Thomas Hope (1769 – 1831), member of a wealthy banking family, was a sophisticated patron who set out, through the publication of his own collection in Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (1807), to influence and improve contemporary taste. His claim that everything in this volume was entirely from his own designs is difficult to support, although he clearly had substantial input into many of the original objects presented in this seminal book.(1) No documentation survives to establish who was responsible for the manufacture of the furniture and works of art created for the Hope residence at Duchess Street, London. The best clue is supplied by Hope himself who refers to “two men, to whose industry and talent I could in some measure confide the execution of the more complicate [sic] and more enriched portion of my designs; namely, Decaix and Bogaert: the first a bronzist, and a native of France; the other a carver, and born in the Low Countries.”(5) The sizable chandelier in the Robert Lehman Collection, after a design published by Hope, appears to have been created for a grand space at Duchess Street, but Household Furniture does not provide the location or illustrate it in situ.(3) It is shown in plate 30 with the description “Chandelier of bronze and gold; ornamented with a crown of stars over a wreath of night-shade” (here Fig. 258.2).(4) Plate 53, no. 3, depicts a detail, one of the “Griffins of the chandelier, Plate 30” (here Fig. 258.3).(5) The same griffin design seems to have been used by Hope for a series of wall lights that, again, cannot be precisely placed within the Duchess Street interiors. A single representative, mounted on a shaped, rectangular tablet, is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Fig. 258.4),(6) and an unmounted pair, with later candle nozzles, is now in a private collection.(7) Exemplary of Hope’s furniture (and the work of earlier architects and designers in the Neoclassical tradition), the Lehman chandelier utilizes symbolic motifs in its decoration. As Watkin observed, with reference to the engraving of the present chandelier in Household Furniture: “a thick wreath of Deadly Nightshade was surmounted by a diadem of stars — a visual pun suggesting the victory of light over dark.”(8) The protruding griffins supporting candleholders compare closely to those on a chandelier illustrated in plate 12 of Charles Percier and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine’s Recueil des Décorations Intérieures (1812). It seems likely that Hope’s use of these elements, which are also seen on French wall lights, followed rather than anticipated, the designs of Percier and Fontaine.(9) Indeed, much of Hope’s furniture reveals a direct debt to contemporary French Empire production. In common with architect-designers before and since, Hope paid close attention to every element of his interiors. Household Furniture, plate 42, illustrates an elegant “bronze gilt chandelier, ornamented with drops, prisms, &c. of cut glass” that is more conventional in form than the Lehman work.(10) Other plates, showing interiors, incorporate smaller scale, Neoclassical hanging lights.(11)
Catalogue entry from: Martin Levy. The Robert Lehman Collection. Decorative Arts, Vol. XV. Wolfram Koeppe, et al. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Princeton University Press, 2012, pp. 288-291.
1. See Thomas Hope: Regency Designer. Exhibition, Victoria and Albert Museum, 21 March – 22 June 2008; Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, 17 July – 16 November 2008. Catalogue edited by David Watkin and Philip Hewat-Jaboor. New York, p. 371.
2. Hope, Thomas. Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, Executed from Designs by Thomas Hope. London, 1807, p. 10.
3. For a discussion of the relationship between plates in Household Furniture and furniture and works of art from Duchess Street, see London–New York 2008, p. 428, under no. 96.
4. Hope, p. 38, pl. xxx.
5. Ibid., p. 48, pl. LIII, no. 3.
6. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2010.1045. See Splendor and Elegance: European Decorative Arts and Drawings from the Horace Wood Brock Collection. Exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, 22 January – 17 May 2009. Catalogue by Horace Wood Brock, Martin P. Levy, and Clifford S. Ackley. Boston, p. 149, no. 10, ill. p. 27. The Boston wall light was formerly in the collection of Gerald Wellesley, 7th Duke of Wellington, a pioneer collector of Regency furniture. He, along with other celebrated collectors such as the architect Albert Richardson (who owned the second pair of wall lights referred to above) and the playwright Edward Knoblock, appear to have acquired Hope-designed objects direct from The Deepdene when the contents were sold by auction in 1917.
7. See Thomas Hope: Regency Designer. Exhibition, Victoria and Albert Museum, 21 March – 22 June 2008; Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, 17 July – 16 November 2008. Catalogue edited by David Watkin and Philip Hewat-Jaboor. New York, pp. 430–31, no. 97.
8. Watkin, David. Thomas Hope, 1769 – 1831, and the Neo-Classical Idea. London, 1968, p. 195.
9. It is thought that the plates included in Household Furniture represent objects that existed by about 1802, when Hope first opened his house to the public; see Thomas Hope: Regency Designer. Exhibition, Victoria and Albert Museum, 21 March – 22 June 2008; Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, 17 July – 16 November 2008. Catalogue edited by David Watkin and Philip Hewat-Jaboor. New York, p. 371. Hope knew the architects and designers Percier and Fontaine, and although Recueil des Décorations Intérieures was not fully published until 1812, the plate with the chandelier was circulating as early as 1801. The design was in fact first made in 1798; see Ottomeyer, Hans, and Peter Proschel. Vergoldete Bronzen: Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus. With contributions by Jean-Dominique Augarde et al. 2 vols. Munich, 1986, vol. 1, p. 358, no. 5.11.1. For French griffin wall lights, see Ottomeyer and Pröschel, vol. 1, p. 357, no. 5.10.6.
10. Hope, Thomas. Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, Executed from Designs by Thomas Hope. London, 1807, p. 41, pl. XLII.
11. See, for example, ibid., pls. 5, 38; see also 2008 exhibition Thomas Hope: Regency Designer, p. 418, no. 90.