George II carved mahogany display cabinet in the manner of William Kent
An exceptional George II mahogany display cabinet in the manner of William Kent; the cornice carved with running leaf and bead and reel mouldings above a pair of glazed doors which are crossbanded in mahogany and carved with egg and dart mouldings and are flanked by boldly carved corbels with projecting acanthus leaves. The base is exuberantly carved to the frieze with a central lion mask flanked by acanthus leaves and is raised on powerful cabriole legs which are boldly carved to the knee with acanthus and terminate in generous lion paw feet. The cabinet is constructed from the finest Cuban mahogany and retains a lovely untouched colour and patination.
This superb early Georgian display cabinet exemplifies not only the incredible skill of the cabinet-maker but the fascination among wealthy patrons with a 'Roman' style inspired by the classicism of the antique and the drama of the Baroque. The cabinet is a great example of this period with the austere classicism of the upper cabinet contrasting with the boldness and quality of the carving to the stand with its powerful cabriole legs and the wonderful lion mask to the centre of the frieze.
The taste for 'Roman' style furniture was popularised by Inigo Jones (1685-1748) and then William Kent (1685-1748). Both Jones and Kent were architect designers who spent time on the Grand Tour and a collection of their designs was published by John Vardy as Some Designs of Mr Inigo Jones and Mr Wm Kent in 1744. The cabinet borrows a series of motifs from these designs but most strikingly Kent's design for a table commissioned by Robert Walpole for Houghton Hall, plate 41, can clearly be seen as inspiration for the cabinet's base.
A group of cabinet-makers in Early Georgian London could be ascribed as authors of this cabinet among them Vile, Bradshaw and Goodison but the most likely is William Hallett (d.1781). Hallett established his business at Great Newport Street, Long Acre in 1730 and became the pre-eminent cabinet-maker in London. A hallmark of Hallett's furniture is the exquisite quality of the carved ornamentation and the use of crisply carved borders to outline a piece's general form: as seen on the running leaf moulding to the cornice, the egg and dart detailing to the doors and the gadrooning to the stand.
Tantalisingly the known provenance of the cabinet fits with a wonderful collection of furniture supplied to Langley Park, Norfolk. Langley Park was designed in the Kentian style by Matthew Brettingham (d. 1769) for George Proctor (d. 1744) and then his nephew Sir William Beauchamp-Proctor (1722-1773). Sir William commissioned furniture from Hallett, Vile, Bradshaw and Chippendale to furnish his home and there are several similarities to this published furniture and the cabinet. A suit of library bookcases created for the house by Hallett utilise identical carved motifs and the tables supplied by William Bradshaw have similar powerful legs with generous paw feet and identically hairy fetlocks. Frustratingly there is mention in the literature of two cabinets but unfortunately neither has been published.
Peter Ward-Jackson (1958) English Furniture Designs of the Eighteenth Century pl. 18
Oliver Bracket (31 March, 1928) Country Life: 'The Furniture at Langley Park, II'
Ralph Edwards, Ed. (1954) Fig. 46 pg. 290
Christies London (6 July, 1995) Important English Furniture Lot 100
Christies New York (15 April, 2011) 500 Years: Decorative Arts Europe Lot 480
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