A highly important suite of eight carved and patinated wood panels commissioned by Monsignor Thomas Edward Witham for the Grand Foyer of Lartington Hall, County Durham.
Each panel with applied carving in high relief from American pine, of faultless execution and detail, composed of four pendant pairs, the designs of which survive in the Victoria & Albert Museum. The designs showcased within a patinated carved stiff-leaf border derived from the Temple of Athena Polias, each highly carved panel in sharp contrast to a cream-coloured background. While previously compared with the work of Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo, contemporary accounts correctly identify the inspiration as Michelangelo’s designs for the ceiling in the Laurentian Library completed under the patronage of the Medici Pope Clement VII (from The Builder, 1863).
The first pair illustrating Ceres within a temple. The Roman Goddess of Harvest presented alongside her wheat sheaf and holding a sickle; surrounded by a plethora of foliate arabesques cascading all around her.
Another pair centred around the dedicatory message to the patron reading “Mæcenati Suo / Idibus / Decembris 1864” (To my Generous Patron, on the Ides of December 1864), and another inscription reading “addictissimus” (very dedicated), reflecting the devotion and respect the carver held for Monsignor Witham. Both Latin cartouches equally surrounded by foliate arabesques, flora, fauna, a helmeted maiden, and a crowned angel.
The third pair inspired by the fantastical Flemish grotesque tradition popularised by Cornelis Huys in the fifteenth century. At the centre, a roundel depicting the goddess Nike, also known as the Winged Victory, holding an olive branch and a star, as she vanquishes the malicious creatures surrounding her, including two winged figures below, and a mask in the auricular style at the apex.
The final pair once again a triumph of woodcarving, dominated by a cascading fountain, each ripple and wave delicately hand carved. Two satyrs dancing among fish, snails, and salamanders, happily consuming from the grapevine reflecting a celebratory and bacchanalian theme. The heads above representing the Four Winds as they maintain order over the natural world below.
Anglo-Italian, dated 1864.