How the ‘Architect Earl’ of Cork Inspired Neo-Palladian Design

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A magnificent set of 10 chairs, described by Christie’s as the pinnacle of Kentian design and the ultimate flowering of the Palladian aesthetic, will go up for auction in New York on October 20.

They are by no means the most expensive lot in the Ann and Gordon Getty collection to sell at four evening and daytime auctions in New York City from October 20, but there is an Irish connection.

The c1754-56 chairs attributed to Benjamin Goodison are believed to be after a design by designer architect William Kent.

Delicately openwork backs and Vitruvian scroll aprons refine the Palladian style promoted by the greatest designer of classic furniture of the time.

A set of 10 chairs c1754-56 attributed to Benjamin Goodison from the Ann and Gordon Getty collection. Photo: Visko Hatfield for Christie’s.

It was his friendship with Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and 4th Earl of Cork (1694-1753), which promoted Kent as a painter, architect and designer.

Known as the Architect Earl, Boyle is credited with bringing Palladian architecture to Ireland and Britain.

Major projects include Burlington House, Piccadilly, London (now home to the Royal Academy), Westminster School, Chiswick House and Northwick Park. Boyle’s professional skill as an architect was extraordinary as an Anglo-Irish aristocrat.

Andrea Palladio’s Four Books of Architecture accompanied him on a grand tour of the Veneto in 1719. Back in London, he employed the Scottish architect Colen Campbell for Burlington House and William Kent was entrusted with the interiors.

The prominently located courtyard at Piccadilly was the first major executed statement of Neo-Palladianism.

Thanks to the Earl of Cork, Palladian architecture with its Roman and Greek influences inspired by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius had arrived in this part of the world.

In the meantime, Kent’s Palladian residences with their fully designed interiors became a model for his contemporaries and subsequent generations. The chairs are estimated between €490,000 and €780,000.

Venice, the Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge seen from the south by Bernardo Bellotto from the Ann and Gordon Getty collection at Christie's.
Venice, the Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge seen from the south by Bernardo Bellotto from the Ann and Gordon Getty collection at Christie’s.

The Ann and Gordon Getty Collection sale will feature nearly 1,500 lots from their San Francisco residence, considered one of the finest interiors in the world. There are decorative and fine art masterpieces of unparalleled quality and provenance.

The New York sales will be complemented by six online auctions of textiles, handbags and jewelry between October 10 and 25.

Highlights include American paintings, English and European furniture, and Asian works of art.

There are impressionist paintings by Claude Monet and Edgar Degas and old master paintings and drawings by Bernardo Bellotto and Jean-Antoine Watteau.

'Lavacourt, Winter' by Claude Monet from the Ann and Gordon Getty collection.
‘Lavacourt, Winter’ by Claude Monet from the Ann and Gordon Getty collection.

Starting in September, highlights will be exhibited in Shanghai, London, Los Angeles, Paris and New York.

Twelve JAR jewels from the estate of Ann Getty (who died in 2020) fetched $5.9 million at a sale of Magnificent Jewels by Christie’s in New York in June.

Proceeds will go to the couple’s foundation for the arts, which is dedicated to supporting arts and science organizations.

Recipients will include the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, University of San Francisco, Berkeley Center for Geochronology, and The Leakey Foundation.

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