These exceptional pier-commode-tables, with their mosaic inlay, antique flutes and Etruscan-black ribbon-bands, reflect the George III 'Roman' fashion popularized by Robert and James Adams' Works in Architecture, 1773-1777. The architectural and rectilinear chests have projecting 'tablet' corners, and are raised on taper-hermed legs; while French-fashioned corner cupboards are incorporated in their canted sides. Their inlay evokes lyric poetry that would be appropriate for the dressing rooms of fashionable bedroom apartments. The sun and poetry deity Apollo is evoked by the pilasters' laurel-festooned and sunflowered medallions; while the commodes' golden tablets are rayed from a laureled and sunflowered medallion enwreathed with Venus' pearl-strings in the Etruscan manner.
The commodes bear all the hallmarks of Mayhew and Ince's style of the 1770s. These include the striking veneers, use of ebonized borders, finely engraved marquetry and illusionistic crossbanding to the drawer sides to maintain a balanced design. These features, and the commodes' severe box-like form, all recur among the firm's major commissions for clients such as the 6th Earl of Coventry (furniture supplied for Croome Court and 29 Piccadilly 1764-1794) and 9th Earl of Exeter (furniture supplied for Burghley House and Lower Grosvenor Street 1767-1779). A particularly closely related group of furniture supplied by the firm to the 2nd Viscount Palmerston at Broadlands includes a satinwood bureau that is so close in feeling that it might almost have been made en suite (H. Roberts, 'Towards an English Louis Seize. Furniture at Broadlands, Hampshire-II', Country Life, 5 February 1981, p. 346, fig. 1). Payments to Mayhew and Ince appear in Lord Palmerston's personal account book for 1785-1797 total 1,939 9s. 0d. with evidence that the association with the firm was already well established before 1785. The satinwood bureau may be identifiable with the 'Secretary made by Ince (17)82' noted by Lady Palmerston in the 1797 inventory of her rooms.
The distinctive medallions which display trompe l'oeil flutes within a border of pearl strings feature on other furniture attributed to the firm. This group includes a commode at the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight, and formerly with the Earls of Chesterfield at Bretby Park, Derbyshire. Lucy Wood attributes this commode to Mayhew on the basis of its close similarity to a commode made to Adam's design for the Countess of Derby's Etruscan Dressing Room at Derby House (L. Wood, Catalogue of Commodes, London, 1994, no. 23, pp. 203-209). Most notable is the small group of bookcases of similar box-like form, which includes a remarkably similar example with the same canted sides and fluted medallion (most recently sold from the Estate of Marc Haas, Christie's, New York, 12-13 October 1995, lot 415). Others from this group include an example in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (illustrated in M. Jourdain, Georgian Furniture, 1969, pl.126) and another from the collection of Mrs. David Gubbay, formerly at Trent Park, Hertfordshire and now at Clandon Park, Surrey (J. Cornforth and G. Jackson-Stops, 'The Gubbay Collection at Clandon,' Country Life, 29 April 1971, p. 104, fig. 2). Further, it is interesting to note the commode from West Dean Park illustrated in P. Macquoid, The Age of Satinwood, 1908, fig. 144, of similar canted form and characteristic inlay (The Edward James Collection, West Dean Park, Christie's House sale, 2, 3 and 6 June 1986, lot 232). Interestingly, the firm's invoice for Croome Court covering 23 June 1774-3 June 1775 includes 'a neat Commode of fine Mahogany, the Corners canted off and thermed...' (G. Beard, 'Decorators and Furniture Makers at Croome Court, Furniture History, 1993, p. 104, no. 70). Aside from the stylistic attributes, the batton carrying holes to the underside of the cases support an attribution to the firm who was known to have used this method of transportation.