Saturday, May 10, 2014

Daylesford's Colefax & Fowler Furnishings

A view of the Saloon at Daylesford
as decorated by John Fowler for the
2nd Viscount Rothermere.
 As Part II in the Notable Homes series on Daylesford, a closer look is given to the furnishings selected by John Fowler and Esmond Harmsworth, the 2nd Viscount Rothermere.  (For the previous post, Part I, click here).  After the viscount died in 1978, his widow and third wife, the former Mary Murchison, returned to live in the U.S. where she died in 1993 at age 62 in a West Palm Beach, Florida, hospital.  A native of Dallas, Texas, Viscountess Rothermere was the daughter of Kenneth Murchison, the founder of a successful insurance partnership, and the niece of Clinton W. Murchison, once one of the world's wealthiest men.  According to her obituary, she maintained homes in Palm Beach, Manhattan, Monte Carlo, and Newport, Rhode Island where she was a supporter of Save the Bay.  In addition, she served on the board of directors of Stratford Hall Plantation in Virginia and the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.  Although it was her stepson and step-grandson who inherited the viscountcy, her six sons by a previous marriage and her son with Esmond were well taken care of by a trust that included some shares in the Daily Mail and Daily Standard group of newspapers; a 1997 partial sell-off of shares netted her seven sons GBP 163 million.

A view of Daylesford from the

by J.R. Neale, 1823.
Although Daylesford House had been sold (with the next owners to be discussed in following posts), many of the furnishings remained with Mary, Viscountess Rothermere until a sale on April 16, 1994, in New York at Christie's.  So there were no photos in the catalogue of the furniture in situ at Daylesford, but some of the lots could be seen in a series of delightful but uncredited watercolors, included in this post.

Another watercolor view of the Saloon
at Daylesford as decorated by John Fowler.
Image via Christie's.
Among the most memorable furnishings during the Fowler period at Daylesford are the suite of seat furniture by Thomas Chippendale for Sir David Garrick.  Of course, Chippendale is one of the most famous names in furniture, but Garrick, an acclaimed actor and manager of the Drury Lane Theatre, was a celebrity in his time.

David Garrick's Hampton Villa.
Married to the famous Viennese dancer Eva Marie Viegel, Garrick purchased a furnished villa on the banks of the Thames on the outskirts of London in Hampton in 1754.  Utilizing the top talent of the day, he employed Robert Adam for architectural improvements, Jean Pillement to decorate the drawing room walls with chinoiserie painting, and Capability Brown to landscape the grounds.  From 1768 to 1778, Chippendale was involved with the interiors and the work was documented in bills, correspondence, inventories, and sale catalogues.  An invoice, provided in the Christie's catalogue, which runs from 21 May to 23 September 1768, lists the seat furniture as follows:

      David Garrick, Esq
      To Thomas Chippendale
1768                                                                                L  s  d
Aug 3
      To 8 French Arm Chairs very neatly
      Carv'd & painted Blue & white, stuff'd
      & cover'd with your own Blue
      Damask & Brass nail'd                                         24  -  -
      To 2 large Tub Chairs carv'd &
      painted to match stuff'd & Cover'd
      with damask & large Down Cushions
      for the seats                                                           12  -  -
      To a large French sofa to match the
      Chairs and cover'd with your damask
      & nail'd & a large Feather Cushion
      Blue Cheque cases for the sofa & Cushion            2  -  -                                                  

In addition to this commissioned suite of furniture, Chippendale altered and repaired Garrick's existing furniture.  Also, Chippendale made a bed (now painted green and white) to match this suite that is exhibited in the collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum (click here to see access. no. W.21-1917)

A pair of George III painted bergeres,
circa 1768 by Thomas Chippendale
from the Saloon of Daylesford.
Christie's.  Lot 142, Sale 7906.

