• A Cabinet of Curiosities Selec auction at Christies

    Sale 2393

    A Cabinet of Curiosities Selections from the Peter Tillou Collections

    28 January 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 31

    AN IMPORTANT MID-VICTORIAN BURR-AMBOYNA, AMARANTH, PALMWOOD, EBONISED AND MARQUETRY CENTER-TABLE

    DESIGNED BY OWEN JONES AND ALFRED LORIMER AND EXECUTED BY JACKSON AND GRAHAM, LONDON, CIRCA 1867

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    AN IMPORTANT MID-VICTORIAN BURR-AMBOYNA, AMARANTH, PALMWOOD, EBONISED AND MARQUETRY CENTER-TABLE
    DESIGNED BY OWEN JONES AND ALFRED LORIMER AND EXECUTED BY JACKSON AND GRAHAM, LONDON, CIRCA 1867
    The oval top with ebonized edge and paneled border with strapwork and scrolling foliage punctuated by an 'AM' monogram cartouche all surrounded by an inner berrying vinery border raised on a central column and four engaged columns all with foliate and strapwork paneled inlay, on four scrolled feet
    29½ in. (75 cm.) high, 78½ in. (199.5 cm.) wide, 59½ in. (151 cm.) deep


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    JACKSON AND GRAHAM
    Eminent among Victorian decorators and cabinetmakers the firm of Jackson and Graham was active between 1836 and 1885. Established by Thomas Charles Jackson and Peter Graham the firm grew to occupy substantial premises in London's Oxford Street with a range of fabricating departments from cabinet-making, through carving, gilding and upholstery to interior decoration and bespoke furniture commissions. Their clients included Queen Victoria, Napoleon III, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, the Grand Khedive at Cairo, and the Royal Palace in Siam.

    THE 1867 PARIS INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION
    Representing the highest British cabinet-making, Jackson and Graham were regular exhibitors at the great international exhibitions for over twenty-five years between 1851 and 1878. Their exhibition pieces were often commissioned by prestigious clients, and these pieces represent the pinnacle of their design and production capabilities. The present table was exhibited at the 1867 Paris exposition universelle. It was described as 'one of the most beautiful and truly chaste examples of decorative furniture at the Paris exhibition' (C. Edwards, op. cit. p. 251) and the Art Journal proclaims that 'there was no work of its class that demanded and deserved greater admiration' (The Art Journal, op. cit., p. 284). The unique design combines out-scrolled legs, which are reminiscent of English Regency furniture, with Grecian-capped pilasters and all the opulence of the French 'Louis Seize' manner, as fashionably revived during the Second Empire.

    OWEN JONES
    Jackson and Graham were unique in employing a permanent design staff and their exhibition pieces are invariably credited to prominent designers. The table can be credited to both the French designer Alfred Lorimer and the renowned ornamentalist Owen Jones (1809-1874). The 1867 committee recorded that 'MM. Owen Jones et Lorimer, dessinateurs de ces beaux objets, ont depuis longtemps habitué les connoisseurs à admirer leur talent' (Exposition universelle: Rapports du jury international, Tome III, Paris, 1867, p.24).
    Characterised primarily as an architect, Jones was one of the most influential, prolific, and well-known designers of mid-nineteenth-century Britain. His reputation was established by the two-volume work Plans, Elevations, Sections and Details of the Alhambra (1836-42) and cemented by his sourcebook of global and historical design, The Grammar of Ornament (1856).

    ALFRED MORRISON
    The interlaced 'AM' monogram to the top of the table identifies it as part of a substantial commission designed by Owen Jones for the wealthy collector Alfred Morrison (1821-1897). Morrison's acquaintance with Jones is likely to date from the early 1840s, when he worked for Alfred's father, the textile merchant and investment banker, James Morrison, MP (1789-1857). Alfred inherited from his father both his fortune and a honed sense of the aesthetic and thus devoted his substantial inheritance to amassing an encyclopedic collection of rare objects, paintings and autographs at his Fonthill Estate, Wiltshire, and London home, 16 Carlton House Terrace. Morrison commissioned Jones to design interiors firstly at Fonthill from 1862, and after 1864 at Carlton House Terrace. Jones provided the complete decorative scheme including designs for wall-silks, carpets and plasterwork, and, most importantly, for interior fitments, paneling and bespoke furniture. For these he engaged Jackson and Graham, specialists in the cutting and laying of veneer, to trace his designs in exceptionally fine marquetry. At Fonthill, Jones' designs were principally executed in ebony and ivory (see Christie's, London, 29 January 1987, lot 239 and 13 November 2007, lot 159, for ebony bookcases from Fonthill, each inlaid with the ivory 'AM' monogram). At Carlton House Terrace, Jones adopted a more colourful scheme of anthemion and geometric inlays mixing precious golden woods such as amboyna and sycamore. The present table most likely therefore belonged to this group. Mrs. Haweis in her book Beautiful Houses (1882) noted 'many suites of furniture throughout the house are made of the finest marqueterie of inlaid natural woods'. Although both properties were vacated by the Morrisons circa 1910-20, and the furniture was removed and gradually dispersed, the rich veneers of burr-amboyna and ebony moldings to the present table are directly comparable to the wall-paneling that remains at 16 Cartlon House Terrace. A further cabinet, also in parquetry of golden woods, and from 16 Carlton House Terrace, is illustrated in K. Ferry, 'A revolutionary in the art of colour', Country Life, 28 October 2009, p. 70. Other examples of inlaid furniture from the commission include a small cabinet at the V&A London and a pair of armchairs, one in the Art Institute of Chicago, the other in the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.

    Provenance

    Commissioned by Alfred Morrison, probably for 16 Carlton House Terrace, London.
    The Collection of John Hawkins, Sydney, Australia
    The Collection of Robert Lee, Sparks, Nevada to the present owner.


    Pre-Lot Text

    THE ALFRED MORRISON CENTER-TABLE FROM THE PARIS 1867 INTERNATIONAL EXHBITION


    Literature

    The Art Journal, The Illustrated Catalogue of the Universal Exhibition, London, 1867, p. 284 (illustrated).
    Catalogue of the Works of the Late Owen Jones, London International Exhibition, 1874, p.16.
    C. Edwards, 'The Firm of Jackson and Graham', Furniture History, 1996, pp. 251-252, fig. 8. (illustrated).
    J. Meyer, Great Exhibitions, Woodbridge, 2006, p. 201 (illustrated).


    Exhibited

    The Paris 1867 International Exhibition.
    Possibly exhibited as 'Inlaid table (Drawing Room)' at the London
    International Exhibition, 1874.