A Monumental Easter

Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen’s expedition to the South Pacific in 1722, led to the discovery of an extraordinary remote island on Easter Sunday.

Whilst on his second voyage to the Pacific in March 1774, Captain James Cook revisited Easter Island to take on supplies. With the ships ‘Resolution’ and ‘Adventure’ at anchor in Hanga Roa Bay, the expedition’s artist, William Hodges, went ashore and captured this dramatic landscape.

William_Hodges_A_View_of_the_Monuments_of_Easter_Island_Rapanui_c1775_01aWilliam Hodges RA, A View of the Monuments of Easter Island (Rapanui). 1775.

Cook was frustrated in his quest for fresh food and water, commenting “… nature showed itself very sparing in its gifts to this island”.

I appear to have fared somewhat better than the intrepid Cook: This morning, whilst on one of my regular reconnoitres through the house; I uncovered an enormous cache of HCBs along with a variety of chocolate eggs and rabbits in an out-of-the-way cupboard!

I hope everyone else’s Easter holds equal promise!

Jack Plane

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Picture This XXVI

I mentioned in Chest Invection how some, originally floor-standing, chests of drawers occasionally found their way up onto unrelated floor-standing chests and stands in order to address a paucity of chests-on-chests and chests-on-stands in the marketplace.

The image below illustrates the typical attachment of a bun foot to a bona fide floor-standing chest of drawers, where the foot’s spigot is inserted into a hole in the bottom of the carcase.


Fig. 1. Circa 1690 walnut bun foot.

The following image is of the chest (formerly a bun-footed floor-standing example) from a ‘chest-on-stand’ with one of its spigot holes clearly visible.


Fig. 2. Circa 1690 previously floor-standing chest atop a stand.

Jack Plane

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George II Walnut Ladderback Chair – Part Three

I came across another Giles Grendey ladderback chair (fig. 1) on display in the London Room of the Handel House Museum (the London home of the baroque composer, George Frideric Handel). Other than the slight difference in the shape of the back splats, the chair appears to be virtually identical to the one I’m copying.


Fig. 1. Grendey style chair at the Handel House Museum. (© The Handel House Trust)

I assembled the chair and when the glue was dry, I wiped the whole thing down with hot soapy water in preparation for staining and polishing it.


Fig. 2. The Grendey chair in-the-white.


Fig. 3. Front quarter view.


Fig. 4. Rear quarter view.


Fig. 5. Top back rail.

Jack Plane

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The Gillows Windsor Chair

The rustic and oft clumsy wooden-seated chairs of the early eighteenth-century were initially employed as outdoor seating and painted (usually in green) to better resist the elements. Over the following decades the Windsor chair’s shape and form were refined and they found their way into the homes of both rich and poor.

Better known for their innovative designs and peerless cabinetwork, the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Lancastrian firm of Gillows surprisingly produced literally ship loads of painted Windsor chairs. Gillows’ chairs, however, were not intended for the domestic market (though some did remain in England).

After the outbreak of the American War of Independence in April 1775, Gillows realised an opening in the supply of Windsor chairs (at 8s. each) to the West Indies. In a letter to John Swarbrick of Kingston, Jamaica, dated September 1775, Robert Gillows wrote “We thought the North Americans would be so busy fighting that they would not have time to make and send you any Windsor chairs, therefore have dropt. a dozen”.[1] And in May 1776, Gillows wrote to Captain John Calvert, bound for Grenada: “We expect the Windsor chairs will sell to great advance as they do in all other islands, as we presume you can now have no more from America”.[2]

The Windsor that Gillows based their design on was the traditional elegant double bow chair that was produced in the south of England from Essex to Wessex in a number of regional variations (figs. 1 & 2).


Fig. 1. Eighteenth-century double bow Windsor.


Fig. 2. Eighteenth-century double bow Windsor with crinoline stretcher.


Fig. 3. Design for a Windsor chair from one of Gillows’ sketch books.

Although Gillows’ double bow chair retained the iconic upper structure unadulterated, its undercarriage comprised rather insipid tapering legs and a strangely shallow-curved and protuberant crinoline stretcher (figs. 4, 5 & 6).


