George 111 and Other Sins

One could forgive many an individual for not having a rudimentary grasp of Roman numeration, but frankly, antiques dealers – especially those at the top of their game – should, if not fully conversant, be at least familiar with the Roman numerals for one, to at least four. Seemingly not…

Geo_111_01bAn antique from the future? George the one-hundred-and-eleventh!

Geo_111_02bGeorges the eleventh and one-hundred-and-eleventh both get a mention.

Perhaps this dealer followed county cricket…

George_llnd_01bA Georgian second eleven kit box?

Then there was the dealer (now deceased) who couldn’t separate the 1600s from the sixteenth-century and the 1700s from the seventeenth-century etc. etc.

And if you’re ever in an antique clock dealer’s shop with a few minutes to spare, ask him what’s going on with four O’clock.

Jack Plane (the oneth)

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Picture This LIII

I recently came across this early eighteenth-century walnut chest of drawers. It’s of fairly standard form, though the handles are replacements and the base moulding and feet appear to have been added during the third quarter of the century – a common enough modification.

Geo_I_walnut_COD_c1715_01a_William_WordFig. 1. Walnut five-drawer chest, circa 1720. (William Word)

The back of the chest, however, reveals a couple of unusual details (figs. 2 & 3).

Geo_I_walnut_COD_c1715_01b_William_WordFig. 2. Replacement backboards. (William Word)

The bracket feet and tongue-and-groove backboards are obvious later additions, but closer inspection of the carcase shows an unusual method of closing the backboards’ rebate in its back edges (fig. 3).

Geo_I_walnut_COD_c1715_01c_William_WordFig. 3. Unusual carcase construction. (William Word)

The upper rear corners of this chest are mitred where the rebates meet: Figure 4 shows the more common method of addressing the rebates’ juncture.

carcase_back_corner_01aFig. 4. Normal method of finishing the backboards’ rebate.

And if that veneer isn’t 7/32″ (5.6mm) thick, I’m not an Irishman!

Jack Plane (an Irishman of some infamy)

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Picture This LII

I’m normally of the opinion that (furniture wise, at least) little of any merit was invented or produced after 1825. There was one nineteenth-century invention however, the Surprise Chair that, to this day, can still cause one to cringe and guffaw in equal measure.

surprise_chair_01aThe Surprise Chair, invented in 1880.

The startling effect produced by a backward trip, accompanied by a loud explosion, is superior to that caused by a flying trip on a loop-the-loop. It produces the real plunging feeling with absolutely no danger to the occupant, as it is well padded and the rockers prevent it from jarring.

A modern, remotely controlled version of the Surprise Chair can be enjoyed weekly on The Graham Norton Show on the television.

Jack Plane

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A Toast and a Toot!

Lyon & Turnbull’s Jacobite, Stuart, and Scottish Applied Arts sale in Edinburgh on the 13th of May 2015 offers an astonishing assortment of Jacobite and related items.

Lot 105 is a Jacobite firing glass with a trumpet bowl above a straight stem, enclosing an enamel twist, and standing on a thick domed foot.

The obverse of the bowl is engraved with an open rose head flanked by open and closed buds and trailing rose leaves, while the reverse is engraved with an oak leaf, star and the inscription ‘FIAT’ (all instruments of the Stuarts/Jacobite movement).
Estimate £2,000-3,000 (AU$3,830-5,740).

Jacobite_firing_glass_c1750_01a_Lyon_&_TurnbullFig. 1. Lot 105: A large Jacobite firing glass. (Lyon & Turnbull)

Also up for auction is the Young Pretender’s, ivory and silver mounted flute (lot 48).
Estimate £4,000-6,000 (AU$7,660-11,480).

Charles_Stuart's_ivory_flute_01a_Lyon_&_TurnbullFig. 2. Lot 48: Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s, ivory and silver mounted baroque flute. (Lyon & Turnbull)

Jack Plane

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Picture This LI

Bonhams have a number of interesting items coming up in The Oak Interior sale in Oxford on the 13th of May, 2015.

One lot that caught my eye is this early seventeenth-century oak ship’s table (lot 106).

Chas_I_oak_drop-leaf_ships_table_c1640_01aCharles I oak drop-leaf ship’s table, circa 1640. (Bonhams)

Large circular oak tables of this style and period are common enough; however, manhandling one up and down a ship’s gangway – or within the ship itself – would have been virtually impossible. The solution was to make a demountable table in two or more sections that, once onboard, could be manoeuvred within the ship’s confines as required.

The table illustrated above is just such a table: The removable top has four elliptical drop leaves which fold to form a compact square. The top rails and upper, square leg sections form another component, while the bottom rails and baluster turned portions of the legs make up the last constituent.

Several of these early maritime tables are known to exist including examples in Southwold Church, Suffolk; the Governor’s Palace, Colonial Williamsburg; and the Chapter House, Manchester Cathedral (which reputedly came from Bramshill Park, Hampshire).

The table carries an estimate of £8,000-12,000 (AU$16,000-23,000).

Jack Plane

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Picture This L

Spices have been traded from the Orient, the Moluccas and West Africa across Europe for thousands of years. Important for making-palatable less-than-fresh meat, preserving and flavouring, vast fortunes have been spent controlling and dominating the spice trade. Some countries’ economies have – even to this day – depended on spices and with the discovery of the New World in the late fifteenth-century, came new spices and the most prized of all, chocolate.

