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The Lazcano Palace Armchairs by Giles Grendey


The Lazcano Palace Armchairs by Giles Grendey A highly important and exceptionally rare pair of George II scarlet japanned armchairs by Giles Grendey from the Lazcano suite, which is considered one of the most important and iconic suites of English 18th century furniture ever made. Each chair with a vase-shaped back splat decorated with chinoiserie figures in landscape scenes with scrolling foliage, birds, and strapwork. The bowed seat frames similarly decorated and with original cane-work seats. Raised upon cabriole front legs and outsplayed back legs joined by a serpentine stretcher. One chair with the original trade label to the underside of the seat frame reading ‘GILES GRENDEY, St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, LONDON, Makes and Sells all Sorts of CABINET GOODS, Chairs, Tables, Glasses, &c.’ Each chair with the journey-man’s initials ‘HW’ impressed to the back of the chair frame. Height: 44 in (112 cm) Width: 30¼ in (77 cm) Depth: 24 in (61 cm)


Provenance Supplied to either Don Juan Raimundo de Arteaga-Lazcano y Chiriboga, II MarquĂŠs de Valmediano (1677-1761), for Lazcano, San SebastiĂĄn, Spain, circa 1735-1740, and by descent at Lazcano, or to Don Juan de Dios de Silva Mendoza y Sandival, X Duque del Infantado (1672-1737), or his daughter, Dona Maria Teresa de Silva y Mendoza, XI Duquesa del Infantado (1707-1770), and thence by descent at Lazcano Acquired with the majority of the suite by Adolfo Loewi, 1930 Walter Rosen for his house Caramoor, in Katonah, New York


The Lazcano Suite by Giles Grendey These iconic chairs form part of the most celebrated and elaborate suite of English furniture from the eighteenth century. Commissioned from the esteemed London cabinetmaker Giles Grendey, this extensive suite comprises of at least seventy-seven scarlet japanned pieces including tables, chairs, daybed, looking glasses, tripod stands, and several desks and bookcases. The significance of this palatial collection of furniture is unprecedented, and it has been the subject of numerous publications on furniture history. Historian R.W Symonds described pieces from the suite as ‘the best English cabinet-work’ in 1935 and Christopher Gilbert further emphasized the suite’s ‘outstanding importance’ in 1971. Today, many items from the suite are now represented in major museums around the globe, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Temple Newsam House, Leeds; and the Museo de las Artes Decorativas, Madrid. This suite is acknowledged as one of the most important groups of English furniture of the 18th century ever made.

‘the best English cabinet-work’ R.W. Symonds, renowned scholar of English furniture, 1935          ‘of outstanding importance’ Christopher Gilbert, 1971


Giles Grendey Giles Grendey (1693-1780) was one of the preeminent London cabinetmakers in the 18th century. Born in Wooton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire, Grendey apprenticed under the London joiner William Sherborne before becoming a freeman in 1716. Taking his own apprentices by 1726, Grendey was elected to the Livery of the Joiners’ Company in 1729. His first workshop was at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, and he later moved to St. John’s Square, Clerkenwell where he developed a thriving domestic and export trade. Although there is not a great deal of extant information on Grendey’s English clients, he is known to have provided furniture for Sir Jacob de Bouverie at Longford Castle and Henry Hoare at Stourhead. There is a bill from Grendey to Richard Hoare of Barns Elms, Surrey dated 1723 that includes a chest of drawers, a ‘Burow Table,’ dressing glasses,

chimney glasses, and a ‘Wrighting Disk.’ Lord Scarsdale of Kedleston Hall, perhaps his most influential English patron, acquired ‘1 Fine Jamai. Mahog. Plank’ from Grendey for £21 in 1762. Grendey was one of only a few English cabinetmakers to affix trade labels to some of his furniture, which helps to provide additional information on Grendey’s clients and work. His labels advertised that he ‘makes and sells all sorts of cabinet goods, chairs, and glasses.’ A number of pieces, in particular chairs, also feature a stamp with the initials of workmen in his employ. The present pair of chairs is notable for retaining Grendey’s label on the underside of one chair and featuring the journey-man stamp ‘HW’ incised on the back of both chairs.