A set of six George III painted armchairs,
four circa 1768 by Thomas Chippendale,
two of a later date.  From the Saloon at Daylesford.
Christie's. Lot 143, Sale 7906.
A view of the Saloon showing the back of the settee
en suite with the previous seating.
The settee was of a later date, commissioned by
John Fowler, but it is presumed that all had
the same yellow fabric.  The settee was offered in
the catalog as Lot 144 but was not pictured.
The suite is included in a 1779 inventory when Garrick died and again in the sale catalogue when his widow died in 1823.  Her solicitor bought the house and many of the furnishings, but when the house and contents were sold again in 1864, the suite did not appear in the auction catalogue.  The whereabouts were unknown until Colefax & Fowler assistant Tom Parr found them during John Fowler's decoration of Daylesford.  The existing paint finish was scraped down to find traces of the old blue and white decoration;  thinking the paint finish was more stylish than gilding, Fowler had them painted grey-blue and antique white.
A George III giltwood mirror,
circa 1765, in the manner of John Linnell
from the Saloon at Daylesford.
Christie's. Lot 161. Sale 7906.
A pair of Regency lacquer-mounted and grained rosewood
side cabinets from the Saloon at Daylesford.
Each with a later black slate top.
Christie's. Lot 162. Sale 7906.
The Dining Room at Daylesford
during the Rothermere residency.
Image via Christie's.

A pair of  George III cut-glass, ormolu and blue glass
three-light candelabra, late 18th century.
Christie's.  Lot 96, Sale 7906.
A Regency mahogany four-pedestal drop-leaf
dining table, early 19th century.
Christie's. Lot 186, Sale 7906.
A set of 10 Regency chairs along with 8 of a later date
commissioned by John Fowler for Viscount Rothermere.
Christie's Sale 7178, 2005.
The largest room of the house is the sitting room known as the Long Gallery.  It was comfortably furnished for everyday use. 

The Long Gallery at Daylesford
during the Rothermere residency.
Image via Christie's.

A Scottish George III mahogany open armchair,
mid-18th century.
Christie's. Lot 131, Sale 7906.
A Queen Anne stool, together with a matching copy
of a later date.
Christie's. Lot 164, Sale 7906.
A Louis XVI ormolu-mounted and brass-inlaid ebony
longcase regulateur with equation of time, circa 1780.
The case stamped J. JOLLAIN twice.
Christie's. Lot 113. Sale 7906.

Another view of the Long Gallery
during the Rothermere residency.

The Morning Room pictured in JOHN FOWLER, PRINCE OF DECORATORS and discussed in the previous post of The Devoted Classicist is also known as the Chinese Room because of artwork.  In the reflection in the mirror, note the curtains designed by Fowler and how the swags connected around the curved bay.

The Morning Room at Daylesford
during the Rothermere residency.
Image via Christie's.
A pair of Regency ormolu-mounted rosewood side cabinets,
early 19th century.
Christie's. Lot 130, Sale 7906.
The Library at Daylesford
during the Rothermere residency.
An early George III mahogany kettle stand
with a later canted square top.
Christie's. Lot 172, Sale 7906.
An English bronze bust of Warren Hastings
cast from a model by Thomas Banks.
See the previous post for more on Hastings.
Christie's. Lot 1, Sale 7906.
Another view of the Library at Daylesford
during the Rothermere residency.
Portrait of Warren Hastings
by Lemuel Francis Abbott.
Christie's London, April 15, 1994.
The auction catalogue consisted of property from the estate of Mary, Viscountess Rothermere, and was not limited to furnishings that had been at Daylesford.  The portrait of Warren Hastings might have been at another residence, but that is unlikely and is shown here because of the significance to the history of the house.

Portrait of Margaret Layton of Rawdon,
circa 1620, oil on panel.
Christie's. Lot 191, Sale 7906.

 Margaret Layton's doublet,
the jacket or waistcoat seen in the portrait.
Linen embroidered in silver and silver-gilt thread,
with sequins and gold lace, lined in pink silk.
English, circa 1620 to 1620.
Christie's.Lot 192, Sale 7906.
(A pair of matching leather gloves was offered as Lot 193).
The portrait of Margaret Layton and associated garment were most likely from the Rothermere's London mansion Warwick House.  Facing Green Park, it was built 1770 to 1771 to a design by Sir William Chambers (the architect of Somerset House, the pagoda at Kew, and Albany), but largely rebuilt during the 19th century in the French Renaissance taste.  Purchased in 1924 by Esmond Harmsworth (before he was a viscount), the principal rooms were remodeled in the 18th century style.  A photo of the Rothermeres posing with the portrait and jacket in the background was shown in the previous post.

The catalogue also showed silver and art from the estate that was offered in 13 additional specialty auctions in New York and London, including a portrait by El Greco.

