MELBOURNE HOUSE - SIR WILLIAM CHAMBERS AND THOMAS CHIPPENDALE
The beautiful bedroom-apartment bureau dressing-table (or bonheur-du-jour) is conceived in the elegant George III 'Roman' fashion promoted by the court architect Sir William Chambers (d. 1796). The table was probably designed by Thomas Chippendale (d. 1779), under the supervision of Chambers, who then boasted himself a 'pretty connoisseur' in the design of 'furniture', and executed at his St. Martin's Lane firm for Sir Penistone Lamb shortly after his creation as first Viscount Melbourne in 1770. It is likely to have been supplied for the Piccadilly mansion built and furnished for Melbourne by Chambers and Chippendale in the early 1770s. Melbourne later exchanged the house in the 1790s for the Whitehall mansion of George III's brother, the Duke of York. Melbourne's commission of furnishings was perhaps the largest received by Messrs Chippendale and his partner Haig, and it was the latter who took a Mr. Thomas Mouat in 1775 to see the celebrated £140 'Melbourne' commode, which they had recently supplied (J. Friedman, 'New Light on the Renishaw Commode', Furniture History, 1997, pp. 136-142).
A related George III rosewood and marquetry library drum table by Thomas Chippendale also supplied to Sir Penistone Lamb, 1st Viscount Melbourne, either for the Library of Brocket Hall or Melbourne House, was sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 9 July 1998, lot 80 (£320,500).
The table's design and decoration evokes lyric poetry with its architecturally 'eared' tablet of 'bois de rose' (recalling Venus' sacred flower) mosaiced with Apollo's golden sunburst, which is drawn in Egyptian fashion and flowers a ribbon-banded 'Roman' medallion compartment. Its frieze, concealing a writing-equipment drawer and writing-slide, is mosaiced with hollow-cornered tablets and 'Apollo' sunflowered medallions; while the herm-tapered and plinth-stepped pilasters, which are antique-fluted in trompe l'oiel, were originally tied by a china-galleried tray.