Fig. 4. Late eighteenth-century Gillows painted chair. (Yew Tree House)


Fig. 5. Late eighteenth-century Gillows painted chair. (Arabesque Antiques)


Fig. 6. Late eighteenth-century Gillows painted chair – the legs shortened. (Wakelin and Linfield)

So intent were Gillows on their chairs arriving in good order, they charged ships’ captains with the task of touching-up – or entirely painting – the chairs prior to delivery. In July 1775 Gillows instructed Leonard Stout, bound for Antigua: “Have sent 2 Windsor chairs in the cabin and 10 ditto in two matted parcels with the legs and rails loose which you’ll to get put together and paint over; have also sent green paint ready mixed and a brush (for that purpose)…” [3]

Compare with: A Double Bow Windsor Chair and A New Throne.

Jack Plane

[1] STUART, Susan E., Gillows of Lancaster and London, Antique Collectors’ Club, 2008, vol. I, p. 113.
[2] ibid, p. 114.
[3] ibid, p. 115.

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Monkey Business

The relationship between England and France has been notoriously fraught since roughly the eleventh-century, with monarchs of both countries laying claim to the throne of their adversary on the opposite side of the English Channel. Concerned that Louis XIV was posturing towards a Universal Monarchy in Europe, England determined to thwart any such threat to her shores.

England and Scotland united in 1701, forming the Kingdom of Great Britain, thus preventing the French from entering England through one of her back doors. Natheless, in a desperate effort to permanently circumvent the perennial French threat, a Machiavellian plot – code named ‘Simian’ – was conceived by England to sever the lineage of known politically active French figures harbouring sentiments of absolute monarchy and anti-British views.

The plan was to abduct children from targeted French families and replace them with primates captured in Britain’s interests in Africa, Central America and the Orient. In 1733, under the direction of Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough, a secret task force was established and charged with training monkeys of differing sizes to replace the variously aged French children who had been selected for substitution.

To avoid arousing suspicion, the Duke of Marlborough (a notoriously keen fisherman), erected a ‘fishing lodge’ and ‘pavilion’ on the small island of Burnham-Ayt in the River Thames near Bray in Berkshire (fig. 1), from where the innovative mission was brainstormed.[1]


Fig. 1. A View of the Duke of Marlborough’s Island situate on the River Thames between Maidenhead Bridge and Windsor. From Picturesque Views on the Thames by Samuel Ireland, 1792.

Simian comprised a diverse group of English, Belgian, Dutch and importantly, politically and religiously displaced French men and women who, together, would assimilate monkeys into virtually every facet of French culture before introducing ‘les enfants‘ (as the trained monkeys were known) into French society.

Christophe Huet, an accomplished French painter (whose early bucolic renderings of cattle and sheep were initially denounced by the French as aberrant) was coaxed to England by the Duke of Marlborough and recruited into Simian. Huet and compatriot artist, Andieu de Clermont, worked feverishly creating murals in Marlborough’s pavilion depicting monkeys mimicking humans and wearing fashionable French attire. With their style perfected, Huet and de Clermont returned to France in 1735 where, with the aid of earlier-embedded Simian Brahmin infiltrators and influential Simian decorators, they began painting anthropomorphic monkey scenes on the interiors of aristocrats’ palaces and the homes of the Bourgeoisie (figs. 2, 3 & 4).

Christophe_Huet_Château de Chantilly_c1737_01a

Fig. 2. Huet’s anthropomorphic masterpiece at Château de Chantilly, north of Paris.

Christophe_Huet_Château de Chantilly_c1737_02a

Fig. 3. Les enfants run amok round the entire room.

Christophe_Huet_Château de Chantilly_c1737_03a

Fig. 4. Detail of the satirised Prince de Condé with two of his enfants.

The French philosopher, artist and writer, Denis Diderot was similarly enlisted to further imbue the French with a series of papers and books which persuasively integrated monkeys into everyday life.


Fig. 5. One of several popular marquetry designs by Diderot (this one from Encyclopédie) depicting storks delivering les enfant, circa 1751.

Anthropomorphic monkey motifs soon appeared in all branches of French decorative arts ranging from sculpture (fig. 6) to ormolu mounts (fig. 7) and porcelain (fig. 8). Throughout, the monkeys were always depicted as the social equal of humans and superior to all other animals (fig. 9).

pulpit_singerie_in_L’église Saint-Eustache_Paris_01a

Fig. 6. The pulpit of L’église Saint-Eustache, Paris, carved with a seemingly literate enfant.


Fig. 7. Ormolu mount of a scholarly enfant wearing a mortarboard, circa 1745.


Fig. 8. Meissen enfant figurines, circa 1753.


Fig. 9. Andieu de Clermont, Formation d’un Chien, circa 1737.

