LANGLOIS AND LACQUER
This flowered, polychromed and ormolu-enriched commode, with sarcophagus-scrolled frame, derives from the picturesque window-pier 'commode' tables introduced in the 1750s for bedroom apartments decorated in the French antique fashion. Lacquer commodes of this bombé shape, mounted with this exact pattern of palmette angle mount with their distinctive flower-enriched edge mounts reaching to the feet combined with the unusual feature of black-painted underside and backboard are elements which when found together allow an attribution of this commode to the French emigré cabinet-maker Pierre Langlois (d. 1765). Furthermore, the technique of serpenting lacquer panels appears to have been introduced to London in the early 1760s by Pierre Langlois (d. 1765), cabinet-maker of Tottenham Court Road, while the fashion for colourful lacquer screens reflects that introduced to London by The East India Trading Companies in the late 17th century and named 'Bantam' work after the Javanese trading post or 'Coromandel' after the Indian counterparts. Langlois, a specialist in the use of Chinese lacquer as veneer, also adapted screen panels for the related commode frames of Roman marble-topped sideboards supplied for the Gallery or room-of-entertainment, which Horace Walpole designed in 1759 for Strawberry Hill, Richmond (A. Chalcraft and J. Viscardi, Strawberry Hill, London, 2007, p. 84; and M. Snodin, Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill, 2009, no. 136 & fig. 67). The whimsical nature of this ornament, which had been extolled in Messrs. Stalker and Parker's Treatise of the Art of Japanning, 1688, was considered particularly appropriate for the enlivening of bedroom apartments. The exotic black and gold lacquer and japanning of such commodes also harmonised with the Etruscan black ornament of bedroom apartments decorated in the Roman columbarium style that was introduced by George III's court architect Robert Adam (d. 1792).
THE RIBSTON HALL COMMODE
An almost identical commode incorporating lacquer panels almost certainly from the same Chinese screen may have been supplied to Sir John Goodricke, 5th Bt. (1708-1789) and was formerly at Ribston Hall, Yorkshire. The latter commode was inherited in 1853 by George Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle (d. 1911) of Castle Howard, Yorkshire and sold by his descendant, Sotheby's, New York, 29 November 2002, lot 53 (£171,650). Of almost identical form and decoration to the present commode, it could be its pair but for the different profile of the edge moulding of the top. It is almost certain that both commodes emerged from the same workshop, perhaps intended for another apartment in the same house.
RELATED COMMODES BY OR ATTRIBUTED TO LANGLOIS
Other lacquer and ormolu-mounted commodes attributed to Langlois include two formerly at Ragley Hall, Warwickshire and sold by the Trustees of the 5th Marquess of Hertford, Christie's, London, 30 June 1921, lots 24 & 25 (one commode illustrated in R. Edwards, Dictionary of English Furniture, rev. ed., 1954, London, vol. II, p. 115, fig. 111); two pairs supplied for Uppark (one pair sold at Christie's, London, 20 May 1971, lot 90); one (originally a part of a pair) now in the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; a pair at Powis Castle (for a discussion of the latter two pairs, see P. Thornton & W. Rieder, 'Pierre Langlois, Ebéniste. Part 3', Connoisseur, March 1972, pp. 176-177'); a pair [supplementary to the two mentioned above] originally at Ragley, Warwickshire and sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 4 July 1996, lot 300 (£309,500) and again from the collections of Lily and Edmond J. Safra, Sotheby's, New York, 3-4 November 2005, lot 135 ($492,000); and a pair originally at Ashburnham Place, Sussex, sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 4 June 2009, lot 90 (£505,250).