The superb quality of this secretaire-bookcase cabinet indicates the work of a cabinet maker of distinction, with its simple elegance of design, finely figured mahogany, abundant use of ebony and fine brass mounts. There is a drawing, circa 1800, by Henry Holland for a wardrobe and another of a bookcase for Woburn Abbey, circa 1788, both of which are worth comparison. Both drawings feature elongated upper panels and square lower panels, 'panelled' uprights and plinth bases; see Peter Ward-Jackson, English Furniture Designs of the 18th century, London, 1984, pls. 300-301. Interestingly, Henry Holland collaborated with the London firm of Marsh and Tatham on a number of commissions, notably at Southill Park in Bedfordshire and also at Woburn, where they supplied the 6th Duke of Bedford with 'Cabinet and Upholstery Work'. Thomas Tatham's brother, Charles Heathcote Tatham, worked as an architect in Holland's office.
Related bookcases made by Marsh and Tatham for the Prince of Wales, later George IV, at Carlton House share the same panelled uprights and stepped plinth, one with ebony inlay; see H. Roberts, For the King's Pleasure: The Furnishing and Decoration of George IV's Apartments at Windsor Castle, London, 2001, p. 312, fig. 379, p. 333, fig. 414, p. 406, fig. 481.
A library table from Castle Howard attributed to Marsh and Tatham was sold, Sotheby's, London, November 11-13, 1991, lot 157. There is similar ebony inlay and the handles to the drawers are smaller but almost identical to those of the present lot. The Castle Howard archives have records of payments to Tatham & Co., although dates and greater details do not exist. The 5th Earl of Carlisle is known to have encouraged C H Tatham on his travels in Italy and was a subscriber to his Ornamental Architecture in Rome, 1799. Tatham published The Gallery at Castle Howard in Yorkshire, London, 1811, and there is an album of his designs at Castle Howard.
The glazing bars to the doors are similar to a design by Thomas Sheraton, Appendix to The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book, 1793, pl. 27, fig. 1.
The lion-headed drawer pulls are possibly derived from a design for 'Antique Vases in dark oriental Marbles from the Collection in the Museum of the Vatican' by C. H. Tatham in Etchings representing the best examples of Ancient Ornamental Architecture; drawn from the originals in Rome, and other parts of Italy, during the years 1794, 1795, and 1796, 1798. Ancient Egyptian basalt figures of lionesses at the base of the steps leading to the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome (see Watkin and Hewat-Jaboor, Thomas Hope Regency Designer, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008, exh. cat.,, pp. 392-395, fig. 76-1) could also be the source for the lioness mask. Thomas Hope used the lionesses as models for the ends to pair of settees in the Egyptian Room, Duchess Street, Hope, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, pl. VIII, and for a pair of ornaments on the mantle-piece in the same room, pl. XLVI.
Cf. a related secretaire-boockase sold in these rooms, October, 16, 2009, lot 212, almost certainly by the same maker.
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