11660 – A VERY LARGE DOUBLE-SIDED GLAZED FOLDING SCREEN MOUNTED WITH SEVENTY-EIGHT PRINTS AND ONE WATERCOLOR PAINTING

11660 A VERY LARGE FOUR PANEL DOUBLE-SIDED GLAZED FOLDING SCREEN MOUNTED WITH SEVENTY-EIGHT PRINTS AND ONE WATERCOLOR PAINTING, DEPICTING VIEWS OF LONDON FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE EARL OF GRANVILLE English. Second Half of the Nineteenth Century. Measurements: Height: 82″ (208.3 cm) Width of each panel: 36 3/4″ (53.4 cm).



Research
Of mahogany or walnut. Comprised of four rectangular panels divided into three gilded framed sections glazed and mounted to each side with 78 prints and one watercolor painting depicting views of London landmarks. In unrestored original condition.

Provenance:
Collection of the Rt. Hon. Earl Granville, M.C. at Pearsie House, Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland
Sold Christie’s Scotland, Prestonfield House, 30 November 1982, Lot 79.

This exceptional four-panel folding screen is mounted on both sides with seventy-eight prints, some  hand colored, comprising views of London, including notable royal and aristocratic houses; public buildings, squares and gardens; churches and monuments; and several prospects of bridges and vistas along the River Thames. Also with the prints is one watercolor showing a view of Southwark Bridge (also called the Queen Street or New Iron Bridge) and the “New” London Bridge, which was built in 1831. (A list of the works is attached in an appendix.)

The screen is also notable for its very high quality of manufacture; the outer frame of each panel is  with double channeled molded sides while the fronts are divided into three sections with original parcel gilding to the ogee molded frames. Furthermore, each picture is set within a system of solid wooden framed compartments with very fine cavetto sight edges geometrically arranged to provide the most pleasing effect. Finally and remarkably the screen retains all of its original hand-made picture glass.

Fixed and adjustable screens first appeared in interiors the seventeenth century, and soon became staple furniture pieces in the houses of the wealthy. Their main purpose was to shield a person “from the fierce heat of [an] open fire, and the keen and still more disagreeable draughts from open doors,”1 but the varied forms and materials used caused them to become decorations in their own right, particularly as a vehicle for display of needlework or artwork. “In European interiors of the early eighteenth century, it was common to decorate upholstered screens with a selection of large-scale colored engravings, chosen for their harmony as an ensemble.”1

In England, “screens were also hand-made, usually by gentlewomen, who decorated an otherwise ordinary piece of furniture by sticking on engravings and pictures cut out of books, magazines and newspapers and then varnishing it.”2 The desire to incorporate contemporary prints into everyday décor led to the production of objects like transfer-printed ceramics, as well as the development of complete interior schemes centered on the medium in the form of Print Rooms.

Created at considerable expense and effort, print rooms were designed in more intimate spaces of a house like a dressing room, closet, or small dining room. “In elite homes, designers adorned interior walls with decoratively arranged prints of landscapes, satirical scenes, famous people, botanicals, and animals. Augmented with eye-catching trim such as paper frames, swags, and ornaments, print rooms functioned as visually unified interiors that emphasized their owners’ social, aesthetic, and intellectual values.” One surviving example is the print room at The Vyne, Hampshire (figure 1), which was created circa 1815 by Caroline Workman and her brothers, who “collaborated…to display on the walls the many prints that ‘had always been kept in a large portfolio in the gallery’.”3

The present screen certainly must have similarly been conceived as a way to liberate a treasured collection of prints from a portfolio so as to be able to enjoy these works at leisure. Inclusion in a screen would have been less invasive than committing them permanently to a wall and would allow the entire collection to be moved between rooms or even residences.

A comparable example of import is a nineteenth century folding screen containing prints in The Small (now White) Drawing Room at Windsor Castle within the private apartments created for George IV (figure 2).

The present screen belonged to the collection of James Leveson-Gower, 5th Earl of Granville (1918–1996) at Pearsie House, his home in Kirriemuir, Scotland (figure 3). Interestingly, another two-fold screen mounted with watercolor drawings of London landmarks was part of the Earl Granville’s collection (figure 4), also sold at Christie’s Edinburgh in 1982 (Lot 45).

Through his mother, Lady Rose Bowes-Lyon, Earl Granville was a nephew of the Queen Mother and first cousin of Queen Elizabeth. He attended Eton College and joined the Coldstream Guards, a regiment of the British Army, where he achieved the rank of major. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery for his service in Italy and North Africa during World War II. He also served as President of the Navy League from 1953–1966. Leverson Gower served as Vice-Lieutenant of the Western Isles between 1976 and 1983 and Lord-Lieutenant of the Western Isles between 1983 and 1993. In addition to Pearsie House, he and his wife had a homes in London at Lyall Mews and at Callernish House on the Isle of North Uist.

Footnotes:

  1. Kang, Minsoo and Amy Woodson-Boulton. Visions of the Industrial Age, 1830–1914 : Modernity and the Anxiety of Representation in Europe. (New York: Routledge, 2017.) 165.
  2. Banham, Joanna, and Leanda Shrimpton. Encyclopedia of Interior Design: Vol. 2. London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2015.
  3. Stobart, Jon, and Mark Rothery. Consumption and the Country House. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.) 79.


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