George Smith (1786-1826) published three influential books on design in the first quarter of the 19th century. Smith's A Collection of Designs for Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, published in 1808, was itself influenced by the work of Thomas Hope. Smith's goal was to make Hope's designs accessible to the middle classes, so that "the beauty and elegance displayed in the fittings-up of modern houses may not be confined to the stately mansion of our Nobility".
He adapted classical motifs borrowed from Egyptian, Greek and Roman sources, but was not averse to adopting Gothic and Chinese elements as well. He followed his first book with A Collection of Ornamental Designs, after the Manner of the Antique, in 1812, and was a regular contributor to Ackermann's Repository. His final publication in 1826, The Cabinet-Maker's and Upholsterer's Guide, included a design for a 'Drawing Room Commode', Plate VI, from which the present lot derives.
Smith recommended the open-shelved commode for use in the drawing room, although they could be used in "almost every apartment of a house… for such books are in constant use". The height of the design was kept deliberately low to allow the wall above to be kept free for paintings or pier mirrors.
"the beauty and elegance displayed in the fittings-up of modern houses may not be confined to the stately mansion of our Nobility."
Although Smith stated he had the patronage of George IV and promoted himself as 'Upholsterer and Drawing Master to His Majesty', no substantive evidence has been found to corroborate these claims. In the introduction to the Guide, Smith mentions his forty years of experience in the theory and practice of cabinet-making, but interestingly no firm evidence of a cabinet-making business carrying his name has come to light. Regardless, he is considered one of the key designers of the Regency period. Despite Smith’s prolificacy in publishing and promoting his designs, actual pieces that relate directly to them are rare, making the present commode all the more desirable.
Dates for your Diary
VIEWING | Sat 01 & Sun 02 September 12 noon to 4pm, Mon 03 & Tues 04 September 10am to 5pm, Day of sale from 9am
AUCTION | Fine Furniture & Works of Art | 05 September at 10am
LOCATION | 33 Broughton Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3RR