Lot 9
  • 9

A pair of George II carved mahogany concertina-action card tables circa 1755

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
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  • mahogany
  • each 73cm. high, 95cm. wide, 48cm. deep; 2ft. 4¾in., 3ft. 1½in., 1ft. 7in.
the serpentine top with a reeded edge ornamented with crossed- ribbon motifs and inset to the inside with green baize and with an internal slide fitted with a counter or card container, the frieze carved throughout with Gothic headed flutes, on acanthus and scroll-carved cabriole legs with fluted lower sections headed by pearl ornament and terminating in scroll-carved feet raised on faceted pads, hinges stamped Tibats


Probably acquired by Hugh, 1st Duke of Northumberland (1715-1786) for Northumberland House, London;
Thence by descent


The present tables are possibly those referred to in an inventory of the contents of Northumberland House, carried out in 1786, on the death of the 1st Duke of Northumberland (The Archives of the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle Sy.H.VIII.1.b). Recorded in `The Crimson Damask Room', A pair of Mahogany Card Tables covered/ with green Cloth and fly legs... £2...'

Another entry which might also be the present tables is listed `Under the Great Staircase', `2 Mahogany Comode card Tables../1 Square Do., all lined wt. greem cloth... £3..13.. 6'. 

One of the tables iIlustrated, Helen, 8th Duchess of Northumberland, Catalogue of Contents, Albury Park and 17 Princes Gate in the Collection of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, Privately Published, 1930, [item 61], ( Fig. 1).


A mahogany card table of identical form is illustrated in P. Macquoid and R. Edwards, The Dictionary of English Furniture, London, 1927, vol. III, p.193, fig. 30. and given a provenance of Tyttenhanger, Hertfordshire, (see fig.2).

The same Tyttenhanger table is illustrated in H.A.Tipping, English Homes, London, 1928, period IV, vol. I, p.78, fig. 109.



These beautiful tables with elegant and well-proportioned design are in good country house condition; surface is slightly dry which could certainly be enhanced with waxing. There is a slight difference in colour – as to be expected – to frieze, between exterior and interior sections, due to exposure to sun light. Minor losses to carvings, marks and scratches consistent with age and use. Table one with repaired shrinking crack - patch to veneer to full width of top - there are four other small shrinking cracks, surface of the top seems to have been re-polished; left side frieze with: small chip to edge and loss to upper moulding of concertina interior section, small loss to carving of left hand side to back ear. Table two also has a shrinking crack to centre and other four other small cracks; there is a loss of ear corner and loss of carving to other ear on right hand same side; small loss to carving to edge of interior concertina section of frieze (left hand side); right hand side section with loss to moulding top and edge.
"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

The present superbly elegant mahogany card tables have been attributed to the distinguished London cabinet-makers, upholsterers and tapestry-makers, Paul Saunders and George Smith Bradshaw.

Paul Saunders and George Smith Bradshaw

Saunders and Bradshaw formed a partnership in around 1751 until 1758. Their workshops were in Greek Street, Soho, London. On the dissolution of this partnership, Bradshaw continued working there having taken John Mayhew as his apprentice, and Saunders moved to Soho Square, having entered a partnership with William Ince.

The partnership which was to supply the aristocracy and upper levels of society with furnishings and associated items is known to have supplied furnishing and tapestries to the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland as  invoices totalling £1,607 3s., paid from a Hoare`s bank account established, between 1750 and 1759, see Lucy Wood, The Upholstered Furniture in  The Lady Lever Art Gallery, 2 vols., vol. II, pp.820-821.

One of their most prominent commissions was to supply the Earl of Leicester in 1756 with seat furniture for the antique sculpture gallery at Holkam Hall in Norfolk, (see Anthony Coleridge, Chippendale Furniture, 1968, pl.379).  The commission probably came through another cabinet maker William Bradshaw who was recorded as working at Holkham in 1740s and whose work seemed to influence the partnership strongly. The Leicester commission comprised a suite of seat furniture whose leg patterns closely correspond with the legs on the present card tables. Both share the cabriole form headed by finely and richly carved scrolling acanthus foliage with pearl headed flutes and boldly carved cabriole feet below, strongly suggesting that they were produced by the same maker, (fig. 3).

