These commodes epitomise the fashion for French Louis XV style furniture in Holland in the 1760s. Indeed, French furniture was imported into Holland in such large quantities that in the early 1770s cabinet-makers in Amsterdam and The Hague demanded a ban on this threat to their livelihood
As a result, numerous Dutch cabinet-makers emulated the fashionable French style, although marquetry furniture of this type was undoubtedly made in several Dutch towns, it was probably most admired in The Hague, where, as the base of the Stadholder's court and foreign embassies, the French court style had been dominent throughout the 18th century. (R. J. Baarsen, op. cit, p. 163)
Matthijs Horrix, who was of German origin, was admitted to the Hague guild as Mr. Kabinetwerker in 1764. As the most prominent representitive of 'French' cabinetmaking, Horrix rapidly became The Hague's most successful furniture-maker, which gained him prestigeous commissions from the Stadholder's court early on in his career. Clearly Horrix was aware of the reason for his success - he called his shop 'In the commode from Paris', and The Hague's newspaper, 's-Gravenhaegse Courant of 28 February 1772 contained an advertisement in which he stated that his furniture was 'in the latest Paris fashion'.(ibid, pp. 166, 169-170).
Following the marriage in 1767 of Stadholder Prince William V and Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia, several of the Royal residences were modernised and refurbished. It was Horrix who received the prestigous commission to provide the Stadholder's quarters with 'Commodes, Tables etc' for which he was paid 1515 florins. In addition he charged 650.8.florins for '...commodes en secretaires etc...' supplied for the country seat Het Loo. The documented supplies to the Court establish that Princess Wilhelmina in particular admired Horrix' furniture: virtually all her yearly private accounts show evidence of deliveries of Horrix' luxurious marquetry furniture. Her admiration is also apparent in a letter to her daughter, dated 16 February 1793, in which she describes the gifts Prince Frederik received on his nineteenth birthday: 'Vous serez curieuse de savoir ce que Fritz a reçu. Je vous le raconterai. De son Père de l'argenterie; de moi une vaisselle de campagne en fer blanc et un secrétaire extrêmement commode et bien arrangé; Horrix y a développé tous ses talens [sic].'(ibid. pp. 172 and 179)
Three commodes in the collection of H.M. Queen Beatrix in Huis ten Bosch were almost certainly part of Horrix' commissions to the Court in 1767 or shortly after. They are among the rare items of furniture which were not sold between 1795 and 1798 during the French occupation. Baarsen has estabished that the largest and most elaborate of the three commodes in the Dutch Royal collection is part of a closely related group, which includes the commodes from Swinton House. Beside significant constructional similarities within the group, the commodes have the same, outwardly curving shape incorporating cabinets to the sides. Horrix divided the fronts of all of them into three panels framed by dark interlaced scrolling strapwork while the central panels depict naturalistic floral marquetry and are flanked by single flowers or floral trelliswork. (ibid. pp. 162 and 186-190, figs. 1 and 12-18). The character and arrangement of this marquetry scheme is however, undoubtedly inspired by the oeuvre of Jean-François Oeben, who developed a new type of naturalisic floral marquetry which won him many followers throughout Europe. (ibid, p. 194)
The distinctive ornamental gilt-bronze mounts which embellish Dutch furniture in the French style were, however, rarely produced in Holland. Remarkably the mounts employed by Horrix can be traced to Britain and appear in a sales catalogue of a Birmingham metalwork firm, which was almost certainly manufacturing mounts for export. (ibid, p. 195)
The core of the collection of the Earl and Countess of Swinton was built up by generations of the Danby family, who had lived at Swinton House since 1695. The 1st Lord Masham, ancestor of the present Earl of Swinton, acquired the house in 1882 and expanded the collection with several pieces in the goût Rothschild. Masham probably bought the present commodes around 1890 from Davis on Pall Mall, from whom he had also acquired much of his other furniture. (J. Cornforth, op. cit., part II, p. 874.) It is, however likely that these commodes had been imported into Britain some time earlier as English dealers were already actively hunting for antiques at the beginning of the 19th century and must have acquired furniture in the French style. Baarsen has indicated that this process was facilitated by an aversion on the side of the Dutch for anything 'French' after the occupation. In the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry at Bowhill there is, for instance, a commode by Horrix, which was probably brought from Holland by the prestigeous London dealer Edward Holmes Baldock (1777-1845) (R.J.Baarsen, 'French furniture in Amsterdam in 1771', Furniture History Society Journal XXIX (1993), p.114). Whether or not Davis and Baldock were aware of the Dutch origin of these commodes is unknown, but they almost certainly sold them as 'genuine' French furniture.