Early references to desks of this type are discussed in Hugh Roberts, op. cit. pp. 124-128. This includes an entry from the Prince of Wales' accounts in the Royal Archives which reveals an insight into a table of this form supplied by John Kerr, one of the Prince's favoured cabinet-makers.
Feb 5 1790
To a Large Elegant Sattinwood Writing table containing 15 Drawers and two Cupboards Top covered with superfine Green Cloth to rise Occasionally the whole Varnish'd and Polish'd Compleat
The account verifies the existence of such a table in the late 18th century, supplied directly to the Prince for Carlton House prior to the general release of comparative designs such as those in George Hepplewhite's The Cabinet-Maker's London Book of Prices, 2nd ed., 1793, pl.21, and Thomas Sheraton's The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book, 1793, pl.60 (see illustration). In 1814 Rudolph Ackermann included a French fashioned writing table with rounded cartonnier section in his Repository of Arts naming it a `Carlton House table' and thereby implying its origins. A table of this model also with draped swag handles and which was reputedly commissioned by the Prince of Wales, later George IV, for Carlton House, sold in these rooms, 25 April 1986, lot 73.
The desk remains one of the more original and popular inventions of the late eighteenth century. As Hayward notes, like the bureau à cylindre, after which the Carlton House desk was modelled, their innovation lay in being finished on all four sides such that they could stand in the middle of the room. ( J.F.Hayward, English Desks and Bureaux, London, 1968, p.7).
A comparable example is illustrated in Ralph Edwards and Percy Macquoid, The Dictionary of English Furniture, London, 3 vols., rev. ed. 1954, vol. III, p.257, fig. 41. Another example by Gillows which has similar handles and drawer configuration to the superstructure is illustrated in Lindsay Boynton, Gillow Furniture Designs1760-1800, Herts., 1995 pl.50. The superb quality of the present desk would indicate that it could well have been made by this firm.
Other related examples were sold from the collection of the Earl of Poulett, Hinton House, Somerset, Sotheby's, 1 November 1968, lot 108, and again from the Hochschild Collection, Sotheby's, 1 December 1978, lot 161. A further example, sold in these rooms, 13 November 1998, lot 157.
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