The acroteria and apex cornice, which has an ormolu mounted laurel wreath, rests on a moulded cavetto cornice with lappeted ormolu band above a pair of geometrically glazed doors with brass glazing bars. The base has a slim secretaire drawer mounted with winged sea-lions and opens to reveal a writing surface flanked on either side by two rosewood veneered drawers. Below are two paneled cupboard doors mounted with ormolu shells and mouldings and inlaid with brass anthemions set on an ebony ground. To each side are ormolu mounted Egyptian terms which terminate in very unusual ebony shaped block feet.
The overal form of the bookcase relates to a design by Sheraton as detailed below.
In addition, a bookcase in the Vicoria & Albert Museum, which is also related to a design in Sheraton’s ‘Cabinet-Maker, Upholsterer and General Artist’s Encyclopedia’, 1806, has the same glazing bars and terms with the same ormolu mounts on the volutes.
A number of the design features on the bookcase are familiar motifs employed by a number of makers, including the sea-lion mounts which are drawn from Thomas Hope, the Egyptian terms which can be seen on numerous designs by George Smith and the inlaid brass on an ebony ground which was employed by both George Oakley and George Bullock.
In terms of attributing this piece to a maker, it is likely that answer will be found in one of the more unusual features. Amongst these is the use of scallop shells which are very unusual for a piece of this period or the distinctive block feet, which although to be seen in designs by Thomas Sheraton, have yet to be found on a piece of documented furniture.
What we can determine is that the quality of the piece and the careful selection of materials indicate that it is likely to have been made in London by a cabinet maker of some standing for a client who could afford the very finest workmanship. It is our hope that with continued research, it will be just a matter of time before we can be more specific.
Thomas Sheraton ‘The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer and General Artist’s Encyclopaedia’ 1804, pl 4.
Thomas Hope’s Household Furniture and Interior Decoration 1807, plate IX
English Furniture 1500 – 1840 by Geoffrey Beard & Judith Goodison Page 271.
The secrétaire does have its original wooden shelves.
Height 219cm (86.22 inches)
Width 102cm (40.16 inches)
Depth 46.5cm (18.31 inches)
Stock No: 10637