7. The Ladies Waldegrave (Lady Elizabeth Laura, Lady Charlotte Maria & Lady Anne Horatia, daughters to James late Earl of Waldegrave Knight of the Garter)

Choice 3: Walpole’s Mezzotint of The Ladies Waldegrave

[Lady Elizabeth Laura, Lady Charlotte Maria & Lady Anne Horatia, daughters to James late Earl of Waldegrave Knight of the Garter]

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

To begin his Choice 3 in Rescuing Horace Walpole, Lewis details Horace Walpole’s relationship with his brother Edward before turning his attention to Edward’s mistress and children.

“Edward had four children by his mistress, Dorothy Clement, who Horace said was ‘a milliner’s apprentice at Durham.’ The children were Laura, Maria, Edward, and Charlotte. They appear together in a most attractive conversation piece by Slaughter that is now in the Minneapolis Art Museum. When they were ill Uncle Horace took them to Strawberry Hill and looked after them, an instance of his ‘great disposition’ to Edward’s children. Laura married a Keppel who became Bishop of Exeter. Maria’s first husband was the second Earl Waldegrave; her second husband, whom she married secretly without her Uncle Horace’s approval, was George III’s younger brother, the Duke of Gloucester. Charlotte married the fifth Earl of Dysart. Walpole reported the death of the younger Edward to Horace Mann: ‘My brother has lost his son, and it is no misfortune, though he was but three and thirty, and had very good parts; but he was sunk into such a habit of drinking and gaming, that the first ruined his constitution, and the latter would have ruined his father.’

“Maria, the beauty of the family, was her Uncle Horace’s favorite. He boasted to Horace Mann of how he brought about her marriage to Lord Waldegrave who was twenty-one years her senior. ‘A month ago,’ Horace wrote, ‘I was told that he liked her. . . . I jumbled them together, and he has already proposed. For character and credit he is the first match in England–for beauty, I think she is. She has not a fault in her face or person, and the detail is charming. A warm complexion tending to brown, fine eyes, brown  hair, fine teeth, and infinite wit, and vivacity. . . . My brother has luckily been tractable, and left the whole management to me.’ A pastel of her, very beautiful in her coronation robes, has appeared since I wrote this chapter. It hangs in the center of the new library at Farmington next to her father. Horace’s affectionate concern for Maria extended to her three Waldegrave daughters, Elizabeth Laura who married her cousin the fourth Earl Waldegrave, Charlotte Maria, Duchess of Grafton, and Anna Horatia, who married her cousin Lord Hugh Seymour Conway after the death of her first betrothed, the Duke of Ancaster. These three are ‘The Ladies Waldegrave’ of Reynolds’s conversation piece that shows them sewing at their work table. The original picture is now in the National Gallery of Scotland; Reynolds’s bill for it, 300 guineas, is at Farmington and so is Walpole’s copy of Valentine Green’s mezzotint of it, a proof before letters. It is what I have chosen to save from all the objects relating to Edward and his family at Farmington. Walpole pasted it into his copy of the 1784 Description of Strawberry Hill saved in Choice 9. That copy was acquired in 1919 for £1650 by Sabin and Co. of Bond Street. They removed the mezzotint of The Ladies Waldegrave and held it for 2000 guineas because they said it is ‘the finest English mezzotint in existence.’ The book itself came to Farmington in 1927 at a greatly reduced figure. During the next eleven years I would stop in at Sabin’s to pay my wistful respects to the print. Its price wilted during the Depression and I was not surprised when on the day war was declared my cabled offer of $500 was promptly accepted. The beautiful print sailed safely through the newly laid German mine fields to Farmington where it hangs beside drawings of Strawberry Hill that were formerly with it in the book. Drawings of Charlotte, Horatia, and Elizabeth Laura are also at Farmington along with a lock of the latter’s hair, braided, in a gold case.”

Lewis moves on to address the other members of the family and their portraits and correspondence now at the Library.

Lewis, Wilmarth S. Rescuing Horace Walpole. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978.

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called Choice 3: Walpole’s Mezzotint of The Ladies Waldegrave download or expand the link here: 

N.B. The identity of the woman in the pastel portrait Lewis describes above has since been reassigned. It is now thought to be a portrait of Maria Walpole (1725?-1801) illegitimate daughter of Sir Robert Walpole, prime minister and his mistress Maria Skerrett; the daughter later became the wife of Colonel Charles Churchill.

6. Coffer on Stand

The Boulle Coffer on Stand in the Collection of the Lewis Walpole Library

by Susan Walker, Head of Public Services

The coffer on stand by André Charles Boulle, now in the collection of the Lewis Walpole Library, first appeared in Horace Walpole’s 1774 A Description of the Villa in the Round Drawing Room as “A trunk of tortoiseshell and bronze; by Boul, on a frame of the same; a small jar of Seve china under it.”

