Regency Egyptian Revival style armchairs by Thomas Hope

This pair of armchairs and couch in the Egyptian Revival style were designed by the English Regency designer, Thomas Hope as part of the furnishings for the Egyptian room of his grand Robert Adam-designed residence in Duchess Street, London. The house was created as a showpiece for Hope’s collection of antiquities, and featured themed rooms with suites of furniture designed by Hope to provide a suitable background for his collection of classical and neoclassical statuary and objets d’art. His Eg...

Summary

A10447
Both armchairs have carved and gilded front legs of double lotus form and ebonised sabre legs at back, gilded seat front rail with a centrally placed winged Isis in bronze, flanked by gilded brass rosettes on platforms below crouching priest figures in bronze supporting the curved ebonised arm rests, each with a gilded spiral dagger on the flat top face. The back legs from an H arrangement above the seat with a central gilded square panel with a bovine and bar detail [the Egyptian deity Hathor] in bronze. The high curved and ebonised top rail (made from lime to reduce weight) has four gilded buttons set below two canopic vases in bronze with crest the top edge, and a gilded border along the lower edge with plaster rosettas inset between carved tassels below a band of horizontal reeding. The padded, drop-in, seat (a horsehair stuffed pad on webbing) is covered with modern upholstery (a reproduction Napoleonic silk damask c. 1802), hand woven and dyed by Prel (Lyon, France); the blue green colour is based on a c. 1805 documentary sample from the Prel archive.

Production

Thomas Hope (1769-1831) born in Holland, the son of a rich banking family of Scottish origin, he settled in England c. 1796 and became an influential patron of the arts, the arbiter elegantuarum of regency England and a highly original furniture designer. He had spent 8 years travelling in Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean where he acquired a passion for Greek art and architecture, and he continued to travel widely after he settled in England, keeping abreast of artistic developments in Rome and Paris. He began to design furniture in order to provide himself with a suitable background for his collection of classical and neo-classical statuary and objets d'art. His archaeological inclinations led him to copy ancient furniture more closely than had been attempted before. Hope is best known for his work in the Egyptian taste, inspired by V.Denon's "Voyage dans la basse et la haute Egypte" (1802). Hope published his designs as "Household Furniture and Interior Decoration" (1807). From "The Penguin Dictionary of Decorative Arts" John Fleming and Hugh Honour, Penguin Books, London, 1977.

The chairs were originally designed to be part of the furnishings for the Egyptian Room in Thomas Hope's House (Duchess Street, Portland Place, London). The first floor of the house (on which the Egyptian room was located) was intended to be opened "museum-like" to the public. The chairs, and their placement within the room are illustrated in Thomas Hope's book "Household Furniture and Interior Decoration" (1807) plate VIII. Hope explained the sources for the motifs used: "..the crouching priests supporting the elbows [of the armchairs] are copied from an Egyptian idol in the Vatican; the winged Isis placed in the rail is borrowed from an Egyptian mummy case in the Institued at Bologona; the Canopuses are imitated from the one in the Capitol; and the other ornaments are taken from various monuments at Thebes, Tentyris etc." Anne Watson, 'A Gentleman of the Sphinxes', "Australian Antique Collector" (No 43), Jan - June 1992, p 42.

A note is made in the catalogue of "Egyptomania", National Gallery of Canada, 1994, p188 "In Clive Wainwright's opinion, the suite was certainly made in London" (Clive Wainwright is a furniture curator at the Victoria and Albert Musuem London).
Hope, Thomas c. 1802

History

The chairs were used in the Egyptian Room of Thomas Hope's Duchess Street house in Portland Place, London. They were illustrated in his "Household Furniture and Decoration"(1807) which was intended not only to record the house, but to instruct and reform.

Following Thomas Hope's death in 1831 they were used at the Hope country estate Deepdene in Surrey, England.

From 1924 until the early 1940s, the armchairs were used at Lenna, a grand house in Hobart, Tasmania, which was owned by Sir Alfred Ashbolt. Anne Watson, 'Recent acquisitions by the Powerhouse Museum', "Australian Antique Collector (No 43), July - Dec 1994, p 26.

The chairs were commissioned by Thomas Hope in about 1804 for use in the Egyptian Room of his Duchess Street (Portland Place, London) house. Upon his death in 1831 his son sold the Duchess Street house for demolition and the furniture was moved to the Hope's country estate Deepdene, Surrey, England. The chairs remained there until 1917 when the contents were auctioned.

When the chairs were purchased by the Museum, it was not known when or how they came to Australia. They had been given to the vendor's wife by her brother in the 1960s. The brother was a well known solicitor, art and antique collector, a member of Food and Wine Society, a bachelor and a gentleman. Friends recalled him owning the chairs, however it is uncertain how he acquired them.

Subsequent research revealed that the chairs and settee (87/592) were photographed in 1924 in Hobart, Tasmania, in a house called "Lenna". They had been brought to Hobart that year by Sir Alfred Ashbolt (1870-1930), a businessman returning from a term in London (1919-24) as agent-general for Tasmania. As the furniture had been sold from the Hope estate in 1917 to a London antique dealer, it is tempting to speculate that Sir Alfred bought it directly from this source. Following Sir Alfred's death in 1930 his wife and two children moved to Melbourne in the early 1940s, selling much of their furniture, including the Hope pieces, at auction. It is at this stage that we lose track of their ownership. Anne Watson, 'Recent acquisitions by the Powerhouse Museum', "Australian Antique Collector" (No.43), July - Dec 1994, p 26.
Hope, Thomas

Source

Purchased with funds donated by the Patrons of the Powerhouse, 1984

Cite this Object

Regency Egyptian Revival style armchairs by Thomas Hope 2016, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 29 March 2017, <https://ma.as/169871>
{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/169871 |title=Regency Egyptian Revival style armchairs by Thomas Hope |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=29 March 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
Full description  
This object is currently on display in Icons: From the MAAS Collection at the Powerhouse Museum
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