An Anglo-Indian rosewood and ivory inlaid table bureau on a mahogany and fruitwood stand by Thomas Chippendale, the bureau, Vizagapatam, circa 1740-50, the stand, London, 1767
An Anglo-Indian rosewood and ivory inlaid table bureau on a mahogany and fruitwood stand by Thomas Chippendale
the bureau, Vizagapatam, circa 1740-50, the stand, London, 1767
profusely decorated with foliage, the fall front opening to reveal an arrangement of seven small drawers and three pigeon holes above a shaped frieze drawer and lopers, the stand with chinoiserie decoration to the frieze including penwork to pierced quatrefoil, the legs headed with pierced trefoil brackets with cluster columns support with blind tracery
87.5cm. high, 57cm. wide, 28cm. deep.
This important piece of furniture is in country house condition and has been effected from use in its domestic environment. The bureau: This includes exposure to light which results in variation to colour. Similarly the ivory inlaid is discolored in places. The ivory with age cracks and losses to varnish. There are some 18th century repairs to the ivory in the form of some replaced sections. There is also later restoration - probably 19th century - in the form of filler to some of the ivory. The 'silver furniture' is lacking. The fall with pierced surface at the sites of the screws for the lock plate. The frieze drawer with a filled age crack. The interior of the frieze drawers with channels to the interior and ghosting from ten compartments now lacking. Ivory handles to drawer later. The underside of drawer and bureau with red wash, age cracks. Back also with red wash to back board around age splits. The stand: Losses to some inlay and veneer. One pierced bracket later. Variation to colour. Movement to cluster columns which are made of bound rods, some of which are loose. Historic splice repair to tip of one 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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
The stand for this remarkable table bureau was supplied by Thomas Chippendale in 1767 for 'Sir Edward's Room, Ground floor' at Mersham and is recorded in the accounts on 14 October as follows:
'To Repairing an Inlaid Cabinet new silvering the furniture & Making a very neat new frame for the Cabinet / £4 14s 6d'
At the same time, Chippendale supplied a robust ‘Wainscot’ library table and clothes press, a large mahogany sofa and two giltwood girandoles to furnish Sir Edward’s private sanctuary. The table bureau is probably the ‘Ebbony [sic] & ivory cabinet' listed in ‘Sir Windham's [sic] Lodging Room’ in the 1749 inventory of Mersham - taken shortly after the death of his brother Sir Wyndham Knatchbull-Wyndham, 5th Bt. (1699-1749) - and was evidently a treasured family possession. That Sir Edward had this prized heirloom elevated on a bespoke stand by Chippendale, to be displayed in his study, speaks volumes.
Although the extent of Chippendale's repairs is unclear, the underside is coated in the signature red wash so firmly associated with Chippendale’s workshop and it is likely bun feet were removed to allow the bureau to sit comfortably on its ‘very neat new frame’. The ‘new silvering’ presumably refers to the now lacking escutcheons but the interior retains the brass drawer-pulls applied by Chippendale.
The bureau belongs to a group of case furniture which was made in the town of Vizagapatam, a port on the northern stretch of the Coromandel Coast famed for its ivory inlay. These articles of exotic furniture where highly prized by English collectors, often with a connection to the East India Company, the most famous being a kneehole dressing table and a toilet mirror of similar form to the Mersham bureau which belonged to Clive of India and is now at Powis Castle. Another closely related example is housed in the collections at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (IS.176:1 to 12-1950 and illustrated Amin Jaffer, Furniture from British India and Ceylon, 2001, p. 189, fig. 40). Jaffer notes the entwining florid scroll motifs used to decorate both examples derive from Coromandel chintzes whilst the form – with its arcaded frieze – is modeled on early 18th century English prototypes (Jaffer, op. cit., p. 189).
In keeping with the Adam scheme, the majority of the furniture Chippendale supplied to Mersham is overtly neoclassical. Yet, for this most exotic of objects, Chippendale delves into his repertoire of designs made famous in The Director, employing a fanciful Chinese and Gothic vocabulary to compliment the form and decoration of the bureau. The pierced frieze incorporates Chinese fretwork and quatrefoils heightened with foliate penwork to echo the engraved ivory detailing, whilst the architectural language of the Gothic buttresses and cluster-column supports resonate with the arcaded frieze drawer and pigeonhole gallery to the interior. The result is a harmonious and quite unique marriage of eastern and western aesthetics, with each component executed by master craftsmen on different continents.