A rare pine and composition chimneypiece by Richard Foster of Edinburgh. The chimneypiece is a celebration of the Scottish coast, and painstaking care has been taken to render the sea life and flora with a great deal of accuracy. The composition decoration has also been carefully wood-grained to make it appear like carved pine; this finish is a great survival.
The inverted breakfront shelf sits above a band of composition moulded into acorns and mushrooms, and the frieze is decorated with swags of ribboned bellflowers in the neoclassical taste. Between these swags is the unusual detail of a fan of seaweed at their centre, a request of the patron no doubt.
The central tablet has a floral ribboned swag studded with roses and other small blooms and the centre is filled with a spray of flowers and ferns within a woven basket. The endblocks feature a bound posy of roses and the jambs are decorated with trailing oak leaves and acorns. A very fine thing.
Richard Foster was born in Canonbie, the Scottish Borders, in 1755. At the age of fourteen, he was recorded as having a bank account in London, presumably as he was serving as an apprentice there, perhaps to the Adam Brothers as they too were in London at this time. In 1785 he returned to Edinburgh, working as a "joiner" and married to the daughter of a wealthy leather merchant. His chimneypieces were sold not only in Scotland, but in the USA, a bold move only a few years after American Independence was declared! This is perhaps why he avoided becoming a prominent figure in Scottish social and intellectual circles, as selling to Britain's former colonies would have been regarded as treachery in many cases.
The pine and composition chimneypiece he perfected made the rational principles and beauty of classicism affordable to the growing mercantile and professional class emerging in the 18th century. These clients wished to express their cultural understanding through objects that conveyed the principles they admired, the chimneypiece was one such highly prized object.
The Adam brothers (Robert and James) were well known for promoting their designs to the masses, and it is the pine and composition chimneypiece they made for the emerging middle class in Edinburgh that have become synonymous with the "Adam Style". However, Foster was a true master of the technique, and his designs are some of the most delicate and finely manufactured ever made.
View our section showing full range of neo-classical chimneypieces