The same pattern of laurel-entwined columns on the canted angles is found on a serpentine commode, possibly by Thomas Chippendale that was probably commissioned by John, Viscount Mountstuart, later 4th Earl and 1st Marquess of Bute (d. 1814), for Cardiff castle, circa 1766 and later moved to Dumfries House, Ayrshire between 1880 and 1920. The latter chest is identical in every respect, sharing the same pattern of handles, however, the edge of the top of the present chest is richly-carved with foliage whereas the Bute chest is plain, and the Blackwell chest is fitted with compartments in top drawer where the Bute chest is lacking. It was included in the Dumfries House sale catalogue, Christie's, London, 12-13 July 2007, lot 85.
GEOFFREY BLACKWELL, COLLECTOR
Geoffrey Blackwell, O.B.E. (1884-1943) was unusual amongst the leading collectors of English furniture of the first half of the twentieth century in combining modern British pictures and Georgian furniture, with which he furnished his Berkhamsted house. He was friendly with artists such as Henry Tonks and was an unofficial member of the New English Art Club. Quite possibly inspired by the seminal publication of Macquoid & Edwards' Dictionary of English Furniture in 1924, Blackwell entered the world of Georgian furniture collecting. In this, as with several other notable collectors of the day, he sought the wise counsel of the connoisseur and advisor R. W. Symonds and his collection was clearly deemed important enough to form the subject of two articles by Symonds in Apollo in 1936 (vol. XXIII). Symonds was behind the formation of several other prominent early twentieth century collections such as those formed by Percival Griffiths, J. S. Sykes, James Thursby Pelham, E. B. Moller and Frederick Poke and often acted as intermediary between collectors when they decided to 'refine' their collections. One Blackwell family story goes that one of Blackwell's sons was out fox-hunting with the Whaddon when Griffiths was killed. Returning home, he informed his father who was taking a bath. He immediately leapt out of the bath and telephoned Symonds to see which pieces would be available. A group of furniture from Blackwell's collection was sold by members of the Blackwell family, in these Rooms, 9 July 1992, lots 137-146, which included the splendid burr-walnut dressing-table that belonged to Lord Byron from Newstead Abbey, Nottingham and carved walnut mirror, reputedly from the same source.
Furniture belonging to Blackwell that has appeared at auction in recent years has achieved strong prices. A tripod table with 'piecrust' top, cabriole legs and claw-and-ball feet, that had once belonged to Percival Griffiths and then Geoffrey Blackwell, was sold by a descendant of Blackwell, Christie's, London, 14 June 2001, lot 35 (£135,750). In the same sale, a George II burr-walnut and parcel-gilt mirror was sold by the late John Blackwell, son of Geoffrey Blackwell, as lot 30 (£80,750). Another tripod table, but with a plain moulded top was also sold by a descendant of Blackwell, Christie's, London, 24 November 2005, lot 10 (£102,000). Most recently, a near pair of rosewood commodes, with inlaid star motifs at the corners of the tops was sold by a descendant, Christie's London, 7 June 2007, lot 90 (£288,000).