The dressing-table, designed in the George II 'Roman' fashion, is designed for a lady's dressing-room and combined a bureau writing-table with hinged flap above drawers fitted with compartments for brushes and powder boxes (here fitted out in mahogany) for a lady's 'necessary equipage'. A closely related example of this rare form is in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Y. Hackenbroch, English Furniture in the Irwin Untermyer Collection, London, 1958, figs. 269-270, pls. 230-231). Incredibly, the latter was also in Percival Griffiths' collection and can be made out at the back of the Staircase Hall at Sandridgebury, circa 1930 (E. Lennox-Boyd, Masterpieces of English Furniture: The Gerstenfeld Collection, London, 1998, p. 24, fig. 12). The present lot was included in the sale of Griffiths' collection at Christie's, London, 10-12 May 1939 as lot 242 when it was sold to R. W. Symonds. Symonds, in spite of what was clearly a close association with Griffiths, purchased only three items of furniture at his sale: the present lot; a Queen Anne walnut oval stool (lot 175); and a William and Mary walnut card-table (lot 199). Both the card-table (see Christie's, London, English & Continental Furniture, 27 April 2006, lot 6) and the 'Union Suit' were in the Aykroyd Collection and it may be that Symonds was buying on behalf of the Aykroyds at the time of the sale. Another closely related 'union suit' is in the Noel Terry collection in York (P. Brown, The Noel Terry Collection of Furniture and Clocks, York and London, 1987, p. 33, no. 33).
The term 'union suit' was used by the Frith Street cabinet-maker John Hodson in 1739 when referring to such multi-function dressing-tables. He repaired two japanned 'Union suits' for the Duke of Atholl at Blair Castle and made a black stained pearwood stand 'for ye Union suits to stand on ...' (A. Coleridge, 'John Hodson and some cabinet-makers at Blair Castle', Connoisseur, April, 1963, p. 230, fig. 15).
PERCIVAL GRIFFITHS & R. W. SYMONDS
The collection formed by Percival D. Griffiths, F.S.A (d. 1938). under the wise counsel of R. W. Symonds is considered to be arguably the greatest collection of English Furniture formed in the last century. Indeed, it was Griffiths' collection that provided the content for Symonds' seminal work English Furniture from Charles II to George II, 1929. The interiors at Sandridgebury are happily recalled in 'Sandridgebury: The Country Residence of Percival D. Griffiths', published by Symonds in Antiques, March 1931, pp. 193-196. Symonds later published 'Percival Griffiths, F.S.A.: A Memoir on a Great Collector of English Furniture', The Antique Collector, November-December 1943, pp. 163-169. His collection has come to be recognised as a bench mark of excellence, in the arena of collecting early to mid-18th century walnut and mahogany furniture and is discussed by E. Lennox-Boyd, 'Introduction: Collecting in the Symonds Tradition', Lennox-Boyd, op. cit., pp. 12-31).