These side cabinets recalls the craftsmanship of the Royal cabinet-maker, William Vile (1700/05-1767) during the early years of his career while in partnership with John Cobb (1710-1778) at St. Martin’s Lane, London. Vile was initially apprenticed to the preeminent cabinet-maker William Hallett (c. 1707-1781) of Great Newport Street, Long Acre. Hallet continued to support Vile and Cobb financially and the two workshops remained close; by 1752, Hallett had moved his business next to Vile and Cobb’s premises (G. Beard and C. Gilbert, Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840, London, 1986, p. 924). The strong relationship between the two firms makes it difficult to distinguish between the early work attributed to Vile and Cobb and that of Hallett. Both firms repeatedly used the same motifs in crisply carved borders that clearly outline a general form as well as mouldings to drawer or cabinet doors.
These cabinets relate to an architectural cabinet, which is inscribed on its base, ‘William Hallett, 1763, Long Acre’, formerly in the collection of Lord Wharton of Helswell Park, Somerset (A. Coleridge, ‘A Reappraisal of William Hallett’, Furniture History, 1965, p. 12 and plate II; sold Christie’s, New York, 14 October 2009, lot 54, $218,500 inc. premium). The Hallett cabinet features a similar idiosyncratic key pattern frieze and the distinctive flowerhead border found on the cabinets offered here. A similar key pattern frieze and the same flowerhead border also appears on a mahogany bookcase by Vile in the Royal Collection, supplied to Queen Charlotte for Buckingham House between 1762 and 1767 (RCIN 252). The flowerhead border is also featured on a set of library bookcases, c. 1750, attributed to Hallett or Vile and Cobb, supplied to Sir William Beauchamp-Proctor, 1st Bt. for Langley Park, Norfolk (O. Brackett, ‘For the Connoisseur: The Furniture of Langley Park’, Country Life, 31 March 1928, figs. 1 and 2; sold Christie's, London, 10 April 1975, lots 135 (a pair), and 136 (a smaller pair); one of the larger pair later sold Christie’s, London, 19 January 2021, lot 25 (£181,250 including premium.)). An existing 1748 bill from Hallett as well as two 1754 bills from Vile and Cobb detail extensive work for Sir William, and the dates on the invoices, as well as shared stylistic elements, could place the library bookcase in either workshop (Norfolk Country Records Office, BEA 305/71, 305/79 and 305/45). Furthermore, similar carved acanthus ornamentation can be found on a cabinet bookcase also at Langley Park again attributed to either Hallett or Vile and Cobb (O. Brackett, ‘For the Connoisseur: The Furniture of Langley Park – I’, Country Life, 15 October 1927, p. 570, fig. 7).