This commode belongs to a small and distinguished group dating to the early 1760's attributed to the London cabinet-makers William Vile and John Cobb and discussed in depth by Lucy Wood in her Catalogue of Commodes, 1994, pp.43-53. The commodes are characterised by their serpentined form, quality timbers and and rich ormolu embellishments which copy French Regence patterns produced some fifty years earlier. This model matches a commode with two short over two long drawers from the Blue Silk Dressing Room at Burghley House, Northamptonshire (reproduced on the following page) and two further pairs of this same basic model, one exhibiting further elaborate rococo mounts, also comprise part of the celebrated Burghley collection. Other closely related commodes from this group include two pairs from Blickling Hall in Norfolk (one pair sold in 1933); and a pair purchased by Lord Lever, later created Viscount Leverhulme, in 1914 and now in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight. A further example supplied to the 5th Duke of Bolton for Hackwood, Hampshire was sold Christie's London, 8 July 1999, lot 62 (£199,500). Some of the commodes in this group differ slightly in their less pronounced serpentine front, straight-sided rather than molded tops and employment of ormolu lifting handles to the sides of the case.
These commodes can be confidently attributed to the acclaimed Royal cabinet-makers William Vile and John Cobb based on their association with other related models recorded by the firm and a known working relationship between the cabinet-makers and the houses to which these various commodes were supplied. Most notably, at Blickling there is a payment by the 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire to 'Vile & Cobb cabinet-makers' in August 1762 for £86.5s.9d which is sufficient to account for the four Regence pattern commodes and a further related example. Furthermore, this additional single commode at Blickling shares the same mounts and other distinguishable features with a documented example supplied by Cobb to James West at Alscot Park in 1966 for £16. And while Vile and Cobb are not documented at Burghley, Lucy Wood presents the possibility that they may have been subcontracted by another firm such as Mayhew and Ince. It is perhaps significant that a former apprentice of Cobb's was employed at Burghley from at least 1772.
It is most probable that this commode may be one of the four almost certainly supplied to John, 2nd Earl of Ashburnham (d.1812) for Ashburnham Place, Sussex and sold in the Sotheby's house sale of 7-9 July 1953, lots 135-136. Unfortunately, only one of these commodes, apparently fitted with a pair of short drawers over two long drawers but of the exact model as the offered example, is photographed in the sale catalogue and descriptions for the commodes (sold in two pairs) are not detailed. These commodes would have been been supplied when the 2nd Earl was remodelling and refacing the house in circa 1760. Three of the commodes appear in a photograph of the Large Drawing Room which was completed in 1761. While there are extensive payments made to cabinet-makers in the 2nd Earl's bank accounts (including to Mayew and Ince), William Vile and John Cobb do not appear in these records. However, the records do not begin until 1763, which would post-date the commission of these commodes as well as a substantial part of the refurbishing. John Cobb appears much later in the accounts in 1772. The superb collection acquired by the 2nd Earl includes the impressive George III pair of black and gilt lacquer commodes attributed to Pierre Langlois and further demonstrating the 2nd Earl's taste for French style design (sold, the property of a Lady, Christie's London, 16 November 1995, lot 67 (£495,500)). The 3rd and 4th Earl continued to collect magnificent English and French furniture on a similar scale.
'French' pattern commodes promoted by Thomas Chippendale in his The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director of 1754, were produced by a number of fashionable London firms. A related commode with similar antiquarian Regence pattern mounts, attributed to the Clerkenwell maker William Gomm and Son, was sold in these Rooms, 21 October 1999, lot 130 ($167,500). Interestingly, a marble topped French commode dating to circa 1715 with precisely the same pattern mounts was sold by Christie's London, 7 December 1978, lot 109 (illustrated by L. Wood, op.cit, p.47, fig.26). The handle pattern also features on furniture attributed to the Parisian ébeniste/dealer Noel Gerard (d. 1736) who was patronised by the English aristocracy, including James, Viscount Chewton and Earl Waldegrave, whose purchases in 1733 were made while he served as George II's ambassador to the Emperor of Germany (see A. Pradere, French Furniture Makers, London, 1989, pp.111-114).