View of St. John’s Square, Clerkenwell with Grendey’s workshop at the far left.


Giles Grendey & the Export Market According to furniture historian R. W. Symonds, Giles Grendey is the only 18th century English furniture maker of whom definite evidence exists of his thriving export trade, notably to Spain, Italy, and Portugal. One record of his exportation of goods was reported in various newspapers on August 7, 1731 after a fire started on adjacent premises to Grendey, ‘a Cabinetmaker and Chair-maker.’ This devastating fire caused him to lose furniture to the value of £1,000, including one particular piece which was described as: ‘among other rich and valuable Goods was burnt a Chair of such rich and curious Workmanship… it being intended, to be purchas’d by a person of

Quality who design’d it as a Present to a German Prince,’ which he ‘had packed for Exportation against the next morning.’ Furniture made in London for the Spanish market invariably displayed distinctive features that were designed to appeal to the Spaniard’s love of opulence and colour. In particular, japanned and gilded decoration appealed to Spanish taste more than the traditional timbers of walnut and mahogany. Grendey’s most famous documented export commission is the celebrated Lazcano Palace suite, including the present pair of chairs.


The Origin of Japanning In July 1596, Elizabeth I invited the emperor of China to establish trade with England. The establishment of the East India Company a few short years later in 1599 helped to formally open trade routes with the East and introduced the European courts to the wonders of Chinese art and design. One of the most highly prized exports from the East was lacquerware. In the form of screens, chests, and cabinets, lacquer was coveted for its brilliant lustrous surfaces and exotic decoration. The novelty and expense of Asian lacquer work sparked a desire to recreate these works in Europe. Ultimately, the Europeans were searching in vain for the recipe to make lacquer as the specific resin required, sap from Rhus vernicifera, was not available as the tree is only found in Asia. Instead, the Europeans developed a technique involving layers of paints and varnishes that created a similar appearance to lacquer when applied in a precise way.

The English referred to their imitations of Asian lacquer as Japan work. John Stalker and George Parker’s 1688 publication, A Treatise on Japanning and Varnishing, was one of the most influential treatises on japanned furniture and decoration in England. Early examples of japanned work can be seen at Ham House, with a 1683 inventory recording a pair of ‘black stoles.’ Many of the greatest cabinetmakers of their time were known to deal in japanned furniture. The Royal cabinetmaker James Moore is recorded in 1700-01 as supplying furniture to Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch which included ‘a Buro made of Japan & Locks… 2 flowerd Japan Cabinetts & frames with Locks & Hinges.’ The most celebrated cabinetmaker associated with japanned furniture in Georgian England is Giles Grendey as his designs were unparalleled in quality, creativity, and grandeur.

An early 18th century red japanned bureau bookcase made by John Belchier for Erddig, Wales. The National Trust.


Chinoiserie John Stalker and George Parker’s aforementioned publication, A Treatise on Japanning and Varnishing, offered a thorough description of the japanning technique as well as providing decorative schemes to use. The decorative schemes depicted in the treatise offered a wide variety of inspiration for artisans seeking to emulate the Asian style. Common motifs that ran through many of the designs include chinoiserie landscapes with pagodas and garden pavilions, figures in elaborate dress, and a menagerie of exotic beasts and birds. Grendey’s chairs from the Lazcano Palace suite appear to draw direct inspiration from this treatise with the prominent central figures and surrounding landscape, as well as his skillful application of gold leaf

highlighting areas and with gilded tones to simulate bas-relief. The large-scale central figures and garden scenes enriched with animals ref lect a European interpretation of Chinese imperial luxury. Drawings and records of visits to China in the late 17th and early 18th centuries came back to Europe and became source material for designers looking to evoke the Chinese aesthetic. In France, the Beauvais tapestry manufactory produced a series entitled Histoire du Roi de la Chine. The taste for chinoiserie designs in France and abroad expanded with publication of Livre de Dessins Chinois in 1735 and a profusion of wallpapers designed with chinoiserie scenes at this time.

Design from Stalker & Parker, A Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing, 1688.


Lazcano Palace showing the extensive suite of red japanned furniture by Giles Grendey from Cristina de Arteaga, La Casa del Infantado Cabeza de los Mendoza, 1944, Vol.II.

