A Grecian urn crowns the cabinet, which is conceived as bell-hung pagoda temple on turtle feet, like one of the 'Chinois' clocks exhibited in James Cox's Museum in the 1770's. Japanned with picturesque Chinois vignette medallions in trompe l'oeil lacquer; its stand has Grecian-scrolled pillars in trompe l'oeil bamboo, and was intended to display porcelain vases. This fusion of antique and oriental taste was first made fashionable by Parisian marchands merciers. The Prince of Wales (later George IV) popularized this taste in England with the stately apartments created at his Marine Pavilion, Brighton and Carlton House (see Thomas Sheraton, The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterers Drawing Book 1793, pl.31). Similar scenes, cut from black lacquer chests and screens, continued to remain fashionable in bedroom apartments decorated in the antique or Etruscan fashion introduced by George III's Rome-trained court architects. The japanning on this cabinet may be the work of the celebrated japanner Henry Clay, who opened his 'Birmingham Warehouse' in London's Covent Garden in the early 1780s. Its quality also relates to that of a bedroom Pembroke table, acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum, and whose herm-tapered legs reflect the elegant Roman fashion popularized by Messrs.A. Hepplewhite & Co's, Cabinet-maker and Upholsterers Guide, 1788 (see J. F. Hayward, Tables in the Victoria & Albert Museum, 1961, fig. 34)
THE HON. MRS. IONIDES
The Hon. Mrs. Ionides was the daughter of Sir Marcus Samuel, 1st Viscount Bearsted. After her first husband, Walter Levy, died in 1923, Nellie married Basil Ionides, the pioneering Art Deco designer of the Savoy Theatre and Claridges Hotel. He was also the author of one of the earliest books on modern interior decoration: Colour & Interior Decoration, 1926.
In 1926 the couple acquired Riverside House, Twickenham, where they entertained notable politicians and members of the Royal family. Next door was James Gibbs' Orleans House which, thanks to her remarkable intercession, was saved. In 1931 they moved into the splendid 18th century Palladian mansion, Buxted Park, Sussex, which they gradually transformed in their unique style.
Both husband and wife were keen collectors: he came from a long line of patrons and benefactors, whilst she focussed her attention on amassing exceptionally fine paintings, furniture, objets d'art and Chinese porcelain. She also had a passion for animals, in particular the poodles she bred at Buxted Park, and this would occupy Mrs. Ionides for much of her life, and, as a shared interest, would also form the foundation of her lifelong friendship with Queen Mary, wife of George V. The cabinet was sold as part of the extensive two-part sale of the Ionides Collections at Sotheby's in 1963 (with further sales held in 1964 and 1965). More recently, a small group of furniture and objects collected by Mrs. Ionides was sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 15 September 2004, lots 160-167.