For further comparison, the present tables can be compared with a library writing table, attributed to Paul Sanders and probably supplied to Thomas, 3rd Viscount Weymouth, later 1st Marquis of Bath (1734-1796) for Longleat, Wiltshire and sold Christie`s London, Furniture, Silver and Porcelain from Longleat, 13th June 2002, lot 340. The attribution in this case was also based on a similarity of detail to the Holkham suite and also in evidence provided by payments to Paul Saunders of £556 15s in November 1757 and £300 in November 1759, recorded in the bank account at Drummonds of the 3rd Viscount Weymouth (see C. Cator, `Works of Art from Longleat ', Christie`s International Magazine, May/June 2002, pp.69-78).  

H. Tibats 

It is interesting to note also that the hinges of the present tables are stamped TIBATS, ( fig. 4). The name appears on the metalwork of a number of very distinguished pieces of furniture of the era of the present tables. It is thought that Tibats may have had workshops in London or was one of the metalwork manufacturers such as Matthew Boulton who had been establishing themselves in  Birmingham. (see P. Thornton, The Journal of the Furniture History Society, Vol. II, 1966).

The Design 

The design of the present tables shows a number of different influences. The popular styles prevalent at the time of their creation were rococo, gothic and chinoiserie. The present tables show two of those fashions- the gothic and the rococo but also show classical influences too. The reeded tops with their crossed ribbon carving and flutes to the frieze relate to classical designs of ancient Rome. The pearl headed flutes derive from the legs of ancient altar tripods. The gothic design seen in the tops of the flutes in the frieze relates to designs published by designers such as Batty Langley (1696-1751), however the overall design most strongly shows the  influence of the rococo. The serpentine form and the free and light carving of the legs with its intertwined foliage and the serpentine form of the top and legs is typical of this design movement.

The rococo style of the tables is a style which strongly shows the influence of the school of St Martins Lane, London which had taken over from the area around St Paul`s Church Yard and had become the centre of cabinet making in the second half of 18th century. In particular the St Martin`s Lane Academy founded in 1735 appears to have played an important part in introducing artists, architects, sculptors and other craftsmen to the Régence and early Louis XV styles. The French artist Hubert Francois Gravelot a prominent member of the academy helped introduce the beautiful sculpted serpentine line that was an important element of the rococo style and which can clearly be seen in the present tables. William Hogarth, also a prominent member devised a rationale for the style. In his Analysis of Beauty in 1753, he said the straight line was unnatural and that a beautiful design should have a serpentine, which curled in all three dimensions, to give the outline a novel variety as well as expressing motion. He also stressed that nature could provide all the range of ornament that was needed by the artist. The main structure was provided by the acanthus leaf but no longer confined as with classical design to stiffly presented symmetrical capitals, frieze or bracket but much more free. This freely carved acanthus element can be seen in the carving on the top of the legs of the present tables.

More specifically the design of the tables relates to the designs of Thomas Chippendale, suggesting a link with one of the greatest cabinet makers of St Martin`s Lane.  Thomas Chippendale published his book of furniture designs, The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker`s Director in 1754 and the present tables clearly show the influence of the designs shown there.  The fluted carving in the frieze is headed by Gothic arches which relate to a design for a library bookcase in pl.LXXI. ( see fig.5). The form of the legs relates to his designs for a `French’ chair pattern published in the third edition of The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker`s Director, 1762, pl.XIX, (see fig.6). It is interesting to note that the Director was dedicated to 1st Duke of Northumberland (prior to his elevation to the Dukedom and at the time of publication of the first Director was the Right Hon. Earl of Northumberland). Both William Bradshaw and Paul Saunders (described as an upholsterer) are also listed.  

For comparison see Christie`s London, New York, 19th October 2000, Important English Furniture,  lot 40, designated ` A Table from Tyttenhanger/ The Property of a Gentleman’ $314,000.