In two parts, the upper section with broken pediment mounted with three finials, the sides with domed cornices, above outspread-winged bird and a pair of arched mirror-inset doors opening to an interior fitted with valenced pigeonholes above recessed prospect doors opening to pigeonholes, a recess and a drawer, flanked by secret document drawers fronted by stop-fluted pilasters and document slots, all over two long drawers flanked by deep drawers and two candle slides, the lower section fitted with a fall front with a bookrest and decorated with warriors on horseback, one bearing a standard, in a pavilioned landscape, opening to an interior fitted with an arched door flanked by secret drawers fronted by stop-fluted pilasters, further flanked by valenced pigeonholes above short drawers and graduated drawers, all centered by a sliding panel and a leather-lined writing surface within flower-decorated borders, the waisted case with two short over two long graduated drawers, the drawer fronts decorated with chinoiserie figures at various pursuits, birds, flowers and foliage, the sides decorated with flowers and large birds, raised on later bracket feet. Restorations to japanned decoration, feet later.
Devenish and Company, New York
Possibly the first mention of this type of 'desk-and-bookcase' appears in the accounts of the Royal cabinet-maker Gerrit Jensen (fl. 1680-d.1715) who supplied several to the Royal Household from 1710 (See: Adam Bowett, English Furniture 1660-1714, From Charles II to Queen Anne, Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge, 2002), another, which was supplied to the 5th Earl of Salisbury, Hatfield House, being described as 'a walnut writing desk, the top for books and patons [sic] and glass in the doors asked'. The London cabinet maker John Gumley (1691-1727) advertised in Richard Steele's The Lover of April 24, 1714, that he 'hath taken for a Ware-house, and furnished all the upper part of the New Exchange in the Strand' continuing with an extensive list of his stock which included 'Desks and Bookcases'. In 1714 one of these in walnut was supplied by him to James, 1st Duke of Montrose for the sum of £11. A related cabinet of similar profile was formerly in the collection of Mr. & Mrs. Jerome C. Neuhoff, see The Magazine Antiques, May 1963, p. 540.
This desk-and-bookcase bears similarities to the work of John Belchier, a cabinet-maker recorded at The Sun, on the south side of St. Paul's Church Yard in 1717 until his death in 1753 at the age of seventy. Some of his furniture bear trade labels, including one cut as either a square or circle and alternatively spelt 'Bel-Chier' or 'Belchier.' A more informative rectangular label, headed by his shop sign - an ornamental sun - appears on the reverse of a burr walnut desk-and-bookcase sold Sotheby's, London, November 14, 1980, lot 30. It notes that Belchier was a maker of 'fine Peer and Chimney-Glasses, and Glass Sconces, Likewise all Cabbinet Makers Goods.'
Belchier, whose name is thought to reflect Huguenot origins, was possibly the son of another important craftsman, also John Belchier, who may well be the tradesman who worked extensively for Ralph, 1st Duke of Montagu, at Boughton House, Northamptonshire, during the latter part of the 17th century. John Belchier, the younger, received his most significant commission from John Meller at Erddig, Wales, for whom he produced a celebrated suite of gilt- and silvered gesso furniture during the 1720s (cf. Martin Drury, 'Early Eighteenth-Century Furniture at Erddig,' Apollo, July 1978, pp.46-55). In the 1730s he also carried out important work for the Purefoy family at Shalston, Buckinghamshire. In addition to cabinet work, Belchier also produced both clear and mirrored glass. Records reveal that he supplied a quantity of glass for St. Paul's Cathedral in the 1720s and in all likelihood he manufactured the glass for his own furniture.
A comparable japanned desk-and-bookcase by Belchier survives at Erddig, while another, attributed to Belchier, and with a double-domed top was with Phillips, London, June 22, 1999, lot 51. A green-japanned desk-and-bookcase with Belchier's label is illustrated, Sir Ambrose Heal, The London Furniture Makers, 1953, London: B T Batsford, pp. 236-7, figs. 18-19. The insides of the doors of the present desk-and-bookcase are similarly decorated with motifs probably representing Chinese auspicious emblems.
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