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A GEORGE II WALNUT AND FEATHERBANDED SERPENTINE CHEST
A GEORGE II WALNUT AND FEATHERBANDED SERPENTINE CHEST
A GEORGE II WALNUT AND FEATHERBANDED SERPENTINE CHEST
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PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF GEOFFREY BLACKWELL O.B.E. (1884-1943) FORMED UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF R.W.SYMONDS (LOTS 65-71)Among collectors of English furniture in the first half of the 20th century the name of Geoffrey Blackwell O.B.E. (1884-1943) must rank alongside those of Percival Griffiths, Claude Rotch and James Thursby-Pelham. At a time when, despite economic depression and the shadow of war, there was a strong market for English furniture and an apparently limitless supply of top quality pieces aligned with renewed scholarship, Blackwell assembled a distinguished collection that has proved a magnet to like-minded collectors ever since.Blackwell was interested in art from an early age. He joined the family-firm of Crosse & Blackwell, becoming chairman before the Second World War. Soon he gathered a notable collection of impressionist landscapes, commissioned portraits of himself and his family, and became an active member of the National Art Collections Fund. He was unusual among his peers in being on friendly terms with living artists and in mixing modern pictures with Georgian furniture.His interest in furniture was probably sparked in the 1920s when Percy Macquoid and Ralph Edwards’ seminal Dictionary of English Furniture was first published, 1924-27, and crucially he was a friend of the writer and critic R.W.Symonds (1889 – 1958), whose research promoted the more refined decorative arts of the 18th century, now considered the `Golden Age’ of collecting. Symonds actively advised collectors and played a major role in the formation of almost all the great 20th century collections of furniture and clocks, including those of Percival Griffiths, Eric and Ralph Moller, J.S.Sykes and Samuel Messer. His influence persists through the five major books and countless articles that he wrote, often illustrating them with items from those collections, his primary aesthetic consideration always being well-balanced design, high quality carving and timber, and original patination, rather than provenance. Blackwell too benefitted from Symonds’ advice and by 1936 his collection was of such calibre that Symonds wrote a two-part article published in Apollo, illustrating it with pieces from the collection including several that are offered here.Given the quality of the pieces that Symonds sourced, certain items have been bought and sold between collectors, and there was keen rivalry to own the best pieces. One story relates how Percival Griffiths died while out with the Whaddon Hunt and in the company of Geoffrey Blackwell’s son. Returning home the latter reported the news of Griffiths’ death to his father who was taking a bath. Blackwell immediately leapt from the bath and was on the telephone to Symonds within minutes to stake a claim for selected items from Griffiths’ collection. Over the years since Blackwell’s death successive generations of collectors have similarly sought out and competed for pieces that were once part of this and other Symonds collections.Among the furniture offered here, the walnut chest, formerly in Percival Griffiths' collection, is perhaps the most outstanding, yet idiosyncratic, representing the late use of this veneer on a piece that is stylistically more typical of the age of mahogany. The marble topped `slab table’ was singled out by Symonds for the `cabriole legs of a particularly graceful contour’, while the carved mahogany `sideboard table’ was described as `of excellent proportion… an outstanding example’.The Blackwell provenance is now regarded as a signifier of quality, and the seven lots here offer collectors the chance not only to own wonderful pieces in their own right, but also to be part of a remarkable collecting tradition.
A GEORGE II WALNUT AND FEATHERBANDED SERPENTINE CHEST

CIRCA 1750-60

Details
A GEORGE II WALNUT AND FEATHERBANDED SERPENTINE CHEST
CIRCA 1750-60
The quarter-veneered top above a brushing slide on four graduated long drawers, the canted angles with blind-fret of strapwork and quatrefoils, on ogee bracket feet, the metalwork original
33 ¾ in. (86 cm.) high; 36 in. (92 cm) wide; 21 ¼ in. (54 cm.) deep
Provenance
Percival D. Griffiths, Esq. F.S.A. (d.1939),
Geoffrey Blackwell, Esq., OBE (d.1943) and thence by descent in the Blackwell family.

Literature
R. W Symonds, English Furniture from Charles II to George II, London, 1929, p. 131, fig. 81.
R. W.Symonds, 'Furniture in the collection of Mr. Geoffrey Blackwell', Apollo, April 1936, p. 198, fig. X.

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