Lot 38
  • 38

A George III japanned and parcel-gilt cabinet circa 1790, attributed to George Brookshaw

bidding is closed


  • 231cm. high, 114cm. wide, 47cm. deep; 7ft. 7in., 3ft. 9in., 1ft. 6in.
the upper part with two doors filled with `chicken wire' below a flat domed cornice and flanked by panels decorated with flowering trees and pots, the lower part D-shaped at the centre, enclosing a drawer above a central door, enclosing a cupboard decorated with a basket of flowers suspended by ribbons from drapery, the ends with panels decorated with flowers in pots and supported on carved gilt reeded tapered legs with turned toes


Probably supplied by George Brookshaw to Nathaniel Acton circa 1790 for Livermere Park, Suffolk;
Transferred to Shrubland Park, circa 1923 by the 5th Baron de Saumarez following the demolition of Livermere Park;
Thence by descent to the 7th Baron de Saumarez


Christopher Hussey, 'Shrubland Park, Suffolk - II,' Country Life, 26 November 1953, p.1736, fig.9;
Lucy Wood, 'George Brookshaw, 'Peintre Ebeniste par Extraordinaire' The case of the vanishing cabinet-maker: Part 2', Apollo, June, 1991, p.384, fig. 2;
Lucy Wood, The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Catalogue of Commodes, 1994, p.244, fig. 231

Catalogue Note

On or around the 16 December 1783, George Brookshaw supplied a commode to the Prince of Wales for Carlton House described in the bill as 'Highly finished with a Basket of Flowers Painted in the front of the Body & sprigs of jesamine all over the Tops & Do on the fronts of the body with carv'd & Gilt mouldings & Legs' (cited Lucy Wood, 'George Brookshaw,' Parts 1 and 2, Apollo, May 1991, pp.301-6, June 1991, pp.383-97). Although this commode does not survive in the Royal Collection, as Lucy Wood notes, two corner cupboards currently in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire (in the Green Satin bedroom at Chatsworth, Derbyshire) and the present cabinet, closely relate to this description. The suspended basket of flowers - so typical of Brookshaw's oeuvre - is, on the offered lot, surrounded by sprigs of jasmine, as mentioned in the commode for the Prince of Wales. This motif also appears on a firesceen at Hodnet Hall (illustrated Lucy Wood, Catalogue of Commodes, 1994, p.246, figs.235 and 236). Another related corner cupboard was sold at Sotheby's London, 13 June 2001, lot 65.

Sadly, the offered lot is not recorded in any bill as being supplied by Brookshaw.  Neither are the Chatsworth cupboards documented: they are only known to have been in the Devonshire collection when they were photographed at Compton Place, the Duke of Devonshire's Sussex home, by Country Life in September 1916. Lucy Wood was the first to attribute both the present cabinet and the Devonshire corner cupboards to the London 'peintre ébéniste,' George Brookshaw (ibid). The attribution is based on a complicated stylistic chain, secured by a chimneypiece, unequivocally by Brookshaw, and presently in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Noted to have come from Piercefield Park, Monmouthshire, when it entered the Museum's collection and consequently assumed to have been made for Colonel (later Sir) Mark Wood, it in turn secures the attribution of a pair of cabinets with reputed provenance from Piercefield (sold Christie's, London, 7 April 1983, lot 124), which appear to have similarly been sold from the House in 1923.  A Chimneypiece by George Brookshaw featuring closely related elongated rectangular painted floral panels, sold Sotheby's London, 7 July 2000, lot 81.

Brookshaw was born in Birmingham in 1753, the son of George Brookshaw senior whose occupation is unknown, although Richard his brother, born in 1749, is recorded as an engraver working in Paris. Before 1777 nothing is known of his life, but at this time he commenced his trade as a cabinet-maker in London. It is uncertain as to how he obtained the financial means to open his business, but in 1778 he married Sobieski, the daughter of William Grice a wealthy Birmingham gun-maker, and her dowry was the probable source of his prosperity. Until the mid-1790s, from a house in Curzon Street, and later at 48 Great Marlborough Street, he specialized in supplying painted furniture to a number of aristocratic and fashionable clients, including the Prince of Wales, Lord Delaval, the Duke of Beaufort and William Blathwayt. Curiously, records indicated that he ceased to be a cabinet-maker at some point after 1795. The reasons for this are unclear, although Lucy Wood speculates that he experienced marital difficulties that might have resulted in the withdrawal of his working capital. After 1810 he is known to have been a teacher of flower painting and an illustrator of works on the subject, lending credibility to his attribution to the present cabinet, with its closely-observed floral subjects.