Furniture specialist Douglas Girton tells the story of an important piece from our upcoming Fine Furniture Auction on 06 July at 10:00am.
A highlight of the upcoming sale will be this elegant serpentine commode. With its playful garlands of bellflowers that encircle the handles, its sinuous ribbon and palm inlay, and its well-chosen use of exotic and contrasting veneers it achieves a harmonious and pleasing effect, and is a testament to the finest cabinet-makers working at the last part of the 18th century. The commode bears some similarities to an earlier satinwood and inlay commode in a bedroom at Dumfries House, Ayrshire, most notably in the use of graduated ellipses centred on each of the drawers. The Dumfries commode is attributed to the London cabinet-making firm Mayhew & Ince, who supplied furniture during a later stage of decoration commissioned by the 6th Earl of Dumfries following his marriage in 1771. The present commode, which dates about twenty years later, has a lighter, more feminine feel, which was in keeping with the fashion of the day, as seen in Thomas Sheraton’s 1791The Cabinet Maker's &Upholsterer's Drawing Book.
Parallels can also be drawn to furniture made by the Dublin cabinet-maker William Moore, who worked in the London workrooms of Mayhew & Ince from the mid-1760s before setting up his own firm in Dublin, being well established there from 1777. Noted for his fine inlay work in the neo-classical style, his furniture is known for its variety and fine execution. It is interesting to note that the handles, which are later, but occupy the same spaces as the originals, are of a design popular on late 18th century Irish furniture, and are known to have been used on other pieces by Moore. There is also evidence of previous mounts to the angles which are now lacking, another sign of the quality of the commode.
The history of the commode provides few clues to its origins beyond the late 19th century. Inherited by the present owner from his grandmother, it has been in the same family for over one hundred and twenty years, however its life before that is unclear. There is some family history indicating it may have originally come from Hopetoun House, West Lothian, however while it is a tantalising proposition, to date it cannot be confirmed.
Serpentine Commode sold for £52,500 (buyer's premium included)
Saturday 02 & Sunday 03 July | 12pm – 4pm
Monday 04 & Tuesday 05 July | 10am – 5pm
Wednesday 06 July | from 10am
Fine Furniture | 06 July 2016 | 10am | Edinburgh
Meet the Specialist
Douglas Girton | 0131 557 8844 | firstname.lastname@example.org