Lot 9
  • 9

An important and rare pair of George III satinwood, harewood and mahogany marquetry commodes attributed to Mayhew and Ince circa 1775

250,000 - 350,000 USD
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  • satinwood, mahogany, harewood, brass
  • height 33 3/4 in.; width 4 ft. 3 in.; depth 21 1/2 in.
  • 85.7 cm; 129.5 cm; 54.6 cm
each of D-outline, the top with a central half-patera in green-stained and other fruitwoods on a satinwood ground, surrounded by garlands of husks, with a wide border of flowerhead-entwined wreathes with a gilt-metal leaftip-molded edge, the frieze with an arrangement of conjoined marquetry anthemia, above a case containing two deep central drawers veneered sans traverse with a marquetry roundel, and at each side two similar drawers with satinwood patera ovals, all with circular gilt-metal handles, the whole raised on short, square, tapered legs.  The reverse of one bearing a paper label printed: PROPERTY OF ELEANOR SCHLESINGER / Bought at Leverhulme Sale / Paid for by Union Trust Check / to Frank Partridge - February / 16, 1926


Collection of Viscount Leverhulme
Sold, Anderson Galleries, New York, February 9, 1926, lots 99 and 99A
Lot 99 purchased by Frank Partridge Antiques, London and sold to Eleanor Schlesinger
Lot 99A purchased by Henry Symonds
The pair sold, Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, September 29, 1973 lot 148


Overall good condition; The first commode: With a small patch to the back right corner at banding approximately 6 in. by 2 in. with a thin age crack to the side; thin age crack to the banding of front right edge of banding. Triangular veneer patch to banding of front approximately 4 by 4 inches. Some small replacements to foliate marquetry in these places. The case in good condition. Left panel: with small old infilled wormholes to back left upright. Small age cracks to the bandings at corners over lines of construction; top drawer with a small veneer patch to the bottom left corner and with a very small triangular veneer patch to bottom right corner. Bottom drawer: some small thin age cracks to the dark veneer ground. Small veneer patch to left edge near the top left corner. Bottom edge with a small triangular veneer patch beneath the left handle. Flowerhead to bottom left corner with some small restorations. Central panel: the anthemion frieze with a small inpainted restoration to a long leaf. The banding around the drawers with small age cracks to corners through flowerhead over lines of construction; the bottom cross-banded edge with some restorations and two small losses to the veneer. The top drawer: with a small triangular patch to bottom left corner; the bottom leaf-tip inlay to each corner of the bottom edge restored. Some thin age cracks to the dark ground to upper part of drawer. The lower drawer: two small veneer patches to the central medallion flanking the lion. Small veneer patch to the top left corner; small age cracks to the dark ground to the lower section. The right panel: very minor infilled old worm holes to the back right upright; the border around the drawers with small restoration to flowerhead to bottom right flower and small restorations to cross-banded edge The upper drawer: with small triangular veneer patch to upper left and right corners and to bottom left and right corners. Very thin age cracks to the dark border at upper section. Very small veneer patch to bottom edge just to the right of the fan. Lower drawer: Veneer patches to top left/ top right/ bottom right corners. Very thin age cracks to the two dark ground area. Feet: Each with some replacements/restorations to some of the leaf tips to feet and with some infilled old worm holes. The second commode: Top slightly lighter in color; thin age crack to right side at back right corner through banding. Some dark stains to right edge in banding. Some small restorations to the foliate bands at front edge. Left panel: some infilled old worm holes to the back left upright, the banding around the drawers with some old age cracks at corner through the flower head over lines of construction with subsequent small loss to veneer to the bottom left flowerhead. The opening to the top left drawer with a thin mahogany batten running the entire length above the drawer probably to fill in the gap due to the shrinkage of the drawer. Top drawer: with a small triangular veneer patch to upper right corner and to lower right corner and with a very small triangular veneer patch to the right side edge. The bottom drawer: with a very small triangular veneer patch to bottom right corner and with a very small veneer patch to right edge near corner. Central panel: small inpainting to some long thin foliate inlay to frieze; some small age cracks to upper right, lower right corner through flowerheads over lines of construction. Upper drawer: with small veneer patches to top left and bottom left and right corners. Bottom drawer: with a triangular veneer patch to bottom left and right corners; two very fine triangular patches to top edge to left and right side. Small thin restoration to stringing approximately 1 ½ inches in left and right corner. The opening to the bottom drawer with a later mahogany batten directly beneath the bottom drawer and above the frieze to help close the gap between the two drawers due to the shrinkage. Right panel: The banding around the drawers with age cracks at corners near flowerhead over lines of construction. Upright with some small infilled worm holes. Top drawer: Small triangular veneer patch to upper left corner. Small chips to veneer to top left side with some inpainting. Bottom drawer: triangular veneer patch to bottom right corner. Small veneer patch to bottom left corner. Feet: with some areas of replacements to veneer and with some chips/losses to veneer at edges particularly to back left foot.
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.

