Although no documentary evidence is known to exist to link the present commodes to the firm, they have long been attributed to the firm of Mayhew and Ince on stylistic grounds and through that firm`s known association with 4th Duke, father of the 5th Duke, and one of the firm`s most important clients, (see Journal of the Furniture History Society, 1994, Hugh Roberts, op. cit., pp.117-149).
The firm of John Mayhew ( 1736-1811) and William Ince (d.1804) was one of the most successful and enduring partnerships of cabinet-makers in the 18th century. They are first recorded as partners in December 1758, advertising from an address at Broad Street in January 1759. Earlier Mayhew had been apprenticed to William Bradshaw, and Ince to John West, before forming a brief partnership after West`s death in 1758 with Samuel Norman and James Whittle. In 1763 they were described as `cabinet-makers, carvers and upholders’, and in 1778 `manufacturers of plate glass’ appeared on their bill heading. From 1780s the categories of `cabinet maker’ and upholsterer predominate, reflecting the change in taste from carved to veneered and inlaid furniture, which was more fashionable. One of their early ventures was to publish The Universal System of Household Furniture in 1762 which included eighty-nine numbered plates and six smaller ones dedicated to 4th Duke of Marlborough. The relative failure of this work, which was issued in only one edition, was probably caused by the distinctly Rococo manner of the designs which was to become rapidly unfashionable in the next few years due to the rise of the neo classical taste reflected in the present commodes. The partnership was quick to embrace these new forms as is shown by their own work and their involvement with Robert Adam himself in making furniture to his own designs for many of his important clients. Mayhew and Ince worked for many important patrons who included the Prince of Wales, 5th Duke of Devonshire, 5th Duke of Bedford and 1stDuke of Northumberland.
Particularly striking in the design of the present commodes are the distinctive oval medallions, trailing husk motifs and fluting on the frieze which are all motifs which reflect the George III Roman fashion promoted by such architects as Robert Adam ( d.1792) and James Wyatt ( d.1813).This fluting also appears on a pair of commodes similarly attributed to Mayhew and Ince, sold Christie`s London 10th April 2003, which was attributed on the basis of other inlaid elements seen in these examples, also seen on other pieces known to be by the firm. The sparing use of inlay seen on these commodes is also seen with the present lot. The distinctive form of the husk inlay on the top of the present commodes is also of almost identical form to another commode also attributed to the firm, sold Christies London, 30th November 2000, lot 130.. This commode which contains inlaid elements known to have been used by the firm also has an inlaid frieze similar to the present examples and is also of a similar distinctive shape. The distinctive oval medallions on both doors derive from an engraving of the Sun God Apollo`s temple that was illustrated in Robert Wood`s Ruins of the Temple of Palmyra, 1753 can also be seen on the doors of a bookcase, attributed to the firm with a tentative provenance of Warren Hastings at Daylesford House, Gloucestershire, offered by Christie`s London, Important English Furniture 9th June 2009, lot 219. The commission of the firm for Warren Hastings was one of the firm`s larger commissions and it would seem entirely likely that this cabinet was made by the firm and further supports the present attribution.
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