About the artwork
Discounting the 'Napoleon Room', devoted as it is to a cult of personality rather than to a period, there are four 'period rooms' in the Lady Lever Art Gallery: the 'Tudor & Stuart Room', the 'William and Mary Room', the 'Early 18th Century Room', and the last to be installed, in 1925, shortly before the death of Lord Leverhulme: the late 18th Century 'Adam Room'.
The Scottish architect Robert Adam (1728-92) - in collaboration with his brother James - claimed 'to have brought about, in this country, a kind of revolution in the whole system of this useful and elegant art' of architecture. An important feature of this 'Adam Revolution' was a loosening up of the sacrosanct classical 'Orders', or rules governing the vertical sequence of component parts from top to bottom of a Greek or Roman building.
These Orders - 'Tuscan', 'Doric', 'Ionic', 'Corinthian' and 'Composite' - had been slavishly followed in the early 18th Century by exponents of the 'Palladian' style, characterised by strict adherence to classical rules of proportion and by restraint and sobriety of decoration. Adam exploded Palladianism, bringing about what he termed 'a remarkable improvement in the form, conveniences, arrangement, and relief of apartments; a greater movement and variety, in the outside composition [of buildings], and in the decoration of the inside, an almost total change.' It is as an interior architect that Robert Adam is chiefly remembered and celebrated.
The commission for creating the 'Adam Room' was given by Lord Leverhulme to the historian of British furniture and - appropriately for this entirely artificial confection - theatrical stage designer, Percy Macquoid. The work was carried out by the London firm of White Allom. Principal elements were copied from two documented Adam houses: the plaster decoration and colour of the walls derived from the Music Room at Harewood House, West Yorkshire, while the mirror above the fireplace is based on one at 20 St. James Square, London. The fireplace itself, in white and slate-coloured marble, was salvaged from Sheen House, Richmond in Surrey.
The clock on the mantelpiece was designed by Benjamin Vulliamy (1747-1811) one of a distinguished family of Swiss horologists, and clock maker to George III. The piece is described as of 'rotary urn form'. The mechanism is contained in the revolving vase while entwined serpents indicate the time with their tongues. Either side of the door are a pair of D-shaped tortoiseshell-veneered side tables. The satinwood table to the right of the fireplace, inlaid with tulipwood and rosewood and painted with swags of flowers, etc., is also one of a pair, its fellow being in store.
To the left of the fireplace is a semi-elliptical marquetry commode attributed to the cabinet makers Mayhew & Ince. It is decorated with three medallions depicting Flora, Pomona and a Nymph with a bird's nest. The other commode, opposite the window is a spectacular creation of George Brookshaw, 'Peintre Ebeniste [cabinet maker] par Extraordinaire'. From his premises in Great Marborough Street, Brookshaw produced painted furniture as well as offering lessons in flower painting to 'Ladies of Taste and Fashion'. These lessons would become his main source of income when his furniture-making business went bankrupt in the mid 1890s.
The painted medallions on the top, and the left and right middle doors represent 'Una and the Lion' from Spenser's Fairie Queene, 'Damon and Musidora' from Thomson's Seasons, and 'Paris and Oenone' from Ovid's Heroides. They are painted from engravings after works by Angelica Kauffman. Also from Brookshaw's workshop are the characteristically painted sofa and two elbow chairs under the window. They are part of a suite of two sofas and six elbow chairs, the rest being in store. The pair of pole screens to either side of the fireplace were designed to shield the face from the glare of the fire. They are decorated with applied stipple engravings after George Morland.
Among the other objects in the Adam Room the marble bust of Zingara, to the right of the door, is worthy of note. In the early 1600s the head, of which this is one of many copies, was created by the French Sculptor Nicolas Cordier, to 'complete' a headless classical statue in the Villa Borghese in Rome. The figure also lacked arms and feet which Cordier supplied replacements for as well. 'Zingara' means 'Gypsy' although the original statue is thought to represent the goddess Diana. It is, strictly speaking, a 17th Century work, but it is perhaps appropriately placed in the Adam Room where so many other liberties have been taken with Classical order and design.