The next post of The Devoted Classicist will present Daylesford as it was decorated by Renzo Mongiardino during the residency of its next owner, Baron Hans Thyssen-Bornemisza.


  1. Dear John,
    Your TDC posts are always informative, interesting, and very well executed. Thanks very much for doing this- it's even better than design school, and I had the old Parsons faculty! How sad that Bubbles died so young- but how totally fabulous that she had seven boys and they all were left some very nice inheritances.


    1. Dean, it can be confusing, but we'll want to keep the viscounts straight. The 1st viscount certainly had an interesting story, but one we'll leave outside the scope of this series.

      It was the 2nd Viscount Rothermere, Esmond Harmsworth, who restored Daylesford with John Fowler. He had six children total, but only one with Mary Murchison, his third wife. The objects from the estate of Mary made up this sale with lots from Daylesford.

      The 3rd Viscount Rothermere was Vere Harmsworth. Pat, known as "Bubbles" in the press especially, was his wife and they had 3 children with the son born after Vere's step-brother. (After Pat's death, Vere married his mistress, Maiko Jeong Shun Lee).

      The 4th Viscount Rothermere is Jonathan Harmsworth, the son of Vere and Pat. There will be more about him later in this series.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. I am familiar with the Lemuel Francis Abbott picture through my own research for a portrait that I have attributed to him, of Sir James Allen:
    although unfortunately I do not know who Allen was, and he's not quite up there with Hastings or indeed Nelson, (the portrait at Number Ten).

    The Chippendale chairs are exquisite. I wrote about the Chippendale furniture at Dumfries House in Ayrshire, rescued by Prince Charles:

    1. Columnist, people do not always associate furniture in the French taste with Chippendale, so it may be particularly interesting to some. Thank you for commenting.

  3. Wow spectacular furniture and beautiful watercolors. Of course the beam ending into the chimney breast in the one rendering makes me cringe.... Technically it can be supported by the masonry but still awkward to my eye!

    1. Stefan, there is a long history of a summer beam bisecting a room in both the U.S. and Britain, though we are not accustomed to seeing them in the principal rooms of mansions. I am not sure on which floor this Library is located and if it was earlier a less important room. I understand your point, however, and I found that beam an unexpected feature. Thank you for commenting.

  4. How interesting it is, to see the Daylesford furnishings out of context--particularly those from the Saloon. Photography has bleached out the Garrick chairs, whose frames were lined out in a very definite shade of blue and whose upholstery was a rich saturated yellow. Still, it's instructive to see them isolated and in detail. This was a most enlightening post, and satisfying on so many levels.

    1. Toby, the colors are off on the published photos, the watercolors, and the auction catalog; we know that from the descriptions. I presume that all the Garrick suite seating in the Saloon was covered in the same fabric and the Fowler choice survived until this sale. In the Christie's catalog, the fabric is stated as being lemon yellow cotton. In both the photos and the watercolors, the settee clearly has nailhead trim, but the chairs did not in the Fowler scheme; apparently that was a subtle distinction as a design decision. Thank you for the color-corrected image of the armchairs and for the back of the settee that also showed the Anglo-Indian game table (which was not included in the sale); those images have be included in a revision of the post.

    2. It is not possible to edit the comments, but I meant to say that the armchairs had gimp instead of nailheads. (The bergeres had nailhead trim, like the settee).

  5. Dear John,

    Thank you again for a fascinating post after my own heart. I love your attention to detail (noticing that Fowler had some pieces done with a nail head trim, others in gimp - those are the subtleties I adore and seek to emulate!) and thorough, scholarly, historical approach. The brilliant thing about these interiors is that, however grand their provenance, they all look supremely comfortable and lived-in - perhaps it is precisely the beam above the fireplace that contributes to this??? Architectural perfection is not always inviting :-)

    Kindest regards,

    Toby Alleyne-Gee

  6. T.A.G., I am always interesting in seeing what works - and what does not - in the projects of the great decorators. Or perhaps I should say what stands the test of time and what does not.

    Although I strive for architectural perfection in my own projects, I find that furniture plans that cannot accept the moving of a chair, an additional small table, a vase of flowers, etc., are too static and uninteresting. Welcome and thanks for commenting.


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