It is possible that Walpole saw and purchased the piece during one of his trips to Paris. In the list of his shipments of 1766 are “Two large cases H.W. from Poirier’s with clock, secrétaire, coffre and table. Two red leather chairs.”  The LWL’s Boulle coffer on stand is a very tempting candidate for that “coffre and table.”

By the time it appeared as lot 25 on day 23 of the Strawberry Hill sale in 1842, the piece was described with a bit more detail and enthusiasm by the auctioneer George Robins as “A remarkably fine Old Boule Coffer, a splendid specimen of this work, at an early period, the front elaborately finished with tortoiseshell ground work, massive or-molu mountings, masque handles, chased rosette corners, and lined with blue silk, on a pedestal en-suite, with richly worked boule back and stand for porcelain.”

It was bought by the dealer Owen of New Bond Street for £44.2.0. Was he buying for a collector? The piece reappeared as the Property of Sir Herbert Ogilvy, Baldovan House, Dundee, at a Sotheby’s auction on 9-10 November 1922 for £100. By the time it came to auction, its association with Walpole, Strawberry Hill, and the display of porcelain had transformed into a thing of family legend: “This coffer, with its stand, was Lot 25 in the Twenty-third Day’s sale of the contents of Strawberry Hill (May 20, 1842, Catalogue, p. 230). It was purchased at the sale by the present owner’s great-grandfather, the first Baron de Mauley; there has always been a tradition in the family that on the stand below the coffer reposed the famous bowl of goldfish in which Horace Walpole’s cat was drowned—a melancholy event commemorated by Thomas Gray in his poem ‘On the Death of a Favourite Cat.’” (Sotheby, 1922). The coffer on stand was bought in, so Ogilvy tried again through Sotheby’s on 6 December 1935, when it was bought by a purchaser named Seymour for £15. It has been suggested that “Seymour” may have been a dealer operating at auction under the assumed name of a famous family of collectors of French furniture at the time.

In January 1939, just shy of a century after the 1842 Strawberry Hill sale, W.S. Lewis purchased the coffer on stand from owner W.P. Wilson of Sennicots, Chichester, through the London dealer Ifan Kyrle Fletcher. Lewis, in his quest for Walpole correspondence for his Yale Edition, placed ads in the Times (London) personal column. He received an answer to one from Wilson in January of 1937, informing him of his ownership of the Boulle coffer on stand. Mr. Wilson had the piece photographed in May of that year, and in December 1938, Fletcher wrote to Lewis to say he had been in touch with the owner who was willing to sell it for £160. The deal was done, and the piece shipped to Farmington. The piece was bequeathed along with the collection, buildings, and property to Yale University on Lewis’s death in 1979.

The Lewis Walpole Library’s piece is thought to date from the first quarter of the eighteenth century and have been made by master ébéniste André-Charles Boulle or one of his sons. Boulle popularized this use of foliate and arabesque tortoiseshell and brass marquetry which came to be named after him (Boulle, boullework, or buhl). Most of the surface decoration on the LWL’s coffer is brass, with the tortoiseshell inlaid into it, a combination referred to as contre partie marquetry. Each such piece has a mate with the opposite treatment of the veneers. Thus, the mate to the LWL’s coffer, displaying première partie marquetry of tortoiseshell with inlaid brass, is in the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection.

The ormolu or gilt bronze mounts bear the crown c stamp (or poinçon c coronné), a tax stamp used from 1745-1749 that indicates the piece was either on the market or having such work done as having the mounts regilded during those years.

A remarkable survival of Boulle’s production, the LWL’s Boulle coffer on stand, unlike so many pieces made of oak with ebony, tortoiseshell, and metal marquetry veneers, had undergone very little intervention in the twentieth century. Only once sent to the Yale University Art Gallery for structural stabilization, the piece retained original materials and thus was an important document with evidence of the practices of the eighteenth-century French workshop. In 2006, the Library was awarded a generous grant from The Getty Foundation for treatment and research related to the conservation of the piece.

A team composed of Head of Public Services Susan Walker, then-Head of Research at the Victoria & Albert Museum Carolyn Sargentson, and conservator Yannick Chastang, collaborated on decisions involving all aspects of the piece’s treatment. Through face-to-face meetings and email correspondence, the trio reached agreement on the work to be performed. They agreed that the piece should be taken back to its appearance in the earliest image found—the photograph taken in Chichester in 1937.

One question that arose was whether to re-engrave the early replacement brass in the center front.

The decision was made not to attempt any engraving as it appeared without it in the early photo and there was a risk of damage to the piece if attempted.

Another question was whether to reproduce an escutcheon on the drawer that appeared in the 1937 photo but had subsequently been lost.

A replica was made based on the design shown in the photo, but it is not consistent with any known Boulle mount.

Finally, a long debate centered on whether to install any decorative element on the top of the plinth on the stand. There were many different examples found on similar pieces, but no description or any surviving evidence in the photo or on the plinth itself led to a convincing solution, nor would any have allowed for the display of a piece of porcelain, so the decision was made to leave the plinth unadorned.

