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Robert Smythier

Sconce c.1670

RCIN 51539

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A set of six cartouche-shaped silver-gilt sconces, each embossed with a scene of the Judgement of Solomon, surrounded by scrolling acanthus, national emblems and swags of husks, and surmounted by a crowned WMR cipher. Each sconce is fitted with two acanthus scroll branches. Silver sconces were an essential part of the fashionable baroque interior; the Jewel House inventory of 1721 lists 191 in the royal palaces. These six sconces were almost certainly the 'six silver chaced sconces' weighing 881 ounces troy 15 pennyweights delivered to the 'deputy keeper of his Maj.s Councell Chamber' at Whitehall Palace on 26 November 1686. The Jewel House Accounts and Receipts Book reveals that the total cost came to £396 11s 3d. The new Council Chamber formed part of Sir Christopher Wren's substantial rebuilding of Whitehall Palace for James II. There the King would have met the Ministers of his Privy Council; the Judgement of Solomon, symbolic of wisdom, embossed on the back of the sconces was therefore a particularly appropriate subject. The ciphers of William and Mary were added later. In 1742 the sconces were noted in the State Bedchamber at Hampton Court. In 1812 the set was shown to George IV; they were subsequently restored and gilded by Rundells for use at Carlton House.