In pre-history, valuable spices were stored in sealed jars or wrapped in parchment packets. From the seventeenth-century, basics like salt and pepper were kept under lock and key in small boxes and in wealthier households, their assortments of spices were hoarded in dedicated spice cupboards.

As with many types of diminutive furniture, spice cupboards were often highly ornate to further reflect their owners’ wealth and status. The oak example in figures 1 and 2 harks from the early eighteenth-century and was intended to be stood upon a table in a prominent position.

RY41 347Fig. 1. Oak spice cupboard, circa 1710. (Robert Young)

Both exterior and interior faces of the door are decorated with parquetry, though the interior’s drawer fronts have, surprisingly, not been veneered (fig. 2). One usually sees the opposite: The exteriors of many spice cupboards are relatively plain – or perhaps have a fielded door – but the interiors often feature numerous specimen veneers or profuse inlay.

Queen_Anne_oak_spice_cupboard_c1710_01bFig. 2. Interior reveals parquetry on door, but undecorated drawers. (Robert Young)

The drawers’ construction suggests the original intent may have been to veneer their fronts.

Jack Plane

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“Touché Mademoiselle!”

In 2011, London art sleuth and dealer, Philip Mould, discovered an interesting eighteenth-century portrait of a seated woman wearing a hat. Mould purchased the painting which, once relieved of its accumulated grime, revealed a five O’clock shadow on the woman’s face. “What is so unusual about this portrait is that it is so brazenly demonstrative in a period when you don’t normally get that type of alternative persona expressed in portraiture. There is no attempt to soften his physiognomy – basically, he was a bloke in a dress with a hat.”

The subject of the painting, Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont (born on the 5th of October 1728), was a French soldier, spy and diplomat who was sent to London where he was instrumental in drafting the Treaty of Paris of 1763, drawing to a close the Seven Years War between Britain and France.

Chevalier_d'Eon_by_Thomas_Stewart_after_Jean_Laurent_Mosnier_c1792_01aFig. 1. Chevalier d’Eon by Thomas Stewart, after Jean Laurent Mosnier, circa 1792. (NPG)

d’Éon enjoyed London and was not readily disposed to return to Paris despite being recalled by the French government. The British government declined a request to extradite d’Éon and the French eventually cut d’Éon’s pension in February 1764.

In March 1764, in an effort to retain his London posting, d’Éon resorted to blackmail, publishing a number of secret diplomatic correspondences entitled Lettres, mémoires et négociations particulières du chevalier d’Éon.

Bellicosity between d’Éon and the French government ensued; however, d’Éon’s silence was eventually bought by Louis XV with an annuity and d’Éon remained, temporarily, in London in political exile.

As a spy in Louis XV’s own Secret du Roi, d’Éon, dressed as a woman, had previously infiltrated the court of Empress Elizabeth of Russia and in 1775, claiming to have been born female, asked the French government to recognise him as a woman. Louis XVI consented, but stipulated d’Éon had to dress accordingly. He was allowed to return to France in 1777, but was banished to his birthplace at Tonnerre in Burgundy.

The British public were sympathetic towards d’Éon and welcomed him back to England in 1785 where he made a reasonable living performing fencing demonstrations.

Alexandre-Auguste_Robineau__The_Fencing-Match_between_the_Chevalier_de Saint-George_and_the_Chevalier_d'Eon_c1787-9_01aFig. 2. Alexandre-Auguste Robineau, The Fencing-Match between the Chevalier de Saint-George and the Chevalier d’Eon, circa 1787-9. (Royal Collection Trust)

Speculation as to d’Éon’s sexuality gained momentum and a wager was entertained on the London Stock Exchange, but d’Éon declined to be examined by a physician on the grounds it would be denigrating.

d’Éon fell into debt following a serious injury in 1796 and died impoverished on the 21st of May 1810 where, the attendant physician not only pronounced him dead, but male in every respect.

d’Éon gave his name to the Beaumont Society, which provides support to the transgendered community.

Jack Plane

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Picture This XLIX

An early eighteenth-century low-back three-legged Windsor type chair with scarfed, two-piece arm and, unusually, square cabriole legs.

Geo_I_ash_&_elm_low_back_Windsor_c1720_01aGeorge I ash chair, circa 1720. (Wakelin & Linfield)

Jack Plane

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Picture This XLVIII

The design of these Windsor chairs shares much in common with the Claremont chairs I made in early 2013.

Geo_III_ash_&_elm_comb_back_chair_c1770_01aFig. 1. Ash and elm fan-back Windsor chairs, circa 1750. (Michael Pashby)

Geo_III_ash_&_elm_comb_back_chair_c1770_01bFig. 2. Characteristic D-shape saddled seat with rear brace extension. (Michael Pashby)

Jack Plane

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Picture This XLVII

I was originally going to work this image into an April Fool’s post as ‘the Ronald McDonald cabinet’, but thought better of it.

late_17C_cocus_cabinet-on-stand_01a_Royal_Collection_TrustOne of a pair of cocus cabinets-on-stands, circa 1660-5. (Royal Collection Trust)

The cocus oyster-veneered cabinets are supported on stands with bobbin-turned legs. The silver fittings and mounts bear the cipher ‘HMR’, and are thought to have formed part of the furnishings at Somerset House provided for Queen Henrietta Maria on her return to England in 1662 following the Restoration.

Source: Royal Collection Trust

Jack Plane

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