Catalogue Note

These magnificent commodes which are profusely inlaid with neoclassical marquetry share numerous similarities to documented features of the work of the London cabinet makers, John Mayhew and William Ince, whose partnership is described in The Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840 as 'one of the most significant, probably the longest lived but, as far as identified furniture is concerned, the least well documented of any of the major London cabinetmakers of the 18th century'.

Mayhew was originally apprenticed to William Bradshaw, the upholsterer, of Soho Square, and Ince apprenticed to John West of Covent Garden from 1752 until West's death in 1758.  In November of that year West's premises were taken over by Samuel Norman, James Whittle and John Mayhew. However, in December of 1758 a partnership solely between Mayhew and Ince was formed, the two purchasing the business and stock of Charles Smith of Carnaby Street.  Initially describing themselves as 'cabinet makers, carvers and upholders', this was variously amended over the term of the partnership to include such terms as 'dealers in plate glass', the categories of 'cabinet maker' and 'upholsterer', however, remaining constant. As Beard and Gilbert remark in The Dictionary of Furniture Makers 1660-1840, 'These revisions no doubt reflect the change in taste from carved to veneered and inlaid furniture characteristic of the period 1760-1780', as seen in the present commodes; this change is also indicated by the relative failure of their Universal System of Household Furniture,which only appeared in one edition in 1762, its rococo designs becoming somewhat old-fashioned.  Beard and Gilbert (op. cit)further note that the partnership was in particular 'highly proficient and adventurous'... in... 'the use of marquetry, distinguished by a variety of techniques and pointing to a significant number of specialist marqueteurs in the firm's employ'.

The firm is also noted for their use of ormolu mounts on their more important cabinet-work, many of which were presumably obtained from brass-founders in Soho, their relationship with Boulton and Fothergill being documented, such as their joint involvement over the commission of the Duchess of Manchester's cabinet.  The size of their extensive business by 1768 is indicated by an advertisement in the Public Advertiser, the partnership appealing for 'upwards of 100 Men, Cabinet-makers, Chair-makers, and some very good Joyners who will be immediately employed on the best Work' and for 'Some Men who can do Inlaid Work in Woods &c and engrave and work in brass'.

The firm is recorded as working with the architect Robert Adam on several notable commissions, including Coventry House, Piccadilly and, Croome Court for the 6th Earl of Coventry, Sherbourne Castle, Audley End and Derby House and Shelburne Castle.  Adam's influence is seen in 'their ability to produce very early on furniture in the most startling advanced Neo-classical taste is beyond doubt...and certainly owed much to their early collaboration with the country's leading Neo-classical architects'. (Beard and Gilbert, op. cit.)

Elements of the marquetry of the present commodes are similar to the marquetry of a commode  designed by Robert Adam dated October 21, 1774 for Edward Stanley, 11th Earl of Derby for Derby House, and supplied by Mayhew and Ince November 3, 1775. For example, the composition of the central panel of the Derby Commode is a central painted roundel flanked by four circular roundels to the corners which is the same composition used in the present commode.  The only difference between the two is that the roundels to the spandrels are handles rather than inlaid roundels.  Adam was responsible for the entire design of Derby House at No 23, later 26, Grosvenor Square, rebuilt in the classical style from 1773-74. The commode was intended for the Countess’ Etruscan dressing room. When Adam published his work in 1779, he stated he had not previously thought to apply Etruscan taste to the decoration of an apartment indicating the original commode then was one of the earliest examples of the Etruscan style in 18th century Britain.

Another commode attributed to Mayhew and Ince on its similarity to the Derby Commode, now in the Ladly Lever Art Gallery, (op. cit. cat. No. 23) is very similar to the present commodes.  The tops have a an almost identical fan to the back edge surrounded by husk swags held together with ribbons.

Another aspect of the marquetry which is similar is the crenelated banding which surrounds the fan and can be seen on a number of commodes including on a commode which Mayhew and Ince supplied to Viscount Palmerston at Broadlands in the 1780s (Wood, p. 214, fig. 202) and to another commode similar to the Broadlands pair which sold at Sotheby’s, London, December 4, 2013, lot 493.


Lucy Wood, Catalogue of Commodes, London, 1994, pp. 207-208, plates 196-200

Eileen Harris, The Furniture of Robert Adam, New York, 1973, plate 47