Marlborough and his co-conspirators went to extraordinary lengths to orchestrate the elaborate deception: Les enfants, for instance, were fashionably outfitted by modish London tailors (fig. 10) and extensively tutored to prepare them for cultured French family life (fig. 11).


Fig. 10. Enfant’s red silk coat in the French taste, circa 1740-50.


Fig. 11. Landry Mortimer, The pupil Louis greeting The Duke of Marlborough on a visit to Monkey Island, circa 1747.

By the time Huet, de Clermont, Diderot et al had completely inculcated the French with the belief that boisterous hairy children with tails was tout à fait normal, the troupes of trained enfants were ready to be seamlessly integrated into French society.

Newborn infants and children up to the age of twelve were routinely supplanted with rhesus macaques and capuchin- and mangabey monkeys. In anticipation of errant detection, Simian operatives quadrupled the production of absinthe (a popular crutch amongst the pot-valiant haut monde). It proved unnecessary however, as the French, being generally of a light-minded disposition; the deception went largely undetected for two decades.

The aristocratic and Bourgeoisie families were so utterly accepting of les enfants that it became commonplace to have prominent British, French and other European artists portray them and their ‘children’ (figs. 12, 13 & 14).


Fig. 12. François-Hubert Drouais, Aurélie Vigée-Lebrun avec sa fils Étienne, circa 1742.


Fig. 13. Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Manquez Élodie Labille sur son poney Arabella, circa 1737.

J_ Jarvis_after_William_Hogarth__Taste_in_High_Life_c1746 _01a

Fig. 14. J. Jarvis Taste in High Life, after William Hogarth’s Goûter à la Grande Vie, circa 1746.

Simian’s objectives were gradually realised beginning with the French loss of Quebec to Britain in 1759 and Montreal the year after. During what came to be known as the Seven Years’ War, Britain enjoyed other victories over the French in Europe, Bengal and India. France’s global position was further weakened when its closest ally, Spain suffered the loss of Manila and Havana to the British.

Britain had managed to pull off the unimaginable and quash the French terror that threatened the whole of Europe. A consequence of Britain’s unconventional mission was a legacy of unique animal art that would undoubtedly never have otherwise seen the light of day.

Jack Plane

[1] Inevitably, a number of the primates eventually escaped the island and from the mid-eighteenth-century the island was known as Monkey Island – a name it retains to this day.

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George II Walnut Ladderback Chair – Part Two

The chair saw a flurry of activity in the days following its inception – before my efforts were diverted to the more urgent task of erecting an extensive new chicken run and coop. Needless to say; the fowl accommodation was not built to the same Giles Grendey standard and might, in fact, be better described as ‘foul accommodation’. They’re chickens.

Monday morning felt like Mondays of old as I spent a while comparing the pile of chair parts on the table with the photo of Grendey’s chair and trying to recall where I had left off. I eventually concluded the back splats were nonexistent and set about making them.


The final task before gluing the chair together will be to scratch the ovolo moulding around the top, outer edges of the seat rails and outer, forward facing edges of the front legs and back stiles.

Jack Plane

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Cabin Fever

I do not know the dimensions, provenance, or any other details of this chest of drawers; however, its proportions (in particular, its depth) are certainly commensurate with other maritime case pieces.


Shallow George III mahogany chest of drawers, circa 1745.

Jack plane

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Rare Textiles from Hampton Court Palace at Auction


Rare and exquisite textiles spanning more than 350 years and kept formerly at Hampton Court Palace are to be sold by Ewbank’s, Surrey’s premier auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The collection of hundreds of examples of embroidery, lace and needlework from the British Isles and overseas will be offered in Ewbank’s important Spring sale on March 26.

Ewbank’s textiles specialist Andrea Machen said: “We are thrilled to be bringing to market these historical items with such excellent provenance. It has been a privilege to catalogue them for this the first time they have been available for sale.”

The collection will be sold in around 100 lots, pick of which is a rare and early needlework box dating from about 1650. It is embroidered in silk and silvered thread with a formal decoration of flowers, fruit, scrolling leaves and tendrils, worked in silk stitches and couched silver thread on a yellow silk ground. The box is lined in red silk and stands on four carved and gilt enriched feet. It is estimated at £500-800.

A feature of the collection is a wide range of children’s embroidered samplers, some dating from as early as the 17th century. Most valuable is an 18th century example decorated with the Ten Commandments, a vase of flowers and a floral border. It is estimated at £200-300.

