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    Sale 7439

    Important English Furniture

    22 November 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 640


    CIRCA 1760

    Price Realised  


    CIRCA 1760
    The shaped moulded top above four graduated drawers flanked by canted angles with carved vines on a punched ground, the top mahogany-lined drawer fitted with lidded compartments, a later slide, a pin cushion and dividers, the sides with engraved brass carrying-handles, on shaped bracket feet with sunk brass castors the reverse with fragmentary depository label printed 'Harrogate', the handles original, the top drawer probably previously with a mirror
    31½ in. (80 cm.) high; 55½ in. (141 cm.) wide; 25 in. (63.5 cm.) deep

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    The design of this magnificent commode reflects the mid-18th century fashion for the French or 'modern' style. A design for a similar commode is featured in Thomas Chippendale's Gentleman and Cabinet-Makers Director, 1754, pl. LXVI and described there as a 'French Commode Table'. The serpentine-fronted chest with vine-enriched truss angles epitomises the moment in mid-18th century English furniture design in which the fashionable French or 'modern' style is combined with the picturesque, Gothic and the Antique. The Jonesian truss angles which derive from Isaac Ware's Some Designs of Mr William Kent and Mr Inigo Jones, 1731 are elaborately carved with grapes and vines while the bracket feet are serpentined. The shapely outline of the front also reflects Hogarth's 'serpentine line' as promoted in his Analysis of Beauty, 1753. Its elaborate and highly decorative handle pattern is published in T. R. Crom, An Eighteenth Century English Brass Hardware Catalogue, Florida, 1994, no. 1424.

    Dressing-commodes such as this were often supplied in a series, with minor variations between them. Unlike parade room furniture such as pier tables or pier commodes, they were intended to be used in adjoining rooms: one in a bedroom and another, matching in the neighbouring dressing-room. One pair, with richly-carved angles and ogee bracket feet, was sold anonymously, 19 April 1990, lot 109 (£210,000). Another commode with carved angles was with Jonathan Harris, June 1995 and a serpentine secretaire chest was sold anonymously, Sotheby's, London, 9 July 1999, lot 14 (£106,000). Perhaps the grandest such commode was that included in the sale 'Two Late Regency Collectors - Phlip John Miles and George Byng 1815-1845', Christie's, London, 9 June 2005, lot 100 (£792,000). The provenance of the latter, although emanating from a house with well-documented collections and inventories, frustratingly could not be traced to the 18th century but was almost certainly acquired by Philip John Miles (d. 1845) for Leigh Court, Bristol. It was illustrated in P. Macquoid's The Age of Mahogany of 1906, p. 147, fig. 129. The handle-pattern of the latter also featured in An Eighteenth Century Brass Hardware Catalogue, Florida, 1994 and featured superbly chosen veneers and richly-carved details.

    Serpentine commodes of this form with an 18th century provenance include one supplied to Edward, 5th Baron Leigh for Stoneleigh Abbey, Warwickshire by William Gomm of Clerkenwell. His invoice of 1763-64 includes six 'Exceeding Fine Serpentine Commode Dressing Tables', five invoiced at 12 guineas and one at 15 guineas. The commode costing 15 guineas was probably that sold by Lord Leigh, in these rooms, 3 May 1962, lot 54 and again, anonymously, in these rooms, 5 July 1990, lot 149.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Possibly Charles Fairfax, 9th Viscount Fairfax of Emmeley (d. 1772), Gilling Castle, Yorkshire.
    Captain Fairfax-Cholmeley, Gilling Castle, Yorkshire, according to an inscription in James Thursby Pelham's Album.
    Purchased by James Thursby Pelham, Esq., 1917 and installed at 55 Cadogan Gardens, and by descent.

    Pre-Lot Text

    (LOTS 630-644)


    J. Thursby Pelham's Album.
    P. Macquoid & R. Edwards, The Dictionary of English Furniture, London, 1924, vol. II, p. 66, fig. 37 (also in revised edition, 1954).
    R. W. Symonds, The Present State of Old English Furniture, London, 1927, fig. 98, & p. 93-94.
    R.Edwards, The Shorter Dictionary of English Furniture, London, 1964, p. 207, fig. 29.