The commode conforms with many of the characteristics of other examples by or attributed to the celebrated Golden Square, London, cabinet-makers Mayhew and Ince. The partnership was founded in 1758/9 and in 1762 they published The Universal System of Household Furniture, a publication which rivalled Chippendale's Director in scope, if not in influence. Their work did however include a number of original designs that set it apart from the Chippendale's work. The firm established themselves quickly and attracted many aristocratic clients including the 6th Earl of Coventry at Croome Court, Worcestershire, the 9th Earl of Exeter at Burghley House, Lincolnshire and Lower Grosvenor Street, London, and the 4th Duke of Bedford at Bedford House, London.
Among their most notable commissions was that for the 12th Earl of Derby in 1775, when they supplied 'a circular Commode of fine and curious Woods very finely inlaid with Etruscan Ornaments ... from a Design of Messrs Adams'. Robert Adam's 1773 designs for a commode for the Duke of Bolton, the genesis of the bow-fronted commode, was probably never executed but Adam did design a pair of bow-fronted commodes for Osterley Park in Middlesex around the same time. There followed a period during which the semi-elliptical and serpentine form of commode became pre-eminent, with Mayhew and Ince at the forefront of the fashion.
The influence of the firm was first identified in Hugh Roberts', 'The Derby House Commode', The Burlington Magazine, vol.CXXVII, no.986, May 1985, pp.275-283. He identified a number of features common to these commodes which point to the work of Mayhew and Ince, including the 'extensive use of fine engraving heightened with a black, white or red mastic to increase the pictorial illusion on such details as husks, ribbon-ties and paterae, the combination of colour-stained marquetry with painted paper (or ... copper) panels decorated with mythological scenes ..., a tendency to incorporate in the marquetry in large scale such 'antique' devices as urns, tripods or medallions' and others. An important group of such commodes was created by William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851-1925) at the Lady Art Gallery, Port Sunlight and which was the subject of Lucy Wood, Catalogue of Commodes, 1994.
The present lot shows similarities with examples from the Leverhulme Collection. The general form of the commode, with a door to each side of a fixed centre panel was one favoured by Mayhew and Ince and likewise the very distinctive ribbon and swag frieze. The floral swags adorning the front panel relate closely to a serpentine commode attributed to the partnership (ibid, pp.236-238, no.28, while the beautifully carved feet show similarity with nos.23 and 25 (L.Wood, ibid, pp.203-209 and 217-221). The singular trailing rose-flower border of the top, heightened by the use of red mastic, is very similar to that featured on the magnificent commode almost certainly supplied by Mayhew and Ince to the 5th Earl of Chesterfield on his marriage in 1777 for Chesterfield House, London and sold Christie's London, 10 December 2009, lot 845 (£301,250 including premium).