|England, circa 1730|
Decorated overall with elaborate Chinoiserie figures and foliage, the rectangular moulded cornice decorated with flowerhead-filled chain, above a pair of bevelled mirrored doors (the plates probably later) enclosing an arrangement of ten drawers, the reverses of the doors with large figures, above two panelled candle-slides, the lower section with a long secretaire-drawer enclosing pigeon-holes and drawers flanking a door, with three further long drawers and on ogee bracket feet.
|Location of Origin: England|
|Medium/Materials: red lacquer, gilt gesso and silvering on a carcass of oak and pine|
|Dimensions: Height: 81in (206cm), Width: 41¼in (105cm), Depth: 22in (56cm)|
|Primary Classification: Antiques, Decorative Arts and Furniture : Antique Furniture : Secretaries, Breakfronts, Book cases|
|The ‘Cabinet-Maker and Chair-Maker’ Giles Grendey, who was described in 1740 as ‘A great Dealer in the Cabinet Way’, carried on a considerable export trade from Aylesbury House in St. John’s Square. He was appointed Upper Warden of the Joiners’ Company in 1747 and its Master in 1766. His son-in-law, John Cobb, was granted a court appointment as cabinet-maker to George III. That Grendey had a large export business has never been doubted. A fire that badly damaged his workshop in 1731 also destroyed furniture to the value of ￡1,000, that he ‘had pack’d for Exportation against the next Morning’.|
The exotic Chinese red decoration of this secretaire relates it extremely closely to the celebrated suite of Lazcano furniture that is represented in major museums, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Temple Newsam House, Leeds, and the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia. These masterpieces from the workshops of Giles Grendey (d.1780) were designed probably for the Spanish castle of Lazcano. The Lazcano furnishings, comprising more than seventy-seven items, are the largest recorded suite of 18th century English furniture. The majority of the suite was acquired in 1930 by the Venice-based dealer Adolph Loewi. Given this secretaire cabinet was known to be in the possession of Lord Bicester at the time of the First World War, it seems unlikely that this secretaire-cabinet was actually part of the Lazcano suite but the family belief in a Spanish connection suggests that it was also made for that market.
The decoration also relates very closely to a labeled green-japanned and gilt bureau cabinet by John Belchier (see Christopher Gilbert, Marked London Furniture, p. 82 pl. 57). The similarities are so strong as to suggest there may have been collaboration between the two cabinet makers, or, at the very least some cross over between the craftsmen working for them.
The Dukes of Infantado
The Dukedom of Infantado (‘con Grandeza de España’) was created on 22 July 1475 by King Ferdinand VII and Queen Isabella, the ‘Reyes Católicos’, for Don Diego Hurtado de Mendoza y Figueroa, 2nd Marqués de Santillana and Conde del Real de Manzanares y Ricohombre de Castilla.
The castle of Lazcano is situated in Guipúzcoa, Northern Spain, and is associated with one of the oldest noble titles in Spain: in 1330 the head of the family was created Señor de la Casa de Lazcano con Grandeza de España. In 1697, Don Juan Antonio de Arteaga acquired the Castle of Lazcano and assumed the name Lazcano.
In 1891, on the death of the 15th Duke of Infantado, Don Andrés, a descendant of Don Juan Antonio de Arteaga of Lazcano inherited the Dukedom, after the King intervened and decreed that the ancient title of Infantado should pass to the Marquessate of Valmediano. It is this inheritance which brought the Dukes of Infantado to Lazcano, and which leads to the suggstion that the original patron was either the then Marqués of Valmediano for Lazcano itself, or to the Duke of Infantado and was brought to Lazcano after 1891.
What is known is that much of the suite was recorded in a late 19th century photograph and in 1930, the dealer Adolph Loewi bought seventy-two items. Prior to this, the complex manoeuverings of Spanish noble inheritance have provided an obfuscatory glaze to the earlier history. While it is tempting to assume that the suite was always at Lazcano Castle, it might be deemed an unlikely situation for the grandest, and largest known, suite of English export furniture. The Infantados, head of the powerful Mendoza family, were perfectly positioned in the early 18th century to embark on the commissioning of an ambitious suite of furniture. The possibility exists that the suite was commissioned in the 1730s by the 10th Duque del Infantado, perhaps for his daughter, the future 11th Duquesa, after her marriage in 1724, or on her accession in 1737. The Duquesa was one of the most important heiresses of Europe, with numerous titles and privileges, besides that of the ancient Dukedom of Infantado.
|Provenance: Vivian Smith, 1st Lord Bicester, Weald Hall, Essex and thence by descent|
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