DUMFRIES HOUSE – CHRISTIE’S.  Dumfries House: A Chippendale Commission. Volume I. Session One Thursday 12 July 2007 [–Volume II. Session Two Friday 14 July 2007 ]. London: Christie, Manson & Woods Ltd, 2007.

2 volumes, folio (296 x 227mm), pp. I: 368; II: 346. Numerous colour-printed illustrations, many full- or double-page. (Some light marginal discoloration, some ll. in vol. II with marginal creasing.) Original printed wrappers, upper wrappers with photographic illustrations, lower wrappers illustrated with the arms of William Crichton-Dalrymple, 5th Earl of Dumfries, wrappers and spines lettered in gilt, inner wrappers with facsimiles of signatures. (Slightly rubbed and creased at extremities, some very light marking.) A very good set.

First edition. ‘Dumfries House, the home of the Crichton Earls of Dumfries which later passed, through marriage, into the hands of the Marquesses of Bute, is recognised as the finest architectural commission of the celebrated architect brothers John, Robert and James Adam in the early years of their partnership. The house, constructed between 1754 and 1760 for William Crichton-Dalrymple, 5th Earl of Dumfries, on his estate of Leifnorris in Ayrshire, was added to in a series of sensitive extension and alteration works begun in the 1890s by that great Victorian builder John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute, in conjunction with the architect Robert Weir Schultz, arguably the finest Scots born exponent of the arts and crafts movement. Schultz undertook additional work to the house for John Crichton-Stuart, 4th Marquess of Bute, during the early 1900s and Lord Bute made further important alterations during the 1930s. Today Dumfries House stands as testimony to both the artistic patronage of three major architectural patrons and the design excellence displayed by some of Scotland’s finest architects. Dumfries House is not only remarkable for its architectural pedigree however. Inside the Earl furnished the house with an exceptional range of furniture, including what is now recognised as the most important representative collection of works from Thomas Chippendale’s Director period and the most comprehensive range of pieces produced by the significant Edinburgh furniture makers Alexander Peter, William Mathie and Francis Brodie. The furniture, largely pieces chosen or commissioned by Lord Dumfries himself to complement the vibrant rococo interiors (including some of the finest examples of 18th century stucco-work ceilings in Britain), is the most important collection of 18th century British furniture to ever have appeared on the market’ (Andrew McLean, ‘Dumfries House: A History’, p. 7). 

Following the failure of an attempt to transfer Dumfries House and its contents to National Trust for Scotland, the collections at Dumfries House were catalogued by Christie’s for sale by auction in 2007, and this catalogue provides a fascinating record of the collections, which had remained in the same family for some 250 years. The first volume of the catalogue is prefaced by three essays – ‘Dumfries House: A History’ by McLean (Archivist, Bute Archive, Mount Stuart), ‘Taste in the 1750s’ by John Hardy, and ‘Dumfries House – A Wider Scottish Perspective; The 18th Century Furniture Trade in Scotland’ by Dr Sebastian Pryke – and brief biographies of Francis Brodie, Alexander Peter, and William Mathie, while the second volume is prefaced by the essay ‘Who was the “Dumfries House Cabinet-Maker”?’ by Rufus Bird. The catalogue of more than 600 lots is arranged in order of the rooms of Dumfries House, thus showing the pieces as they were grouped in the house, and the catalogue descriptions are frequently accompanied by images of original receipts or documentation relating to the lots (drawn from the Bute Archive), while some are illustrated by historic photographs depicting the pieces in situ

On 27 June 2007, shortly before the auction was due to take place, it was announced that a consortium led by the then Prince of Wales (now King Charles III) had raised sufficient funds for The Art Fund to purchase the house and its contents for £45,000,000, thus saving the house and its preeminent collections for the nation. The Christie’s auction was cancelled before many sets of Dumfries House: A Chippendale Commission had been circulated, and therefore the catalogues – which are greatly sought after as a well-illustrated and scholarly record of a unique collection – are very rare on the market. 

£349.50 – RESERVED

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