Town & Country: A Private Collection

Town & Country: A Private Collection

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 41. A George II scarlet and gilt japanned bureau cabinet, circa 1730, attributed to Giles Grendey.

A George II scarlet and gilt japanned bureau cabinet, circa 1730, attributed to Giles Grendey

Lot Closed

December 14, 02:49 PM GMT


40,000 - 60,000 GBP

Lot Details


A George II scarlet and gilt japanned bureau cabinet, circa 1730, attributed to Giles Grendey

the dentilled swan-neck pediment centred by a pedestal, the shaped bevelled mirror doors enclosing a void interior for shelves, above two candle slides, the bureau with boldley cast gilt-brass mounts, four graduated drawers and ogee bracket feet, the fall opening to reveal a fiited interior with pigeonholes and four six drawers arranged around a central shaped mirrored cupboard, which pulls out to reveal a secret compartment

239cm high, 118cm. wide, 67cm. deep; 7ft. 10in., 3ft. 10½in., 2ft. 2¼in.

With John Keil Limited, London.

The present bureau cabinet can be confidently attributed to the workshop of Giles Grendey, as another cabinet of identical proportions but with different scenes bearing his trade label is recorded in a private Paris collection, illustrated in Ralph Edwards and Margaret Jourdain, Georgian Cabinet-Makers, rev.ed., 1946, p.107, fig.45 and rev.ed., 1955, p.145, pl.50. This particular cabinet was formerly in the collection of the Dukes of Infantada at Lazcano in Northern Spain, and formed part of a much larger suite of japanned furniture of which some 722 items were purchased by the Venetian dealer Adolph Lowei in 1930. These included fifty single chairs, twelve armchairs, two daybeds, two pairs of mirrors, a pair of candlestands, a card table and a tripod table, the labelled cabinet being purchased separately by the Spanish Art Gallery. Although now scattered in various private and public collections, it is apparent that not all the pieces in the suite were labelled, which in itself is quite a rare occurrence in the London furniture trade at this time. (c.f. Christopher Gilbert, ‘Furniture by Giles Grendey for the Spanish Trade’, The Magazine Antiques, April 1971, pp.544-550, and R.W. Symonds, ‘Giles Grendey and the Export Trade of English Furniture to Spain’, Apollo, 1935, pp.337-342).

Giles Grendey (1693-1780) is recorded in 1731 as having workshops at Aylesbury House, St. John’s Square, Clerkenwell, where on August 3 a fire destroyed furniture to the value of £1,000 which he ‘had pack’d for Exportation against the next morning’. The sum involved clearly indicates that Grendey’s business was of some substance, but also that he was engaged in a considerable export trade. In the mid-18th century there was obviously a considerable trade with Spain and Portugal, for an announcement in The General Advertiser, 28 February 1721, advertised an auction sale that included ‘several capital pieces design’d for the Spanish and Portugal trade’. If one considers the rich japanned surfaces on this cabinet, and also the recorded and related examples from the Lazcano suite, it is clear that this form of decoration in the early 1740s would not have been considered fashionable in England, which was in the sway of the Palladianism of William Kent and his followers. However, on the Iberian peninsula Grendey’s noble patrons would have appreciated the lavish spectacle that the shimmering gilded red lacquered surfaces would have provided.

In addition to the present cabinet and the one in Paris, two others of this form are recorded; one formerly in the collections of the Earls of Warwick at Warwick Castle sold Sotheby's New York, European Silver, Furniture and Ceramics, 20 October 2021, lot 67 ($126,000), the other illustrated in F. L. Hinckley, Queen Anne and Georgian Looking Glasses, 1987, p.41, pl.15, sold Christie’s, New York, 22 April 1995, lot 375. Apart from the Lazcano suite which is labelled and has a secure provenance, there is only a small group of known commissions by Grendey. These include work for Charles Hoare at Barn Elms, Sir Jacob de Bouverie at Longford Castle, Henry Hoare at Stourhead, and Lord Scarsdale at Kedleston Hall. In addition a number of labelled pieces are recorded. These include a number of case pieces in walnut and mahogany and a quantity of chairs, a number of the latter bearing the initials of Grendey’s workmen and apprentices which can be traced in the Joyner’s Company records. All this furniture is conceived in a good, solid, English manner, following the style of the period, and with a few imaginative touches, perhaps indicating his provincial origins (cf. Geoffrey Bead and Christopher Gilbert (eds.), Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840, 1986, pp.371-373).

It is therefore curious that Grendey’s imagination was able to soar to such heights as in the present cabinet, with its secure Spanish provenance, and undoubted close links to the Lazcano commission. Its undoubted quality, and superb state of preservation, make it one of the most important surviving examples of English japanning from the second quarter of the 18th century.