Lot 69
  • 69

An important George III gilt-lacquered brass mounted fustic, rosewood, tulipwood and marquetry commode circa 1770, almost certainly by Thomas Chippendale

600,000 - 1,000,000 GBP
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  • fustic, rosewood, tulipwood, pine, mahogany, gilt-lacquered brass
  • 89cm. high, 140cm. wide, 65cm. deep; 2ft. 11in., 4ft. 7in., 2ft. 1½in.
the serpentine shaped tulipwood-banded top with a central yellowwood and engraved medallion surrounded by anthemia and a guilloche border with floral sprays and bell-flower inlay, repeated to the front corners, the doors with simulated drawers inlaid with rosettes between interwoven bands and bell-flower divide over shaped panels with oak leaf wreaths enclosing anthemia capped urns with a central beaded mount dividing the doors and an anthemion to the apron, between finely cast gilt-lacquered brass ram's mask, entrelac and husk mounts, repeated to the back corners, the reverse of the doors veneered with black rosewood and now enclosing two conformingly veneered slides, the side panels inlaid with oval paterae within ribbon-tie bell-flower wreaths raised on squared splayed legs with acanthus and bell-flower mounts with Greek-key endings on leaf and gadrooned tapered gilt-lacquered brass feet  


The collection of The Earls of Harrington, formerly at Elvaston Castle Derbyshire and thence by descent.


London, Christie's King Street, 'Treasures of the North', 13th January - 13th February 2000, no. 111.

Manchester, The Whitworth Art Gallery, 'Treasures of the North', 25th February - 9th April 2000, no. 111. 


Terence Rodrigues Ed., Treasures of the North, Exhibition Catalogue, London, p. 149, no. 111.


Peter Ward-Jackson, English Furniture Designs of the Eighteenth Century, London, 1958, fig.92.

Christopher Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978;

P. 67, fig. 103, the 'Panshanger Cabinets', displaying similar marquetry to the central lower doors and ram's mask mounts.

p. 125, figs. 221 and 222, a fustic and marquetry commode supplied for Lady Winn's Bedchamber at Nostell Priory.

p. 128, fig. 229 for the commode in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight.

Lucy Wood, Catalogue of Commodes, London, 1994, no. 20, pp. 180-190.

Terence Rodrigues Ed., Treasures of the North, Exhibition Catalogue, London, p. 148, no. 110, a commode attributed to Chippendale in a private collection with similar gilt-brass mounts.



The commode is in outstandingly original condition with a superb colour to the fustic ground and retaining an above average colour to the stained elements of the marquetry. The original fine engraving has also been retained throughout. The surface appears to have a very thin layer of shellac applied over the original polished finish which was probably carried out about thirty years ago. The shellac is slightly lifting adjacent to the natural shrinkage lines in the fustic veneers. The rear of the central fan to the top with an old water-mark. One or two other small blemishes to the top. Natural shrinkage to the rosewood cross-grain moulded edge of the top. The doors slightly stiff due to some movement of the top. As stated in the catalogue, the underside of the top with inset panels of mahogany, probably instated at the time of construction or very shortly after. Originally done in three narrow strips, the central of which was widened into a central panel. The interior originally with two short and three long drawers. The cut for the central divide of the two short drawers runs through the mahogany inset panels indicating that this was done prior to the drawers being fitted or that the drawers were reinstated post this introduction of mahogany panels into the deal board of the top. The two slides to the interior formed from the original drawers, the top front edges of which have been re-veneered. One slide has been heightened and the joint evident. The cut tenons of the drawer divide are evident to the sides of the carcass and there are inset pine panels to the sides to finish the interior as it now appears. The inside of the doors veneered in black rosewood which is lifting very slightly in places but this can be remedied easily. The right door sticks slightly. The hinges and lock are apparently original. The right handle to the faux-frieze drawer is replaced. Of the remarkably few repairs to the veneers, these are almost wholly confined to the harewood short-gain veneers and tulipwood bandings to the raised moulding between the rosette frieze and the front doors. There is a slight repair to the interlaced banding to the right frieze and some green staining. The top of the acanthus spray mount to the bottom of the right door is broken off and missing. Some of the mounts to the feet have been replaced. These are: The rear left side feather and husk mount. The front left side acanthus scroll mount The front left side feather and husk mount The rear right side feather and husk mount The front right feather and husk mount may possibly also be a replacement. Various sections of the Greek-key mounts to the feet have also been replaced. The leaf-cast and gadrooned feet appear to be original The mounts appear to have been gently cleaned and with some re-lacquering (though retaining original burnishing) possibly when the shellac was applied to the veneers. Overall this is an incredibly rare and important commode in a truly wonderful state of preservation. Few English commodes of this quality have ever appeared on the market or are likely to do so in the near future
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This magnificent 'pier commode table' demonstrates Thomas Chippendale's genius as a designer and his ability to both define, and conform with, the current tastes. Thus, having successfully promoted his designs from the mid-1750s through contrasting Gothic, Chinese and French tastes he naturally adopted the more refined neoclassical 'antique' decoration of the late 1760s that was furiously promoted by King George III, his Court architect Sir William Chambers and Robert Adam. The final decade of his life culminated in what is arguably his greatest commission, a neoclassical triumph, that for Sir Edwin Lascelles at Harewood House, Yorkshire. The serpentine form of the present commode slightly predates many of Chippendale's most celebrated neoclassical pieces, the rectilinear furniture at Harewood, and the renowned commode supplied for Melbourne House, London (now at Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire) in the early 1770s. However, there are undoubtedly similarities in the design and treatment of the marquetry to his Harewood commission, the rosette-centred interlaced banding found to the frieze here is almost identical in design to the bandings on the metamorphic library steps at Harewood, whilst the ribbon-tied bellflower garlands on the sides of the current commode are very similarly conceived to those on the famous dressing-commode supplied to Lascelles. The urn to the front doors of the current commode closely resembles the design of the urn on the central lower panel of the widely published Panshanger cabinets, which also share the concave sides, ram-mask mounts and oak-leaf wreaths to the frieze that are apparent on the Harrington commode. The similarities to the commode supplied to Viscount Melbourne for the house designed by Sir William Chambers on Piccadilly are also evident when compared with the current example. The concave sides are once again flanked by ram-headed mounts above which sit near identical scroll-topped capitals issuing four pendant husks. The marquetry to the sides displays rosettes within concave-sided lozenges as apparent to the top of the Harrington commode. Furthermore, the commode supplied by Chippendale for Lady Winn's Bedchamber at Nostell Priory, Yorkshire, whilst of a slightly more rococo form, displays similarly shaped and double-crossbanded doors, with a fustic ground and likewise a rosette-centred top with foliate scrolls to the sides inset into the magnificently figured fustic veneers. 

