An­tiques ex­pert JU­DITH MILLER tours her favourite room from this is­sue’s houses – the draw­ing room in Cle­mentina Stiegler’s con­verted mill house

Homes and Antiques Magazine - - LIFESTYLE : HOMES -


This 19th- cen­tury re­pro­duc­tion of an 18th- cen­tury ‘Adam’style chim­ney piece has been stripped of its orig­i­nal painted fin­ish to re­veal the un­der­ly­ing pine wood from which it was made. The style was an 18th- cen­tury vari­ant of neo­clas­si­cism, for­mu­lated by the Scot­tish ar­chi­tect and de­signer Robert Adam (1728–92), who stud­ied first hand clas­si­cal Ro­man ar­chi­tec­ture and dec­o­ra­tion in Rome and Pom­peii. Con­fig­ured sym­met­ri­cally like the en­trance to a tem­ple, and com­pris­ing a pair of colum­nar pi­lasters sup­port­ing an entab­la­ture and frieze all based on the ‘Or­ders’ of clas­si­cal ar­chi­tec­ture, the chim­ney piece is also carved with dis­creet rows of dec­o­ra­tion known as ‘flut­ing’.


The paint­ing above the chim­ney piece is by the em­i­nent 20th- cen­tury artist Caziel (1906–1988). Pol­ish-born, Caziel moved to Bri­tain in the late 1950s, fol­low­ing his mar­riage to his sec­ond wife, the Scot­tish artist Cather­ine Sin­clair. He be­came a nat­u­ralised Bri­tish ci­ti­zen in 1975. His for­ma­tive years were spent in War­saw, Paris, and Aix- en-Provence, where in­flu­ence and in­spi­ra­tion was largely Post- Im­pres­sion­ist: es­pe­cially the works of Gau­guin, Matisse, Cézanne, and Picasso (who be­friended Caziel). Although most of Caziel’s work be­came rig­or­ously geo­met­ric in the 1950s, evolv­ing into pure ab­strac­tion dur­ing the 1960s and be­yond, this paint­ing – Caziel lov­ingly imag­in­ing his wife Cather­ine as a young wo­man work­ing on a dairy farm dur­ing the Sec­ond World War – re­calls his ear­lier, more fig­u­ra­tive style.


The sculp­tures on the man­telshelf are by Cle­mentina’s mother Cather­ine Sin­clair (1919–2007). While most are wood- carved – three in black ebony – dur­ing the 1950s, the three fe­male forms in the cen­tre are clay. Sculpted in the 1980s, they may orig­i­nally have been in­tended as fig­u­ral finials for the lids of ce­ramic cook­ing pots. Sin­clair’s con­sid­er­able tal­ents as a sculp­tor also ex­tended to paint­ing: the por­trait of Cle­mentina as a child to the right of the fire­place and the still life gar­den land­scape on the left wall are both by her. The Blooms­bury Group- es­que com­po­si­tion of the still life is no co­in­ci­dence – while grow­ing up, Sin­clair moved in cir­cles that in­cluded artists such as Dun­can Grant and Roger Fry, while her aunt was the Fitzroy Street Group artist-host­ess Ethel Sands.


Through­out the course of the 18th and 19th cen­turies the prac­ti­cal ‘im­ped­i­menta of the hearth’ – the tools re­quired to make, sus­tain, and clear do­mes­tic fires – be­came in­creas­ingly dec­o­ra­tive. A fig­u­ral and fo­li­ate dec­o­rated cast-iron fire­back, and a brass fen­der, poker and tongs – the former with pine cone finials, the lat­ter with rope-twist shafts – are ac­com­pa­nied here by some par­tic­u­larly splen­did wall-hung bel­lows. Hous­ing a brass studse­cured leather airbag, its wooden frame is red and black lac­quer­ware dec­o­rated with ori­en­tal fig­ures in a chi­nois­erie style.


While the ba­sic shape or form of this 19th- cen­tury, but­ton­back, leather up­hol­stered arm­chair has its roots in French de­signs that emerged in the 18th cen­tury, it is in fact English. How­ever, the ‘show’ wood of the frame also tips its hat to the bold and elab­o­rate carv­ing found on some con­ti­nen­tal chairs of the pe­riod, most no­tably from Italy. The mo­tifs em­ployed, pri­mar­ily scrolling fo­li­ate forms, are also stylis­ti­cally di­verse, draw­ing on Re­nais­sance, Pal­la­dian, clas­si­cal re­vival, and even ro­coco prece­dents – a stylis­tic eclec­ti­cism typ­i­cal of the mid to late Vic­to­rian pe­riod.

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