This mirrored bureau-cabinet, veneered in beautiful marble-figured burr-walnut, is designed in the George I 'Roman' manner, such as the Rome-trained James Gibbs promoted in his, Book of Architecture, 1728. Its triumphal-arched and ogival-scrolled temple pediment displays a lozenge-shaped compartment, and is likely to have been crowned by sacred urns. In the 1720s, a drawing of a bureau-cabinet, likewise featuring a rustic ogival-scrolled pediment, was included amongst designs made by Russian craftsmen, who had been sent to London for training by Czar Peter the Great (N. I. Guseva, 'Fedor Martynov, Russian Master Cabinet Maker', Furniture History, 1994, p. 95, no. 3).
It has been suggested that their training may have taken place with the Strand cabinet-maker Peter Miller, who, in 1724, is recorded as executing a walnut bureau-cabinet of this form for export to Spain (Adam Bowett, Geffrye Museum Symposium, January 2002 and C. Gilbert, The Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, Leeds, 1996, figs. 646 & 647). The cabinet's interior, like those of a number of related cabinets, is richly equipped with pigeon-holes and drawer nests around a 'tabernacle' compartment.
Its fall is fitted with a fine burnished and engraved brass lock-plate tablet that is elaborately engraved in the Louis Quatorze 'Roman' fashion. It features a genius emerging from Roman acanthus, as illustrated by Jean Le Pautre in his Rinceaux de different feuillages. First issued in Paris circa 1660. This French fashion was revived in London in the 1720s, when Thomas Bowles issued A New Book of Ornaments Proper for Gravers, Jewellers, carvers and most sorts of Artificers (N. Snodin, 'Thomas Bowles', Furniture History, 1994, pp. 86-91).
STRAND CABINET-MAKING & THE MASTER OF THE ROYAL PORTUGUESE CABINETS
Amongst the group of related cabinets fitted with fine brass locks, is a pair of golden cabinets, rendered in gessoed bas-relief, and probably executed in the mid-1720s. One of the latter pair was sold anonymously in these Rooms, 4 July 2002, lot 100 (£424,650). A further pair of cabinets, commissioned by Don John V of Portugual (d. 1750), also belong to this group (R. W. Symonds, 'A Royal Scrutoire', Connoisseur, June 1940, pp. 233-236; and R. W. Symonds, 'The Origins of Gesso Furniture', Antiques Review, December 1950, fig. 5). The pair of cabinets figure among a number of items which may have been executed by George I's court cabinet-maker James Moore (d. 1727), who shared a partnership with John Gumley at a Strand warehouse that was celebrated for both its glass manufactures and its gessoed furnishings. The group comprises the 'Bateman' lion-footed sarcophagus chest from Shobden Court, Herefordshire (Victoria & Albert Museum); and the Montagu chest at Boughton House, Northamptonshire (I. Caldwell, 'James Moore and the Bateman Chest', Antique Collector, February 1988, p. 74-79, figs. 1 and 3). The firm also carried on a flourishing export trade and when advertising in 1714, Gumley drew the attention of 'the Quality, Gentry and Merchants for Exportation' to the large looking-glasses that had been executed in the 'Newest Fashions'. This bureau-cabinet shares several features with a further cabinet which can be identified with the group: a walnut cabinet, attributed to Peter Miller, and sold by Sir Thomas Beevor, Bt., in these Rooms, 14 June 2001, lot 150. The presence of Moore and Gumley's establishment, as well as Peter Miller's, enhanced the Strand as the centre of London's cabinet-making business as it moved Westwards from St. Paul's Churchyard in the City and before its move to St Martin's Lane in the latter part of the 18th century.
The cabinets within this group have a similar cornice profile and arrangement of base to the present cabinet, although the base of the gilt-gesso cabinet is fitted with two short and two long drawers, whereas the present cabinet and the Beevor cabinet are fitted with four short and two long drawers. Each cabinet is fitted with a remarkably similar lock, each engraved with a figure (triton, angel, and genius) surrounded by elaborate scrolling foliage. A further distinctive feature shared by all three is the drawer bottom held in place by a rebate on all four sides, as opposed to the more usual English rebating on three sides (leaving the back unrebated).