 

 

 

Arlen Heginbotham, Assistant Conservator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the J. Paul Getty Museum, led the examination and research carried out at the Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute where the piece underwent scientific analysis for materials identification. The red marquetry at the back panel of the stand revealed vermilion, red lead, and lead white, while the surprising discovery of the use of carbon black and natural vermilion pigments under the tortoise shell on the front of the coffer indicated the shell there would appear nearly black. The coffer on stand’s appearance now reflects the period materials discovered during its examination and, with the use of appropriate black coloring under the shell, the black and gold Walpole favored for frames and other furniture at Strawberry Hill. During treatment, tucked underneath the later red silk fabric lining the coffer, a small fragment of the early blue silk lining was discovered, consistent with the 1842 Sale description, and confirming the link to Walpole.

The Boulle coffer on stand from Horace Walpole’s collection at Strawberry Hill is now on view in the Lewis Walpole Library’s Reading Room.

Bibliography

Robins, George, A Catalogue of the Classic Contents of Strawberry Hill Collected by Horace Walpole, April 25th 1842 and 23 following days. (London: Smith and Robins, 1842)

Walpole, Horace. A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole, Youngest Son of
Sir Robert Walpole Earl of Orford, at Strawberry-Hill Near Twickenham, Middlesex. With an Inventory of the Furniture, Pictures, Curiosities, &c (Strawberry-Hill: Printed by Thomas Kirgate, 1774).

Walpole, Horace. The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, edited by W.S. Lewis et al. 48 vols. London: Oxford University Press, 1937–83.

5. Portrait of Sir Robert Walpole and Catherine Shorter

Choice 2: Sir Robert and Lady Walpole by Eccardt and Wootton in a Grinling Gibbons Frame

Double portrait of Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, and Lady Walpole

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

“This frame hung in the Blue Bedchamber, as we learn from Walpole’s Description of Strawberry Hill: ‘In a frame of black and gold carved by Gibbons, Sir Robert Walpole and Catherine Shorter; small whole lengths; by Eccardt, after Zinke: the hounds and view of Houghton by Wootton. Sir Robert is sitting; by him, on a table, is the purse of the chancellor of the exchequer, leaning against busts of George 1st and 2d to denote his being first minister to those kings: by Lady Walpole are flowers, shells, a pallet and pencils, to mark her lover of the arts.’ William Cole, Horace Walpole’s contemporary at Eton and Cambridge and his chief antiquarian correspondent, noted in his ‘Account of Some Pictures at Strawberry Hill’ now in the British Library, ‘under the table stands a flower pot, and by Lady Walpole a grotto of shells. I remember when I was a school-boy at Eton, calling on Mr. Walpole at Chelsea, where Sir Robert, his father, then lived, I found him learning to draw, with Mr Lens the painter with him; and he then showed me a most beautiful grotto of shell work in the garden, on the banks of the Thames, designed by his mother: probably this alludes to that grotto. The frame of this picture cost £30, being most exquisitely carved, painted black, and gilt, having all sorts of flowers, fruits, birds, and at top figures of boys.’

“In his Anecdotes of Painting in England Walpole calls Gibbons (1648-1721) ‘An original genius’ who was ‘a citizen of nature….There is no instance of a man before Gibbons who gave to wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers, and chained together the various productions of the elements with a free disorder natural to each species.’ How did the frame get to Strawberry Hill? I have been saying for years that it was originally around a mirror at Houghton, Sir Robert’s house in Norfolk, and that Walpole admired it so much his father gave it to him, a plausible explanation, but I can’t prove it. In Aedes Walpolianae, 1747, Walpole’s catalogue raisonné of his father’s great collection of pictures at Houghton, he speaks of Gibbons’s carvings there, but doesn’t mention the frame. Walpole’s copy at Farmington of A Description of Strawberry Hill ‘with such prices as I can recollect’ says nothing about the £30 or where the frame came from, but we know that it was bought at the Strawberry Hill sale in 1842 by Lord Lansdowne and that it was No. 77 in Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, until 1930 when it was sold at Christie’s and given me by my wife.”

Lewis continues in the chapter to talk about Walpole’s family, including his half-sister Mary, whose portrait also now hangs at the Lewis Walpole Library. He concludes with a mention of an illegitimate daughter of Horace’s father’s, Catherine Daye whom Horace brought to live at Strawberry Hill. “I like to think of her and her kindly younger brother visiting the Blue Bedchamber to pay their respects to their father’s portrait in the Grinling Gibbons frame.”

Lewis, Wilmarth S. Rescuing Horace Walpole. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978.

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called Choice 2: Sir Robert and Lady Walpole by Eccardt and Wootton in a Grinling Gibbons Frame download or expand the link here:

N.B. A high-quality fascimile of the painting and frame now hangs in the Blue Bedchamber at Strawberry Hill. Please click or tap here for details about the project to create the facsimile and install it at the house.

The original painting in its frame can be found hanging at the west end of the Reading Room at the Lewis Walpole Library in Farmington.