Direct comparison must be made with the commode in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, illustrated by Lucy Wood, Catalogue of Commodes, London, 1994, no. 20, pp. 180-190 along with a commode, possibly the pair to the Lady Lever example, sold Christie's London, 6 July 1995, lot 152. Whist straight fronted, both these commodes display a similarly conceived form, a drawer (in the Harrington example this is a false drawer) over a pair of cupboard doors, flanked by similar mounts to those on the current commode. The feet on these two are very similar in form to the Harrington commode and also appear on The Messer Commode, although in this instance in carved mahogany and not embellished with gilded mounts, sold Christie's London, 5 December 1991, lot 130. These all derive from a design by Chippendale held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, The Rogers Fund, 1920 [20.40.2(61)] and also a design that was published in the 1762 (third) edition of his Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, no. LXVIII, as designs for 'A French Commode' and reproduced in Peter Ward-Jackson, English Furniture Designs of the 18th Century, London, 1958, pl. 92. In Chippendale's notes to this design he comments 'The Ornaments may be Brass; That on the Right hath two Doors, which represent Drawers, and a long Drawer above: '  Chippendale's own inspiration appears to have derived from Louis XIV's reign in France and the designs of Jean Berain (d.1711) who published a design for a commode with strikingly similar foot in L'Oeuvre Complet de Jean Berain, Paris, n.d., pl.88.

The above comparisons together with the types of timber employed and the remarkable quality of the workmanship on this commode suggest that this piece almost certainly originated in Chippendale's St. Martin's Lane workshops.


Unfortunately the original commission or the point at which this commode entered the collection of the Earls of Harrington currently remains undiscovered. It would appear unlikely that it was commissioned by the Stanhope family, both William Stanhope, the 2nd Earl of Harrington (1719-1779) and Charles his son and later 3rd Earl (1753-1829) were military men without substantial wealth, the 2nd Earl dying with considerable debts, embroiled in legal negotiations. However, a possible introduction of the commode into Harrington ownership is through the marriage of the 3rd Earl to Jane Fleming (1755-1824), eldest daughter of Sir John Fleming, 1st Bart., (1701-1763) of Brompton Park, Middlesex and Jane Colman (1732-1813), a niece of the 8th Duke of Somerset. Upon her father's death in 1763, Jane Fleming inherited an extraordinary £100,000 fortune. Her mother subsequently married Edwin Lascelles, later 1st Baron Harewood (1713-1795), one of Chippendale's most important patrons. They had no children of their own and as such there is an intriguing and tempting connection between the current commode and Lascelles.

Charles Stanhope, married Jane Fleming on 23rd May 1779, barely more than six weeks following the death of his father and his accession as the 3rd Earl of Harrington. The new Countess of Harrington generously settled her new husband's debts and re-purchased the former Harrington London home, Harrington House in St. James's Stable Yard, where Robert Adam had previously been commissioned for a design for a Dressing Room circa 1770 which was probably executed (see Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, 3rd Edition, Yale, 1995, p. 57). Shortly before her marriage Jane Fleming's mother, now Jane Lascelles, commissioned a portrait of her daughter from Sir Joshua Reynolds, now held in the collection of The Huntington Library, California. This is of interest as this picture is known to have reverted to the Countess of Harrington upon the death of her mother as other pieces may have done so. Edwin Lascelles' will stipulated that his widow was to retain all the 'Pictures and furniture which belonged to her before our marriage, or which she has since purchased or acquired, in which ever of my houses the same may be'. Furthermore, the Countess' mother, Jane, Baroness Dowager Harewood bequeathed '...all my Jewels Watches Rings Trinkets Gold and Silver Plate useful and ornamental China Pictures Prints and all my household Furniture Books Linen Carriage live and dead Stock and other effects...in and about my houses in Portman Square and Sunning Hill (not before specifically bequeathed) In trust for my dearest beloved Jane, Countess of Harrington...' (extract of Probate of Will [22 Feb 1811] of Jane, Baroness Dowager Harewood, 14 May 1813, held in Derbyshire Record Office, Matlock, D664 M/F 22). Unfortunately no further documentary evidence has surfaced regarding the pieces that were bequeathed by the Baroness Dowager Harewood. Whether this commode once furnished one of her and Edwin Lascelles' homes may escape conclusion. Other important furniture was and is however evident in the Harrington Collection where it is unknown at what point it was acquired, in particular a large part of the famed Palm Room suite by Vardy supplied to the 1st Earl Spencer for Spencer House, some of which was sold by the 11th Earl of Harrington at Sotheby's London on 8th November 1963.