Joseph Stockel (d. 1802) is first recorded in the rue de Charenton in 1769 but only received his maîtrise in 1775. He is best known for severely neoclassical furniture veneered in mahogany such as the bureau plat with fasciae-shaped legs probably supplied to the comte de Provence in 1785 and later transferred to the Assemblée Nationale. He also supplied four commodes to the comte de Provence through the marchand-mercier Philippe-Ambroise Sauvage in 1786, which were then extensively modified by Benneman to make eight commodes. These commodes then returned to the cabinet du Conseil of Louis XVI at Compiègne and are today at Fontainebleau, Compiègne and the Louvre. Interestingly some of those commodes were adorned with porcelain plaques, making Stockel, along with Godefroy Dester, the only ébénistes to use this type of embellishment who were not working for Daguerre and Poirier (such as Carlin, Leleu, RVLC, Saunier and Weisweiler).
Marquetry pictorial panels depicting Italianate classical ruins were very fashionable during the eighteenth century. They were admired for their painterly effect and evoked memories of the Grand Tour. They were often based on engraved sources such as those of Gianbattista Piranesi and the paintings of Giovanni Paolo Panini and Hubert Robert. It is, however, extremely rare to find marquetry panels in the oeuvre of Joseph Stockel, and this bureau à cylindre is related to pieces with similar marquetry stamped by several celebrated ébénistes such as Jacques Dautriche, Daniel Deloose, Pierre Denizot, Pierre Macret, Martin Ohnenberg, Nicolas Petit, Charles Topino, Christophe Wolff and Pierre Roussel. It is believed that many of these panels are the work of the specialist marqueteur André-Louis Gilbert (d. 1809), but it is probable that at an age of general interest in such panels, larger workshops would also have had their own specialists (G. de Bellaigue, 'Engravings and the French Eighteenth Century Marqueteur', Burlington Magazine, May 1965, pp. 240-250 and July 1965, pp. 356-363). This bureau à cylindre is particularly closely related to a smaller example by Stockel formerly in the collection of the Rt. Hon. Adèle, Countess Cadogan, sold Christie's London, 8 June 1961, lot 101, later with Partridge, sold again at Christie's New York, 26 October 1995, lot 181, and most recently sold in the Partridge Collection sale, Christie's New York, 17 May 2006, lot 15. Another example by Stockel with a superstructure and less delicate ormolu mounts from the Edward James Collection, West Dean Park, Chichester, was sold Christie's house sale, 2, 3 and 6 June 1986, lot 137.
The collection of Upton House began with Walter Horace Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted (1882-1948), art collector and philanthropist, and the eldest and only surviving son of Marcus Samuel, 1st Viscount Bearsted (1857 -1927). As the sole heir to the fortune of the Shell Transport and trading Company founded by his father and uncle, he succeeded his father as Chairman in 1921 and bought Upton House, a nondescript and rather small house in Warwickshire, though at the heart of good hunting which, along with art, was his greatest passion. The renovation of the house was entrusted to the architect Percy Moreley Horder, who remodeled the original 17th century house in 1927-29. The addition of a Picture Gallery and a Long Gallery on the ground floor was necessary to house the growing collection of the 2nd Viscount Bearsted. He was a Chairman of the National Gallery, a trustee of the Tate Gallery and from 1944 Chairman of the Whitechapel Gallery. His greatest love was painting, but he collected over a wide range and depth in other areas, most notably, tapestries, furniture, French gold boxes, English silver, English miniatures, illuminated initials, Oriental works of art and European porcelain. It is therefore probable that this bureau à cylindre was acquired by the 2nd Viscount. After falling ill in his 60s, the 2nd Viscount decided that Upton House and his gardens, which he and his wife had created and loved, should be kept intact for others to enjoy and gave Upton House to the National Trust ensuring that the collections were open to the public. The 2nd Viscount nevertheless expressed the desire that the house would continue to be occupied in its entirety by a member of the family and the Upton Estate remains the property of the Bearsted family.