These golden sycamore chests, with elegantly bowed aprons and Grecian-scrolled feet, are conceived in 1780s Roman fashion, as featured in a clothes-press pattern in Messrs. A. Hepplewhite & Co.'s Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Guide, 1788. They are likely to have been commissioned for Hinton House, Hinton St. George, Somerset around the time of its aggrandisement circa 1790 by John 4th Earl Poulett (d. 1819), following his inheritance in 1788. The 4th Earl was a close friend of George, Prince of Wales, later George IV. The chests are pasted with inventory lists of accompanying equipment, which indicate that they furnished the window piers of the bedroom and dressing-room of an apartment hung with Chinese flowered paper (C. Winn, The Pouletts of Hinton St. George, London, 1976, p. 149). Commodes intended for bedroom apartments such as this pair, were often supplied in a series, with one placed in each of the apartment's rooms. The paper inventory pasted to the top drawer of each commode would appear to confirm this: one commode placed in the Dressing Room and one placed in the Bedroom.
Messrs. Gillow of London and Lancaster's coloured Pattern Book in the Westminster City Archives (no.735/1) includes a 1789 pattern for a similarly veneered and patterned commode, but with bowed front (L. Boynton, Gillow Furniture Designs 1760-1800, Royston, 1995, pl. 11). Wyatt's later involvement at Hinton is also a clue to the commodes' manufacture: the firm of Gillows and the Wyatt family of architects maintained close links, and furniture commissions from Gillows often followed a Wyatt architectural commission. Amongst other related bedroom furniture is that commissioned for Langleys, Essex by William Tufnell (d. 1814) from the court cabinet-maker and upholsterer Charles Elliott (d. 1832) of New Bond Street (E.T. Joy, 'Charles Elliott, Royal Cabinet-Maker', Connoisseur, June 1959, pp. 34-38, figs. 6-9). With their striated and silken tablets ribbon-banded in rosewood and enriched with golden ring-handles on bas-relief floral paterae (libation-plates), they appear to have been executed in the same workshops as a pair of smaller chests sold Christies, 19 May 1960 (lot 53).
There has been a Hinton House on the same site since 1490 but very little of the original building remains. With the family's newly elevated status in 1627, the 1st Baron Poulett (d. 1649) improved and enlarged the house accordingly. A new south wing, built following the design principles of Inigo Jones, was completed by 1636. Just a few years later in 1650 the estate ledgers show extensive building work was carried out, resulting in two further wings. In the early 18th Century, John, 1st Earl Poulett (1663-1743) remodelled the Long Gallery. However, it was in 1789 that the most drastic alterations of Hinton occurred, under John, 4th Earl Poulett (1756-1819). However, just a year after completion, in 1794, the Earl, still not satisfied, engaged Sir John Soane to remodel the interior. In spite of making plans and several visits to the house, the Earl decided at the last moment that he preferred the newly fashionable Gothic style and employed the architect James Wyatt (1746-1813) instead to proceed with the modifications. It was under Wyatt's direction that the panelled Grand Saloon, vaulted Gothic Gallery, and the two towers that flank the west of the house were added. The Library was redesigned, with bookshelves 'lined with crimson moreen' and ceiling mouldings in the latest fashion (C. Winn, op. cit., p. 143). The majority of the contents of Hinton House were sold by George, 8th Earl Poulett (d. 1973) in sales at Sotheby's, London, 1 November and 8 November 1968, and 28 March 1969, and at Lawrence's, Crewkerne, 23-24 October 1968.