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The Sale at Stowe, 1848

Source: The Illustrated London News, August 26, 1848, p.126

Two repositories for bijouterie, lots 362 and 363, are moat exquisite specimens of carving in wood. They are of pear tree, and the pier tables supporting them, are of the finest design and delicacy of sculpture it is possible to imagine. The legs of the tables are square, ornamented with masks and trophies and on a centre-piece, supported by a framework of elaborate and fantastic shape from leg to leg of the table, is a trophy of arms of the most beautiful workmanship. The repositories themselves are scarcely in keeping with the design of the tables; for though of admirable character and workmanship, the rigid horizontal lines of mouldings in the three tiers of shelves, of which they are composed, and the pillars tapering to the base, scarcely harmonise with the exquisitely flowing lines of ornamentation of the tables: they are, however, together, fine specimens of the decorative furniture of a hundred and thirty years since.

Several of the most celebrated of the pieces of furniture, &c. from Fonthill Abbey have been conspicuous amongst the adornments at Stowe; and amongst other things, a cabinet of ebony, made somewhat after the fashion of a temple, is deserving of especial mention. The central compartment has a pediment; and four pillars of rosso antico support an upper story, above which is the frieze of lapis lazuli; and between the pillars are groups of Neptune and marine deities, with figures and animals in relief, within circular-headed niches. The side compartments have drawers in them, the fronts of which are composed of hæmatite, and enriched with rubies and emeralds. Terminal figures of chased ormolu add to the enrichments of the whole; and the cabinet stands on an open frame-work of six legs, the upper portion of which has Latimer crosses upon it—Mr. Beckford's symbol. Three small tables, or rather slabs, of pietre dure, on very plain and unornamental stands, were also from Fonthill: they displayed on their surfaces groups of shells, coral and pearl, and butterflies and flowers, in different coloured jaspers, with lapis lazuli, &c. inlaid with great taste and effect.

Amongst the many rarities which have graced the state rooms, the beautiful tables of malachite, having borders of lapis lazuli and delicate mosaics, must not be lightly passed. all of them being magnificent specimens of art, and one in particular, in which, in the centre of the malachite, is a boar hunt, in mosaic, of the most surpassing delicacy of tint and finish. The border to this table, of vine leaves, in mosaic, is no less beautiful than the central piece. The tables of inlaid marbles, pietre dure, &c., are of charming variety of style and pattern. A chess table, in which the squares are of malachite and Labrador feldspar, is extremely rich in effect; the prismatic hues of the feldspar harmonising delightfully with the rich and tortuous veining of the malachite. All of these tables fetched excessively high prices; and, indeed, their beauty was the theme of admiration of all who examined them. They were all mounted on stands carved and gilded.