The Dukes of Infantado The Palace of Lazcano was built between 1620 and 1640 in Guipúzcoa, Northern Spain and is associated with one of the oldest noble titles in Spain, dating back to 1330 when the head of the family was created Señor de la Casa de Lazcano con Grandeza de España. In 1697, Don Juan Antonio de Arteaga acquired the Palace of Lazcano. It is possible that the suite of furniture was originally commissioned for Lazcano Palace by Arteaga’s son, Don Juan Raimundo de Arteaga-Lazcano Chiriboga y Hurtado de Mendoza (1708-1761). In 1891, on the death of the 15th Duke of Infantado, Don Andrés, a descendant of Don Juan Antonio Arteaga of Lazcano inherited the Dukedom, which tied the inheritance of the Dukes of Infantado to the Palace of Lazcano. The Dukedom of Infantado was granted to Diego Hurtado de Mendoza y Figueroa by King Ferdinand VII and Queen Isabella on 22 July 1475. The Infantado are one of the grandest families in Spanish history and count seven knights in the Order of the Golden Fleece and one Prime Minster

of Spain. The family owned a number of important residences, including the Castillo de Manzanares in Castilla, and the Palacio del Infantado in Guadalajara. The Infantado were perfectly positioned in the early 18th century to embark on the commissioning of such a magnificent suite of furniture. Don Juan de Dios de Silva y Mendoza, the 10th Duke (1672-1737), was one of the richest men in Spain at the time, and it is possible he could have commissioned the suite for his daughter, Maria Francisca Alfonsa de Silva Mendoza y Sandoval, the future 11th Duchess (1707-1770), after her marriage in 1724 or on her accession in 1737. They may well have brought the suite with them when they inherited Lazcano in 1891. The suite is recorded in a 19th century photograph of an interior of the Palace of Lazcano which was later reproduced in La Casa del Infantado cabeza de los Mendoza by Cristina de Arteaga (Vol II, Madrid, 1944).


Adolph Loewi & Caramoor In 1930, the German dealer Adolph Loewi (1888-1977) visited Lazcano Palace and acquired a great deal of the japanned suite, including fifty side chairs, twelve armchairs, two daybeds, two pairs of mirrors, a pair of candlestands, a card table, and a tripod tea table. His ‘traveling stock-book’ records a majority of the acquisition” ‘8152—24 chairs; 8153—6 arm-chairs; 8154—2 chaise-longues; 8155—1 mirror, 8156—1 small mirror; 8157—2 gueridons; 8158—1 game-table; 8159—1 tray [table].’ From his shops in Venice at the Palazzo NaniMocenigo and later in New York City, Loewi sold the collection to distinguished clients internationally. One of his greatest patrons was Walter Tower Rosen (1875-1951), an avid art collector. Rosen and his wife, Lucie, travelled each September to Venice and during one of their trips they met Loewi and acquired

twenty-four side chairs, four armchairs, and two mirrors for their Caramoor estate in Katonah, New York. William Rieder, former curator of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, once commented, ‘Caramoor’s Rosen House is really the most wonderful place…I was amazed by what is there, and what is unknown to the art world.’ The pieces from the Rosen collection have since been dispersed beginning in the early 1980s. When the Rosens sold eight side chairs at Christie’s in 1980, The International Art Market published a piece entitled ‘Thoughts on the Art Market: The $290,000 Scarlet Lacquer Chairs.’ In total, the chairs achieved a price of $319,000 including premium and sold to George Levy of the Harold Blairman Gallery. The present pair of armchairs is one of the two pairs from the Rosen collection that is illustrated in situ in their dining room at Caramoor.

View of the Rosen family dining room at Caramoor, New York with the Lazcano Palace chairs.


