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An Adam period neo-classical giltwood side table attributed to Sefferin Alken (active between 1744 – 1783). The frieze with central anthemion flanked by husk swags and paterae. The legs with lions heads at the capitals above recessed panels inset with carved heart.The frieze corresponds to that adopted by Robert Adam for an Ionic-columned chimneypiece invented in 1765 for the Whitehall mansion of Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond (d. 1806), George III’s Lord Lieutenant of Sussex and a former ‘Lord of the King’s Bedchamber.’ The legs are capped by lions heads, sacred to the deity of pleasure Bacchus, and are further enriched with Palmyreen heart-shaped ribbon guilloches which derive from Robert Wood’s 1757 engraving of a temple dedicated to Apollo.While lion-headed tablets featured in Robert Adam’s Works of 1772 illustrating an ‘altar’ candelabra for the banqueting room at Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire, it has also been popularised by French silver herm-tapered candelabra designed after the Grecian manner. The reed-wrapped feet, like the palm flower and Palmyreen guilloche formed part of the exceedingly rich repertoire after Adam’s ‘antique taste’ adopted by Thomas Chippendale.There is a pair of tables with similar stylistic carving on the legs after a design by Robert Adam (1728 – 1792) also attributed to the carver Sefferin Alken. One currently resides in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the other in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tables were executed for the Long Gallery at Croome Court, Worcestershire, the country seat of George William (1721 – 1809), sixth Earl of Coventry. A pen-and-wash drawing by Robert Adam dated 1765, in the collection of the Sir John Soane Museum in London, is inscribed: “This seems to imply that the Earl of Northumberland, who was carrying out alterations on Sion House at the time, may have rejected this drawing whereupon Adam may have submitted the same design to Lord Coventry. The drawing shows additional carving that formerly joined the legs, described in Sefferin Alken’s bill of August 1765 as ‘festoons of husks in swags and drops with foliage etc.”
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