Culture Minister David Lammy has placed a temporary export ban on a highly important George II Gothick japanned cabinet from Easton Neston.
Henrietta Louis, Countess of Pomfret, undoubtedly commissioned
the cabinet, but whether it was for Easton Neston or her London
home is debatable.
From 1741, the Pomfrets lived both in London and at Easton Neston,
but when Lady Pomfret's husband died in 1753. Her estranged son,
deeply in debt, inherited the country house and proceeded to sell
all the contents.
Rich in her own right, the Countess applied her eccentric taste
and lively interest in early architecture, derived from a Roman
Catholic upbringing in France, to an elaborate new home at 18
Arlington Street, St James's, nicknamed Pomfret Castle.
Around the same time her good friend Horace Walpole, who also had
a London residence in Arlington Street, built his legendary Gothick
revivalist castle, Strawberry Hill, in Twickenham, which still
Pomfret Castle was demolished in the 1930s with much of Arlington
Street, but not before Country Life fully photographed the empty
interiors, showing plasterwork and woodwork in the strong
perpendicular style. The only other extant piece of furniture that
can be attributed to the home is a large mahogany Gothick library
table in the style of Chippendale, now at Temple Newsam House, near
At Sotheby's in May 2005, the pine cabinet was documented as
c.1755 and having been commissioned for Pomfret Castle. But since
the Countess never returned to Easton Neston after her husband's
death, and left her son completely out of her will, it is now being
suggested by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) that
it was made for Easton Neston before 1753, and either her son was
unable to sell it or deliberately withheld it. It did not resurface
until the late 20th century at Easton Neston, when it was
photographed by Country Life.
Although it took a below-estimate £90,000 at the Easton Neston
sale, it has been revalued at £1.2m. The temporary export ban gives
institutions until December 5 to put together a serious plan to
raise funds for its purchase.
Anyone interested in making an offer should contact the owner's
agent through: The Secretary, The Reviewing Committee on the Export
of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, Museums,
Libraries and Archives Council, Victoria House, Southampton Row,
London WC1B 4EA.
By Stephanie Harris
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