The Lazcano Suite in the 20th Century Today many pieces from the Lazcano Palace suite are in notable public collections after Loewi’s initial acquisition in the 1930s. The Victoria & Albert Museum was offered a pair of day beds, a pair of candlestands, and two mirrors from the Lazcano suite by John Hunt in 1946. Hunt was a medievalist, scholar, collector, and art dealer who worked intimately with Sotheby’s in London and notable collectors Randolph Hearst, Harry Guggenheim, and the Aga Khan. The Victoria & Albert Museum ended up acquiring one of the day beds for a sum of £250, while the other day bed went to the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia. In the 1930s, the Spanish Art Gallery of London acquired a bureau bookcase from the Lazcano Palace suite from Lazcano Palace directly—one of the few pieces not acquired by Loewi at the time. The gallery sold the bureau to Mallett & Son Antiques, another

venerable London dealer. A notice on an exhibition of English Furniture at Mallett’s Bond Street galleries highlights the bureau, commenting, ‘The most interesting exhibit from the point of view of the historian of furniture is without question the bureaucabinet (No. 123) bearing the trade-label of Giles Grendey… [which is] lacquered scarlet and gold… [a] brilliant specimen of decorative furniture.’ Country Life’s review of the exhibit also highlighted the scarlet cabinet, nothing that ‘[Grendey’s] label has from time to time been found on furniture of high quality. The whole of the exterior is decorated with Chinese figures, grotesque animals and flowers within diapered borders.’ Mallett in turn sold the cabinet to the City Art Museum of St. Louis in 1940, and this piece later passed through the collection of Arthur Seligman, who sold it to Mr Loewi. A further pair of the bureau bookcases were recently acquired by the Museo Nacional des Artes Decorativas in Madrid.

Mallett & Son (Antiques) Ltd. advertisement in The Burlington Magazine, July 1939, featuring the scarlet japanned bureau bookcase.


The Lazcano Suite in Public Institutions

(left) A card table from the Lazcano Palace Suite, Metropolitan Museum of Art. (right) View of Temple Newsam House, Leeds showing two armchairs and six side chairs from the Lazcano Palace Suite

Pieces from this exceptional suite of furniture can be currently found in major museums, including: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Victoria and Albert Museum, London National Gallery of Victoria, Australia Rosen Foundation, New York Temple Newsman House, Leeds Museo Nacional des Artes Decorativas, Madrid


Architectural digest ‘Historic Houses: Treasures of Caramoor’


Architectural digest ‘Historic Houses: Treasures of Caramoor’ cont.


Architectural digest ‘the case of the scarlet-lacquer chairs’


Architectural digest ‘the case of the scarlet-lacquer chairs’ cont.


Literature R.W. Symonds, ‘Giles Grendey (1693-1780) and the Export Trade of English Furniture to Spain’, Apollo, 1935, pp. 337-342 R.W. Symonds, Masterpieces of English Furniture and Clocks, London, 1940, pp. 87-88, figs. 56-57. R. Edwards & M, Jourdain, ‘Georgian Cabinet-Makers VIII ‘Giles Grendey & William Hallett’, Country Life, 1942, pp. 176-177. C. de Arteago, La casa del Infantado, Cabeza de Mendoza, vol. II, 1944 R.W. Symonds, ‘In Search of Giles Grendey’, 1955, p. 145. C. Gilbert, ‘Furniture by Giles Grendey for the Spanish Trade’, The Magazine Antiques, April 1971, pp. 544-550. ‘English Japanned Furniture’, Connoisseur, June 1964, p. 120. Leeds Art Calendar, no 66, 1970, p.3. H. Huth, Lacquer of the West, 1971, pls. 65-66. G. Wills, English Furniture 1550-1760, London, 1971, p.130. S. Jervis, ‘A Great Dealer in the Cabinet Way: Giles Grendey (1693-1780)’, Country Life, 1974, pp. 1418-1419. C. Gilbert, Furniture at Temple Newsam House and Lotherton Hall, vol. I, Leeds, 1978, pp.79-81 G. Beard & C. Gilbert (eds.), The Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840, Leeds, 1986, pp. 371-372. G. Beard & J. Goodison, English Furniture 1500-1840, Oxford, 1987, pp. 34 & 86. C. Gilbert, The Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, Leeds, 1996, pp.31-32 & figs. 442-451. C. Ordoñez Goded, 'Japanning en España. Un lote de muebles de laca color escarlata realizado por Giles Grendey'. Revista de la Asociación para el estudio del mueble, nr. 14. Barcelona, 2011, pp.14-21.


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