/Beckford agate cup (lot 30), for instance, being listed as a purchase in 1823 rather than 1827. Nor are the lists comprehensive, as we know that he purchased pieces within the 1816-43 period at Christie's directly - particularly silver, such as the Queen Charlotte silver (lots 16-17) - which do not appear in his acquisition lists. Moreover, whilst some sales are named in person both by vendor as well as auctioneer, there is frequently no clear distinction between one sale and the next. Such faults aside, however, the acquisition lists are a rare and fascinating survival. An 'Inventory of Plate and Jewels belonging to Mr. Byng' carried out by Messrs. Garrard & Co. in 1847 at least goes some way to redressing the problem of silver and plate - as does the 1887 Inventory of Pictures and Plate created Heirloom under the will of the late George Stevens Byng, Earl of Strafford, December 1887. Where the description is sufficient to identify an object only the earliest dated Inventory reference is used.
Inventories also contribute enormously to our understanding of the expanding Collections at St. James's Square and Wrotham Park. The comprehensive 1847 Inventories are particularly revealing of George Byng's taste and, combined with the series of interior watercolours by Jane Paris of the 1840s, they underline just how little the Collections have changed in the intervening period. The 1847 Inventories suggest that the same attention and capital was lavished both in London and the country, with a directly parallel scheme of furnishing for each house. The 1847 Inventory - and subsequent 1883 and 1887 annotations - are also fundamental in working out what entered the Strafford Collections after the Leigh Court inheritance in 1915.
GEORGE BYNG'S ACQUISITIONS 1815-29
Jean-Jacques Pierre, le jeune was a painter of flowers, patterns and gilder active 1763-1800
VASES À MONTER
The Sèvres factory produced vases à monter, or vases intended to be fitted with ormolu mounts, beginning in around 1764. The main three forms of such vases assembled into garnitures were tapering cylindrical (of two differing dimensions) and egg-shaped. These finished glazed vases were sold largely to marchand-merciers who then embellished them with mounts. The earlier vases were glazed in solid ground colours, although invoices exist for pieces decorated with green and blue grounds scattered with foliate wreaths centered by roses by 1770.
These vases bear mounts of one of five basic styles. This indicates in all likelihood that the marchand-merciers who purchased the vases à monter produced their own signature mounts. A complete garniture incorporating a pair of egg-form vases, a pair of small cylindrical and one large cylindrical vase is in the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford (see Linda H. Roth and Clare Le Corbeiller, French Eighteenth Century Porcelain at the Wadsworth Atheneum: The J. Pierpont Morgan Collection, 2000, p 156, fig 74.).
A three-piece garniture, formerly in the collection of Mme. Jules Fribourg, is illustrated in S. Eriksen, Early Neo-Classicism in France, 1974, p. 363, fig 242. Eriksen refers to an identical pair of vases, part of a garniture and also bearing the date letter 'q' for 1769, sold in the Erich von Goldschmidt-Rothschild sale, Berlin, 23 March 1931, lot 206. Other examples of vases include:- a pair from the Keck Collection, La Lanterne, Bel Air, California, sold Sotheby's, New York, 5-6 December 1991, lot 225; a pair sold Christie's London, 17 June 1987, lot 32; another pair, formerly part of a garniture, with apple-green ground from the collection of the Late Earl of Sefton and sold by Christie's at Croxteth Hall, Liverpool, 17-20 September 1973, lot 908 and again Christie's London, 5 July 1984, lot 13; a three-piece garniture, again with apple-green ground sold from the Jaime Ortiz-Patiño Collection, Sotheby's New York, 20 May 1992, lot 31; a pair and two garnitures of three, each on solid apple green ground, sold from Houghton, Christie's London, 8 December 1994, lots 36-38.
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium, which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.
Provenance: Purchased from Madame Escudier, quai Voltaire, Paris in 1816 by George Byng Esq. M.P. (d.1847) and by descent.
Artist or Maker: THE PORCELAIN CIRCA 1769, TWO WITH BLUE INTERLACED L'S MARKS, THE CENTRAL VASE WITH INDISTINCT DATE LETTER 'Q' FOR 1769 AND AN UNIDENTIFIED PAINTER'S MARK, ONE SMALLER VASE WITH INDISTINCT DATE LETTER AND PAINTER'S MARK 'P' FOR JEAN-JACQUES PIERRE
'List of Furniture, Porcelain, Paintings & C., purchased by George Byng Esq., for Wrotham Park, 1816-43', '1816-17 3 Green and Rose mounted Vases 320 Francs'
Wrotham Park 1847 Inventory,'SECOND DRAWING ROOM A green and flowered China vase and cover mounted with ormolu (11in.) A pair of small ditto to correspond, covers cracked (8in.)'