Designed in the Louis XVI 'antique' manner favoured by George, Prince of Wales, later King George IV at Carlton House, this collector's cabinet, with its verre eglomisé plaques mounted onto a satinwood-veneered carcase, clearly reflects the influence of the architect Henry Holland and his Parisian dealer Dominique Daguerre. The heir to Simon-Philippe Poirier's atelier, Daguerre specialised in supplying objets de luxe to the French Court and, after the Revolution in 1789, to the English nobility, including the Prince of Wales for Carlton House, the 5th Duke of Bedford for Woburn Abbey and the Earl Spencer for Althorp House, Northamptonshire. Establishing a shop in Piccadilly, London circa 1780, in 1786 he signed an agreement with Josiah Wedgwood for the exclusive rights to sell Wedgwood's jasperware in France, and he turned to ébénistes such as Adam Weisweiler to produce refined Neo-classical furniture on which these medallions were placed. This collector's cabinet is a pure expression of the Francophile taste expounded by George IV and his circle.
The design of the cast intaglios adorning the cabinet appear to derive from different sources. The medallions to the drawer are taken from designs by John Flaxman (1755-1826), who was employed by Josiah Wedgwood, and later went on to become one of England's finest neoclassical sculptors. Illustrated in F. Rathbone, Old Wedgwood, Buten Museum Reprint, 1968, p. 140, pl. XIII, are the series of cupids as the four seasons (first mentioned in the catalogue of 1787), which are close to the design of those found on this cabinet. Flanking the medallions of the cupids are the Three Graces to the left and to the right Apollo, holding his lyre, which relates to a further Flaxman design of 1775, illustrated in R. Reilly, Wedgwood, London, 1989, vol. I, p. 591, fig. 858. Interesting to note is that three of the cupids illustrated in Rathbone were previously in the collection of James Tassie (d. 1799), the Scottish artist, sculptor and impression-maker. It is possible that the plaques could be the work of Tassie or his son who succeeded him and reproduced, amongst others, his father's collection in glass paste. Tassie had access to some of the greatest collections of intaglios and cameos and wrote in 1790 to a patron, 'We have moulded all Lord Carliles (sic) cabinet of gems excepting a few modern modern portraits of the last century are very good thing are a considerable number of curious fragments, especially cameos the whole is about 300 about two thirds are new'. As no design source can be found for the remaining cameos on the cabinet it is possible that they were taken from these antique sources.
A closely related collector's cabinet, undoubtedly executed by the same hand but without the refinement of both the stretcher and the verre eglomisé plaques seen on this cabinet, was sold from the collection of the late Joe Blanchard, Esq., Sotheby's London, 3 May 1996, lot 10 (£87,300). A further related secretaire, also by the same maker was with Jeremy Ltd., London and is illustrated in R. Fastnedge, Sheraton Furniture, London, 1983, p.210, fig.82.
Although any attribution of this group remains pure speculation until documentary eveidence comes to light, in both character and construction they share much in common with the work of George Simson (d.1839). Established in St. Paul's Churchyard in 1787, Simson opened a Piccadilly warehouse in Dover Street in 1793 and subscribed to Thomas Sheraton's Drawing Book and Cabinet-Dictionary. He is perhaps best known for the Week's cabinets, of which one is in the City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham (illustrated in R. Fastnedge, op. cit., fig.75). George Seddon and Sons, however, could equally well have been responsible for this group stylistically.