the rectangular bevelled plate within a moulded frame and between straight moulded uprights surmounted by acorn finials, the two-tier stepped lower section with a bank of small shaped drawers between two deep drawers and above a projecting long drawer moulded to simulate two drawers, raised on `Braganza' feet to the front and bun feet to the back
Percival D. Griffiths, Sandridgebury, St Albans
Frederick Poke, Langholm, Parkside, Wimbledon Common
Thence by decent
Sold Sotheby's London, 13 June 2001, lot 73
Robert W. Symonds, English Furniture from Charles II to George II, 1929, p.166, fig. 124
Ralph Edwards and Percy Macquoid, The Dictionary of English Furniture, 3 Vols., rev. ed. 1954, vol.II, p.364, fig.22
The collection of important English furniture formed by the Midlands businessman, Mr Frederick Poke, is not only of exceptional interest for its quality, but also as a document of twentieth-century collecting taste. Moulded through the help and connoisseurship of Robert Wemyss Symonds, the collection (amassed at his home Langholm, Parkside, Wimbledon Common) was built around a core group of furniture assembled by Percival D. Griffiths. This celebrated collection, established at his home, Sandridgebury, St. Albans, and published in quasi-catalogue form by Symonds in his English Furniture from Charles II to George II (1929), was sold by Christie's between 10th and 12th May 1939. As Symonds later noted, the sale 'was able to provide, upon its dispersal, at least six important collections in England with their best pieces' (1); Frederick Poke's was one of these.
Poke's relationship with Symonds probably mirrored that of Symonds with Griffiths, whom Symonds had begun advising in 1911. Symonds regularly contributed to the periodical Everybody's which was owned by Poke, and indeed published Poke's collection in a series of articles in the early 1940s. (2) As Edward Lennox-Boyd has noted, this type of article 'created a uniquely symbiotic relationship, in which Symonds could increase the fame and value of pieces of furniture by publishing them, and [...] further strengthen[ing] the collector's reliance on him. (3) Through his publications and advice to Griffiths and other collectors, Symonds was able to change the course of furniture connoisseurship exercising an almost curatorial approach to the collections he helped to form, carefully guiding their development and display.
(1) Robert W. Symonds, 'Portrait of a Collector,' Country Life, 13 June 1952, p.1811.
(2) Robert W. Symonds, 'Craft of the Cabinet-Maker: Illustrated by Examples in the Collection of Mr. Frederick Poke,' The Connoisseur, May 1940, pp. 200-207; idem., 'The Development of the English Chair: Illustrated by Examples in the Collection of Mr. Frederick Poke,' ibid., December 1941, pp.167-72; idem., 'The Designs of English Mirrors: Illustrated by Examples in the Collection of Mr Frederick Poke,' ibid., September 1942, pp. 20-26.
(3) Edward Lennox-Boyd, 'Collecting in the Symonds Tradition, ' in Lennox-Boyd (ed.), Masterpieces of English Furniture: The Gerstenfeld Collection, 1998, p. 17.
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