An Extremely Fine and rare Rosewood and Brass Inlaid Writing Table Attributed to the Oxford Street Workshop of Gillows.
With a raised back comprising a three quarter pierced anthemion brass gallery above a panelled front flanked by acanthus carved pilaster terminals, the interior with an arrangement of pigeonholes, a recess and small drawers with flame figured mahogany veneers, the lower part with a frieze drawer revealing tooled leather insets with an adjustable writing slope and compartments, raised on four turned and reeded tapering legs with acanthus carved knees.
Executed in the finest faded rosewood, this writing table is related to the earlier bonheur du jour or lady's writing table popularised by Thomas Sheraton. Adapted to suit regency fashion, the present piece is altogether more “masculine” in its proportions and design and favours carved detailing and brass inlay for is decorative effect.
Note : One for the connoisseur collector.
There are several features of this piece that make a strong case for a Gillows attribution. The reeded bun feet are something of a trademark of the Gillows firm during this period and feature on many tables and side cabinets known to have been produced by the firm. The use of very neat pearled and beaded mouldings is also something that is encountered on many pieces made by the firm, as are the reeded and acanthus carved legs which are of very strong late regency form. It is, however, the complex brass inlay work which is the key to making the attribution. In her monograph on the Gillows firm Gillows of Lancaster and London, 1730-1840 Dr Susan Stuart illustrates a group of very fine furniture made c.1820-1830 which is by or firmly attributed to the firm and has brass inlay of similar conception and complexity. The monumental Hackwood Park writing table illustrated on p. 289 (plate 306) was known to have been supplied by the Oxford Street workshop to the 2ndBaron Boulton in 1813. The inlay used on the pilasters on this table is very similar in feeling to that on the pilasters on the superstructure on our table. However it is a large library table illustrated in plates 308-310, and also attributed to the Oxford Street workshops that is particularly relevant. Plate 309 shows a close-up of the inlay on the top of this table and the cartouche-type designs in the larger panels appear to be contre-partie versions of the premiere partie work on our table (contre-partie being Boulle work where the predominant decoration is in brass-thus dark on light-and premiere being the opposite with most of the decoration in wood or turtle shell as appropriate and the brass being the secondary part and thus light on dark). In other words, the panels appear to be taken from the same patterns and were almost certainly made in the same workshop.
Dr Stuart's book outlines various theories about the sources of brass inlay work on Gillows pieces, including suggesting that it might have been supplied by George Bullock, the major regency designer and cabinetmaker who specialised in inlay work of this sort. However the Hackwood suite, the library table and our piece seem to have more of a French style in the inlay work-something rather truer to the 17th century pieces produced by Andre Charles Boulle himself-and do not look like the sort of designs Bullock or his workshop would have created. Whoever did design and execute these wonderful panels of grotesques, somewhat in the style of the great 17th century designer Jean Berain, the workshop was every bit as capable as the Bullock one but with a very different aesthetic.
On page 290 of her book, Susan Stuart describes the differences between the two different centres of Gillow production. The surviving Gillows records are almost all concerned with the Lancaster workshop such as the large number of estimate sketch books in Westminster Archives but there are room setting drawings prepared for clients by the Oxford Street workshop which are in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Comparisons of the pieces illustrated by the Oxford Street workshops with those in the Lancaster estimate books of the same period is instructive. There are no glaring differences in quality between the pieces produced in the two different centres but there are clear differences in terms of fashionable taste. As would be expected, the Oxford Street workshop seems to have been, as Dr. Stuart puts it, “avante-garde” in the nature of the work that was produced there.
This object incorporates old ivory and has been registered with Defra
Ivory License Number 1K6ZWQXB
Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire
H: 128cm W: 112cm D: 58.5cm
Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire
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