Matthew Duane: designs for chimneypieces and mirror frames, 1774 (5)
Matthew Duane (1707-85) was a Roman Catholic, possibly of Irish origin. In the 1730s he established a legal career in both Newcastle and London, working in Lincoln’s Inn Fields from 1748. As a Roman Catholic he could not be called to the Bar, but became a successful conveyancer. In 1742 he married Dorothy Dawson (1722-99) an heiress, enabling Duane to buy estates in Northumberland. He was also a known patron of the arts and a numismatist, being a fellow of the Royal Society, and the Society of Antiquaries, and a trustee of the British Museum, as well as amassing a large collection of coins and medals.
Duane had come into contact with the Adam brothers when he acted as conveyancer in their dealings with the Royal Society of Arts on the Adelphi estate. In 1774 he commissioned Adam to make these designs for chimneypieces and mirror frames, although the intended location for these designs is not known, and moreover, they are not known to have been executed. Duane owned two estates in Northumberland, Wideopen and Donnington, as well as presumably, a London town house (Mrs Duane was in possession of 22 Bedford Row in 1794). Also, in 1779 he acquired The Grove in Twickenham, where Walpole reports that he made 'extensive alterations'. Mrs Duane remained at The Grove until 1795, but the acquisition date of 1779 for this house is too late for it to have been the intended location of Adam’s designs made in 1774.
One of Duane's pupils was the Scottish judge, John Clerk, Lord Eldin, one of Robert and James Adam's nephews, although it is unlikely that it was through this connection that Robert Adam came into Duane's acquaintance, as John Clerk was only 17 years old in 1774.
Literature: A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 54, 69; E. Harris, The furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, Index p. 59; D.G.C. Allan, The Adelphi past and present: a history and a guide, 2001, p. 43; The Twickenham Museum website/People/Matthew Duane