George III Inlaid Mahogany China Cabinet
Circa 1765, in the manner of Thomas Chippendale
In two parts, the upper section of breakfront form, with central projecting section surmounted by a swan's-neck cresting centered by a cabochon- and C-scroll-carved cartouche on a faceted platform above a dentilated cornice and a glazed door with ogee- and rounded-arched astragal glazing bars opening to a silk-lined interior, now electrified and with glass shelves, with recessed similar flanking cabinets, the projecting crossbanded serpentine lower section with outset canted corners above a conforming case fitted with a baize-lined brushing slide and four graduated cockbeaded drawers, each lined with marbled paper, raised on scrolled bracket feet; inlaid with herringbone stringing throughout, the back with inked Sotheby's property label and the consignor name DORN. Height 8 feet 6 1/4 inches (2.59 m), width 49 inches (1.24 m), depth 20 inches (50.7 cm).
Jeremy Ltd., London
Sold, Sothebys, New York, British Silver, Ceramics, Decorations, Furniture and Carpets, April 12, 13 and 14, 1984, lot 833, illus.
Stair & Co., New York
Purchased from the above
Without further documentation or provenance, the present china cabinet is not able to be attributed to Thomas Chippendale, although there are features present that are characteristic of this most celebrated of all 18th century English furniture makers. His seminal book of designs, The Gentleman and Cabinet- Maker's Director, 1754, the first of three editions published, influenced design not only in the British Isles and its colonies but on the Continent as well.
The most persuasive supporting evidence of a possible Chippendale connection is the quality of the cabinet's craftsmanship, carving and use of the finest wood, so typical of his workshop. A curious anomaly is the herringingbone stringing, which does not seem to have been previously noted in firmly attributed examples of his work but could possibly have been a compromise in design, adding an additional visual feature where once there might have been more carving.
The present china cabinet was probably made for a bedroom, used both for the display of porcelain and clothing, as the lower section is fitted with a brushing slide for clothing storage in the drawers below. It is a good example of the transition from rococo to neoclassical decoration: the shape of the cresting, with its paper-scrolled terminials and opposing C-scrolls, relates to designs for cornices and beds, op. cit., 1762, 3rd ed., and the glazing bars, which relate directly to his design for a 'China Case', 1754, pl. CVI. Although the cartouches retain a certain rococo aspect, i.e., the cabochon or 'peanut'-carved center within C-scrolls, there is more of a symmetry and restraint to them than examples of the previous decade.
Each of the drawers is lined with marbled papers, often found in Chippendale's provenanced pieces, such as the bottoms of the slides of the clothes-press at Dumfries House; see Christie's, London, Dumfries House A Chippendale Commission, July 12, 2007, lot 100, illus. p. 279. Simon McCormack, Curator at Nostell Priory, is researching marbled papers and feels that the present drawers' paper 'is of the more contemporary cyclopean/oyster format (which became prevalent after circa 1760) rather than the comb pattern of [Nostell's], which is really more late 17th and early 18th century'. The drawers sides are constructed of oak and the bottoms of deal, which due to shrinkage, one can see where the deal bottoms meet the drawer fronts.
The handles are a more elaborate version of Chippendale's favorite neoclassical gilt-brass loop-handle 'wrought brass' pattern; see C. Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, 1978, vol. I, col. illus. 16, of two drawers from Nostell Priory.
From a constructional viewpoint, there are several Chippendale-related features. These include the red wash that is found to the unseen parts of the cabinet, including the top behind the cornice, the backboards of both sections and the underside. One is able to see minor traces of the red wash to the inside of the case of the lower section along the joins of the frame and panel construction. Furthermore, the feet blocks are laminated and also covered with red wash; see Rufus Bird, 'Who was the 'Dumfries House Cabinet-Maker' ", Christie's, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 7-11, for a full discussion of Chippendale and related makers' techniques, specifically figs. 12 and 13 for illustrations of laminated feet and the underside of the Dumfries House bookcase.
Doyle thanks Simon McCormack
C The Noel and Harriette Levine Collection
Additional Notes & Condition Report
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