The fashion for 'French' style furniture veneered with Oriental lacquer re-used from imported Oriental screens was introduced in the 1750's by cabinet-makers such as Thomas Chippendale and Pierre Langlois. This elegant ormolu-enriched lady's secretaire reflects the exotic style of bedroom-apartment furnishings of the mid-1760's. While its garden-pavilioned landscapes corresponded with contemporary Chinese-papered rooms, its glossy black surface also harmonised with 'Etruscan' apartments enriched with Wedgwood Etruria-ware, also fashionable at that time.
This secretaire was sold in the 1924 Alton Towers sale, alongside a commode en suite made from the same lacquer screen (the commode was sold again, Christie's London, 28 June 1979, lot 54). The plinth-based commode, with similar serpentined and reed-gadrooned top, was also festooned at the sides with husks and mounted at the frieze with flowerheads within linked chains. Stylistically, they relate most closely to the documented oeuvre of Pierre Langlois (d.1765) of Tottenham Court Road (see L. Wood, Catalogue of Commodes, 1994, p. 78, fig. 65). In particular, the use of lacquer panels within a japanned carcass of serpentine outline is characteristic of Langlois' work and Lucy Wood identifies a recognizable group of similar design, including a pair formerly at Uppark Park, Sussex (L. Wood, op. cit., figs. 62, 63). The Uppark Park commodes feature the same chrysanthemum-flowered chinoiserie borders and similarly scalloped skirt. Further commmodes from this group include a pair in coromandel lacquer almost certainly supplied to Francis Seymour, 1st Marquess of Hertford for Ragley Hall, Warwickshire and sold at Christie's London, 4 July 1996, lot 300 (£308,000) and another formerly in the collection of the Dukes of Newcastle, Clumber, Northumberland, which was sold by the Marquess of Cholmondeley, Christie's London, 29 March 1984.
Related lacquer-veneered secretaires, although more Neo-classical in design, were supplied by Thomas Chippendale to Edwin Lascelles for Harewood House, Yorkshire in 1773 for £26 (sold anonymously at Christie's London,3 July 1997, lot 80, (£308,000; now at Temple Newsam House, Leeds) and to Robert and Sarah Child for Osterley Park House, Middlesex circa 1775.
The mounts for Langlois' furniture, some cast from Parisian patterns dating from the late 1740's, have been attributed to the French emigré metalworker Peter Dominique Jean and it is interesting to note, therefore, that the same gadrooned ormolu-banded top was also used by the cabinetmakers Mayhew and Ince (see A. Coleridge, Chippendale Furniture, 1968, figs. 40 and 43) and William Vile.