Dolphins have held a significant place in various cultures throughout history. In ancient Greece, dolphins were believed to be the messengers of Poseidon, the god of the sea, and were often depicted in art alongside him. They were also associated with Apollo, the god of music and poetry, and were believed to be a symbol of salvation and protection for sailors.
In Roman mythology, dolphins were also associated with Neptune, the god of the sea, and Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. They were believed to be intelligent and friendly creatures and were often depicted in art and literature as helpers to humans.
As for John Linnell’s sofas at Kedleston Hall, they are an example of how the classical motif of dolphins was incorporated into the design of furniture during the 18th century. The entwined scaly dolphins served not only as a decorative element but also as a symbol of the nautical theme of the state drawing room, together with mermen, mermaids and seahorses.
The neoclassical dolphin motif was often seen in 18th and 19th-century architecture, sculpture, and decorative arts such as furniture, ceramics, and textiles. Dolphin-shaped handles and knobs were common on neoclassical furniture, while dolphin sculptures and reliefs were used as decorative elements on buildings and monuments.