The satinwood bookcase displays a number of features closely associated with the Golden Square, Soho, partnership of Messrs Mayhew and Ince. The same Muse image features in a painted medallion embellishing a tambour writing-table that was formerly at Durdans, Epsom (L. Wood, Catalogue of Commodes, London, 1994, p. 229, fig. 215) and Mayhew and Ince also favoured the use of richly figured yew veneer, such as features on a bureau-writing-table at Burghley, Lincolnshire. An arched pediment featured on a mahogany bookcase also attributed to the firm (Dealing in Excellence: A Celebration of Hotspur and Jeremy, Christie's London, 20 Novenber 2009, lot 90).
The bookcase is inscribed in pencil with the family name 'Tower' and is likely to have been commissioned by Christopher Tower (d.1810) for his wife Elizabeth (née Baker of Elmore Hall, Durham) at the time of his inheritance in 1778 of Weald Hall, Essex.
The bookcase celebrates lyric-poetry and is designed in the elegant George III Roman fashion of the 1770s. Its triumphal-arched temple pediment, intended to be crowned by sacred urns, has its tympanum labelled with a beribboned medallion of Erato, the lyre-playing Muse of Love Poetry and Mount Parnassus companion of Apollo as leader of Artistic Inspiration. Its architecture corresponds to that of a 'Design for (a bookcase) for a Gentleman's Villa', illustrated in 1774 in John Carter's, Builder's Magazine (see E. White, Pictorial Dictionary of British 18th Century Furniture Designs, Woodbridge, 1990, p.243). Its 'commode' base is mosaic-parquetried with golden Apollonian laurels enwreathing Roman medallions of burr yew, such as featured on a pattern for an urn-capped 'Lady's Secretary and Library' published the following year in Thomas Malton's Compleat Treatise on Perspective, 1775 (White, op. cit., p. 228).
Its glazing appropriately recalls the poet Ovid's, Metamorphoses (or Loves of the Gods) and is flowered with a beribboned mosaic recalling Apollo's love Clytie, who was metamorphosised into a sunflower (see lot 49 in this sale). This pattern was invented and engraved in 1753 by the St. Martin's Lane cabinet-maker Thomas Chippendale (d.1779) and featured in his Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, whose third and final edition of 1762 displayed taste at the beginning of George III's reign.
The bookcase was offered in the Alfred Savill & Sons house sale, Weald Hall, 1-13 July 1946, lot 431 and retained by the family following the sale.