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A George III satinwood lady`s dressing table
circa 1790, attributed to Seddon Sons & Shackleton
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44
A George III satinwood lady`s dressing table
circa 1790, attributed to Seddon Sons & Shackleton
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Furniture, Silver and Ceramics

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London

A George III satinwood lady`s dressing table
circa 1790, attributed to Seddon Sons & Shackleton
after designs by Thomas Sheraton, with a bowed hinged top enclosing a series of small compartments some with lids flanked by two banks of drawers, a central oval mirror flanked by two smaller rectangular mirrors along the back edge and and adjustable oval mirror to each side all rising from the carcase, the front with a dummy drawer above a drawer fitted with compartments for writing and a leather lined slope on a ratchet flanked by two oval recessed panels painted with a vase, flowers and musical trophies  and with a painted floral garland below, the shaped kneehole recess below  with a central cupboard flanked by tambour compartments, raised on shaped feet and castors    
142cm. high, 125cm. wide, 67cm. deep; 4ft. 6in., 4ft. 1¼in., 2ft. 2¼in.
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Provenance

By repute commissioned by His Majesty King Charles IV of Spain (1748-1819),  subsequently a noble Spanish family, from whom acquired by the present vendor. 

Literature

Comparative Literature; Christopher Gilbert, The Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture, 1700-1840, 1996, pp.398-399.

John Koster, Keyboard Musical Instruments in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston,1994, pp.161-180.

Journal of the Furniture History Society, Christopher Gilbert, Seddon, Sons & Shackleton Vol. XXXIII, 1997, PP.1-29. 

F.S Robinson, English Furniture, 1905, pl.CLVII.

 

Catalogue Note

The present lot conforms in many ways to elements from a design by Thomas Sheraton for `A Lady`s Cabinet Dressing Table', published May 3rd 1792 in The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer`s Drawing Book, plate 49.  The folding swivelling mirrors, the banks of drawers, the elaborately fitted compartments, can all be seen in this piece. Other features such as the recessed oval painted classical panels and painted floral garlands are also other typical features seen in his other designs.

Thomas Sheraton (1751-1806) was born in Stockton-on-Tees and according to his obituary was ` for many years a journey-man cabinet-maker, but who since the year 1793 has supported himself, a wife and two children by his exertions as an author'. His works consisted of three books on furniture as well as several religious and philosphical tracts. 

His first book of designs appears to have been published in forty-two bi-weekly instalments between 1791 and 1793. The first complete edition of the Drawing-Book was issued in two volumes in 1793 and included sixty nine designs for furniture. Sheraton added an `Accompaniment' with fourteen plates to the second edition in 1794 and published a revised edition in 1808. The purpose of his designs in his words was `to exhibit the present taste of furniture, and at the same time, to give the workman some assistance in the manufacturing part of it.' Although in the text describing the technicalities of making certain pieces he clearly shows that he had a thorough practical knowledge of cabinet-making, he had by this time given up the profession and had no workshop of his own. His trade card which describes his activities refers to the fact that he taught perspective, architecture and ornaments, and made designs for cabinet makers, and sold `all kinds of Drawing Books'. This probably gives an accurate account of his activities.

Although his designs have been copied and indeed were intended to be copied, he is not known to have supplied specific designs for any particular piece with the exception of a grand piano, made in 1796 by John Broadwood and believed to have been commissioned by Marquis du Godoy of Spain for presentation to Her Majesty Queen Maria Luisa of Spain, wife of King Charles IV although it has also been suggested that it was in fact the Queen who commissioned it for Godoy.  This piano is designed in a strongly neo-classical style, veneered in satinwood , ornamented with inlaid oval panels and floral swags and with applied Wedgwood and Tassie medallions. King Charles IV himself is also known to have favoured this particular style of furniture as he ordered an elaborate dressing table in 1790s from the distinguished English cabinet-making firm, Seddon, Sons & Shackleton, illus. Christopher Gilbert, Seddon, Sons & Shackleton, Furniture History Journal, Vol. XXXIII, 1997, fig. 13-16.

The firm of Seddon was founded by George Seddon ( c.1727-1801) in 1753. He had purchased a two acre site in Aldersgate Street, which included London House, the firm remaining at this address until 1826. These premises were visited by a Miss Sophie von La Roche in 1786, her diary giving a fascinating account of an 18th century workshop. She records seeing `Charming dressing tables.... with vase-shaped mirrors, occupying very little space, and yet providing everything necessary for the toilet of any reasonable person....Some other department contais nothing but chairs, sofas, stools of every description, some quite simple, others exquisitely carved and made of all varieties of wood...while others are occupied by writing-tables, cupboards, chests of drawers... from the simplest and cheapest to the most expensive'. She continued that ` Seddon, foster-father to 400 employees, seemed to be a respectable man of genius, too, with an understanding for the needs of the needy and the luxurious, a man who has become intimate with the quality of woods from all parts of the earth, with the knowledge of how to colour them or combine their own tints with taste, has appreciated the value of all his own people`s labour and toil and is for ever creating new forms'. She also noted that Seddon was constantly `devising new forms'.

The firm`s name changed to Seddon Sons & Shackleton in 1790 when Thomas Shackleton, a cabinet-maker with premises at 115 Long Acre, married Mary, the eldest daughter of George Seddon. On George `s retirement in 1798 the partnership was dissolved, and his two sons assumed control of the business. Three other documented commissions are recorded during this partnership, the first in 1790 for D.Tupper, Hautville House, St. Peter Port, Guernsey, the second for Richard Hall Clarke between 1790 and 1793, and the third for a Norwegian timber merchant called Niels Aalls of Ulefoss Manorhouse near Porgrunn.

The present lot was acquired some time ago by the present vendor from a noble Spanish family with links to the Spanish Royal family and although there is no documentation to substantiate it,  has always been linked, by family repute through this connection to King Charles IV. 

The piece relates closely to the known Seddon commissions in that it shares such details as the elaborately and finely painted floral decoration and is of exceptional quality both in terms of design and also materials used in its construction. It also relates closely in these details to that more elaborate example commissioned by the king and can therefore confidently attributed to the same maker,  Seddon. Given this attribution, the stylistic similarities and the known Spanish provenance, it seems not unreasonable that it might have been commissioned from Seddon, Son & Shackleton at the same time as the other dressing table by the King for the royal apartments. Taking this further given the specific commission of the piano it is possible to speculate also whether the present lot could also have been specifically designed by Sheraton for this important Royal client.

 

Important Furniture, Silver and Ceramics

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London