In addition to religious instruction, children completed samplers as part of their tuition in English and Arithmetic as well as teaching embroidery skills to a standard which belies their age, some as young as eight.

The intricacy of the work must have taken many hours, but the sale includes two by 13-year-old Sophia Richards, completed respectively in 1831 and 1835. More valuable of the two is worked in coloured silks with the epithet ‘How fast my fleeting minutes run!’ in a symmetrical design of figures, flowers and dove cotes. It is estimated at £100-150, while the other, embroidered with figures and a verse, is estimated at £80-120.

There are Royal connections to a number of lots, notably two sumptuous mid 19th century French embroidered silk drawstring handbags and a fine Indian wall hanging which were once the property of Queen Mary, who was known for her appreciation of needlework. The handbags, known as reticules, have a formal decoration of flowers and leaves in 18th century style, worked in different gold threads with flowerheads in relief and each with large gold tassel. They are together estimated at £300-500. The wall-hanging is hand-stitched in gilt thread with brocaded fabric, while seed pearls attached to its tassels add to its richness. It is estimated at £150-250.

Gentlemen’s attire of the 18th century could be as flamboyant as the gowns worn by courtly ladies. The sale includes three such examples, pick of which is an embroidered example dating from about 1780, the cream silk worked in a pink and green design of roses. It has embroidered buttons and lace trim and is estimated at £100-150.

An 18th century waistcoat embroidered in silk with sprays of flowers and set with steel beads is estimated at £80-120, while among European examples, a group of two Spanish embroidered silk waistcoats decorated in coloured silks with floral embroidery are together estimated at £100-150, as is an exotic 18th century Indian waistcoat with gold coloured silk flower embroidery and a panel with coloured and silver decoration.

The collection also includes 20 lots of fine handmade lace dating from the 17th to the early 20th century. In the past lace work was valued so highly that it was often used as a currency. English lace is particularly sought after by today’s collectors, notably that from Honiton, so a small group of pieces dating from around 1750 including a Bedfordshire cap and collars, cuffs, jabots and edging pieces from Northamptonshire as well as pieces from the Devon town is expected to sell for £150-250.

Another centre of renown for lace is Brussels. Two large 19th century pieces worked with floral sprays and a scrolled ribbon pattern, each measuring almost eight by three feet are together estimated at £200-300.

A William and Mary lace box with petit point top and side panels depicting a mythical beast in landscape is made of laburnum wood with parquetry inlay to its interior. It is estimated at £300-500.

Completing the collection are good examples of British and American quilts, one among the 10 on offer in true 1940s “make do and mend fashion”, and another dating from the late 18th or early 19th century, the silk worked in a diamond pattern. Estimates range from £50 to £250.

From other vendors, the sale also includes a fine wedding ensemble with photograph of the original owner on her wedding day. The outfit was worn by the vendor’s great grandmother, Nellie Spedden Hollidge, from Washington USA, who married Frank P Marshall of Lancaster New Hampshire USA in 1893. They were both employed in clothing retail and later had a dry goods business in Lancaster until Mr Marshall retired in 1930. The dress has been in the UK branch of the family ever since.

The fine corded cream silk dress has leg of mutton sleeves and lace collar and cuffs decorated with floral sprays, a glass beaded waist band with tassel front and comes complete with a pair of kid leather laced boots and silk stockings. It is estimated at £200-400.

Source: ukauctioneers.com

Jack Plane

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A Secretary all at Sea

Three key features point to this two-piece campaign chest as having been made for maritime use; the most obvious being its shallow 14-1/2″ depth.


George IV brass-bound teak secretaire chest, circa 1820. (Richard Gardner)

The second indication is the chest’s fixed bracket feet – as opposed to terrestrial campaign chests which usually have removable turned feet.

The final clue is the castors beneath the chest. While civilian and expeditionary maritime furniture normally sat firm on its feet, Naval case furniture often rode on large castors* to enable it to be easily removed by one person when battle stations were declared.
*A desk fitted with large castors, used by Admiral Earl Howe aboard the flagship Queen Charlotte, can be seen at The Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment Museum at Clandon Park, Surrey.

See Additional Examples of Maritime Case Furniture for a very similar chest.

Jack Plane

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To all Irishmen, particularly those in absentia… happy Saint Patrick’s Day.


The Reverend Doctor Caleb Threlkeld, Synopsis Stirpium Hibernicarum (Irish Flora), circa 1727.

Jack Plane

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