A very important set of four Empire giltwood fauteuils designed by Georg Ludwig Laves for William IV King of England and Hannover for the Cour Saal in the Leineschloss, Hannover, each stamped with the letters RS below the royal crown, each with a rectangular scrolled and channelled backrail mounted with scrolled palmettes with downward scrolled armrests terminated by acanthus crowned winged lion heads, the slightly bowed channeled seat rail decorated with scrolled palmettes and rosettes above scrolled acanthus capped monopodia legs terminated by lion paw feet and posterior channeled sabre legs, the padded back and seat cushion covered in a red silk with gilt woven laurel wreaths, flowers, rosettes and antique motifs
Hannover, made in 1834
Height 94 cm, width 67 cm, depth 47 cm. each.
Provenance: Made in 1834 for King William IV of England and Hannover for the Cour Saal in the Leineschloss, Hannover. King Ernst August of Hannover, brother and successor of William IV at the Leineschloss, Hannover. Private Collection, Hannover.
Literature: Thomas Dann, “Die Königlichen Prunkappartements im hannoverschen Leineschloss”, 2000, p. 72, pl. 19, illustrating a photograph of the Cour Saal of the Leineschloss showing the fauteuils in their original situ. And p. 78, pl. 25, showing one of the fauteuils after it had entered a private collection.
Rarely does one get the opportunity to present such an important set of chairs as these, which were designed by the leading German classical architect and designer Georg Ludwig Friedrich Laves (1788-1864) for William IV King of England and of Hannover specifically for the Cour Saal at Leineschloss, Hannover. This royal palace, built beside the banks of the River Leine on the site of a twelfth century monastery became the main Hanoverian residence in 1636. Over the centuries it underwent major rebuilding; in 1742 the North West wing was replaced but the major transformation occurred later when between 1816 and 1844 Laves reconstructed it under William IV’s instructions. Not only did he redesign the building in the revived grand Greek classical style, adding for instance a grand columnar portico façade (modelled on Henry Holland’s Carlton House, London) but he also designed many of the interior decorations and furnishings, including the present fauteuils. An inventory of the palace made in 1845 notes that there were originally 27 chairs made for the Cour Saal. One can get a sense of its grandeur from a photograph taken in 1866 showing the grand state room with the fauteuils in situ, arranged against the walls beneath imposing oil paintings and a magnificent painted ceiling and sumptuous crystal chandeliers above. A later photograph taken in 1900, which was made into a postcard, shows that by that date the paintings had been removed and the fauteuils and chandeliers had been replaced (Thomas Dann, ibid, p. 72, pl. 20). Sadly the castle suffered major damage during WWII bombing raids and many of the contents were destroyed yet thankfully these chairs were spared. In 1830 William IV (1765-1837) succeeded his brother George IV as the British monarch and from 1815 ruled in union as King of Hannover up until his death in 1837.
Though King of Hannover, William did not live in the Leineschloss but in 1837 when his brother Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1771-1851) became the last King of Hannover, the castle was once more used as a royal residence, albeit primarily for official purposes.
In addition to their esteemed provenance one of the great attributes of these chairs is their condition for they still retain their original dual bright and matt gilding. The fauteuils also retain their original drop in seat frame and though the upholstery has been replaced the pattern and colouring replicates the originals. Each fauteuil bears a stamp composed of the letters RS below a crown referring to William IV, for whom they were originally made. In keeping with the overall design for Leineschloss, the chairs were designed in the Greek Classical revival style inspired by Laves’ knowledge of Antiquity, English Palladianism, and the French Empire style of Percier and Fontaine, Napoleon’s favourite architect and designers, who like Laves created a complete style for their patron. Laves’ sense of robust form and well balanced proportions are shown to great advantage here in the finely modelled winged lion heads, the dramatic lion paw feet which are offset by the posterior sabre legs. They like the channeled frame and ornate relief ornaments all reflect Laves’ knowledge of the English Classical revival, the French Empire and Antiquity itself, gained from his extensive travels throughout Europe including those to England where he became acquainted with many English architects, including John Nash.
Born in Uslar, Lower Saxony, the son of a pastor, Laves trained in Kassel under his uncle the architect Heinrich Christoph Jussow and after two years at the University of Göttingen he joined the civil service, first in Fulda and then in the kingdom of Westphalia. In 1814 he went to Hannover, where, after a trip to Rome in the winter of 1814–15, quickly rose to become head of building administration and also soon the leading architect of the realm with responsibility for the whole of the interior of the royal buildings including the refurbishment of Leineschloss as well as Schloss Monbrillant (1817) and Herrenhausen (1820). In addition to the remodelling of the royal palaces, Laves was responsible for the design of public buildings and urban planning.
During the next 50 years Hannover was to be transformed by his romantic Greek revival style almost impressively as were Berlin and Munich by his great contemporaries Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Leo von Klenze. The rebuilding and refurbishment of the Leineschloss, which began in 1816 and continued up until 1844 was one of his most impressive achievements and was to become the focus of a town plan that consisted of several radiating axes. Other of his great works included his own house (1822–4) in Friedrichstrasse and the Palais Wangenheim (1829–33) with its semicircular glass winter garden at first-floor level, as well as the Hoftheater (1845–52). Laves combined his knowledge of various past and contemporary artistic styles as well as his own sense of design, architecture and engineering so that among other feats was a design for the London Great Exhibition Building, 1851, which interestingly incorporated glass and iron, not dissimilar to Joseph Paxton’s winning entry. Laves also developed the fish belly-shaped ‘Laves beam’, which enabled the construction of wide spans and was particularly useful for bridges.
In addition to his work for William IV, Laves gained commissions from his predecessor, the Prince Regent later George IV as well as his younger brother Adolph Friedrich Duke of Cambridge who represented him as Governor-General from 1816 to 1831 as Viceroy of Hannover. After William IV’s death, Leineschloss and its contents were then enjoyed by his brother and successor Ernest Augustus and since Leineschloss was primarily used for official purposes and the Cour Saal was the centre of such activity, the fauteuils would have been used and admired by many important visitors to the great Hanoverian palace. Despite the devastation to much of Hannover and the palace itself during WWII, some of the contents were saved. Among them were these fauteuils, which are a testament to Laves and his interpretation of German Neo-classicism as well as the story of Hannover itself.