Rare historic pieces reunited

Fairfax House secures the exquisite, long-lost missing pair to an object in its collection in amazing auction discovery and launches campaign to recreate their original setting.

A pair of rare George II Rosewood Candlestands have been reunited by Fairfax House in York. Dating to c1745-1760, they are exquisitely carved from solid Indian rosewood, and feature tripod legs with beautifully detailed Lion-paw feet, showcasing the finest of English craftsmanship. Designed to hold a candlestick or candelabra aloft and provide precious candlelight to a room, this pair of stands (also known as torchères) have been apart for at least the past 70 years, likely longer.

How they became separated is unknown. The ‘first’ candlestand, which has been on display at Fairfax House for the past 35 years, was bequeathed by the great twentieth-century collector, Noel G. Terry (of the Terry’s chocolate dynasty), along with the rest of his remarkable collection of eighteenth-century furniture. Noel Terry bought the stand from a London Antique Dealer in 1944, its pair had always been considered permanently lost.

The match to the ‘Terry candlestand’ was discovered just before Christmas 2018 at the Woolley and Wallis auction house in Salisbury. Following research and expert analysis, it was confirmed that the newly discovered candlestand was clearly from the same workshop and that each carved detail matched the other perfectly.

Saving the candlestand was an opportunity unlikely to be ever repeated and one which Fairfax House was determined to pursue. The acquisition was supported by the Noel G. Terry Charitable Trust, Art Fund and the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

Hannah Phillip, Director, said: ‘The opportunity to bring objects back together happens all too rarely. This was something which we knew we had to achieve at all costs, and we are deeply grateful to the organisations who both generously and so swiftly gave the support needed to make this a reality. It is a great pleasure to be able to achieve this and in a sense complete the work that Noel Terry began. The whole team of staff and volunteers feel a great sense of pride’.

Following conservation treatment, the candlestands are now on permanent public display together in the Library.

This acquisition also coincides with the launch of an exciting new project: Seeing Fairfax House in a new light. The aim is to reveal a world without electric light and life in a Georgian townhouse after dark. This project and fundraising campaing will ultimately reinstate ‘candle’ fittings (both period and replica) throughout Fairfax House and illuminate the effects of candlepower and the way lighting had to be approached in the eighteenth century.