Arthur Wellesley

Sir_Arthur_Wellesley_1st_Duke_of_Wellington_01aSir Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

Arthur Wellesley was born in Dublin on this day in 1769. The Iron Duke forged a stellar military career defeating the French time and again. During the Peninsular Wars Wellington saw off the French at the Battle of Salamanca on the 22nd of July 1812, however, he is better known for the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo on the 18th of June 1815. Wellesley went on to serve as Prime Minister from 1828-30. He died in September 1852.

The Duke of Wellington will also be remembered for the Hessian boots he so elegantly popularised and for the stylish (and much copied) chest of drawers he commissioned for use during his campaigns (figs. 1 & 2).

Geo_IV_rosewood_Wellington_chest_c1830_01aFig. 1. Geo IV rosewood Wellington chest, circa 1830. (Thakeham Furniture)

Geo_IV_rosewood_Wellington_chest_c1830_01bFig. 2. Unlocked Wellington chest with secretaire drawer withdrawn. (Thakeham Furniture)

Jack Plane

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Picture This LXXXIII

In Bonhams’ Home & Interiors sale in Knightsbridge on the 24th of May 2016, lot 116 is catalogued as a “George III mahogany mule chest” (fig. 1) which may well be correct.

Geo_III_mahogany_low_dresser_c1770_01aFig. 1. “George III mahogany mule chest”, (Bonhams)

However, looking at the gaps around all the drawers and the damage to the cockbeading; I suspect it’s a low dresser with nine fully functional drawers (fig. 2).

Geo_III_mahogany_low_dresser_c1770_01cFig. 2. Damaged/missing cockbeading and runner wear to carcase. (Bonhams)

Either way, it’s a rather splendiferous bit of furniture.

Jack Plane

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Picture This LXXXII

The work of deranged cabinetmaker, Anne Nomalous, has surfaced again: Evidence of her hand has appeared, this time, in the upside-down cyma recta top moulding of a laburnum chest of drawers in Lawrences’ upcoming fine art sale on Friday the 15th of April 2016.

Lawrences_lot_2125-0William and Mary laburnum oyster and line-inlaid chest. (Lawrences)

Jack Plane

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Taxing Times

England invested an inordinate amount of money in building and maintaining a naval fleet to better protect her island shores and foreign interests during the seventeenth- and eighteenth-centuries. Government coffers were kept topped-up with monies raised through all manner of taxes with industry being an obvious source and luxury goods also providing valuable revenue.

I have mentioned before the tax on the hearths used by smallworkers in their production of locks and later, looking glasses (indeed glass for drinking vessels and windows also attracted duty at various rates and periods). Timber (most of which was imported at the time) also attracted a levy – including those varieties employed in the manufacture of furniture like oak, walnut  and mahogany.

Few early seventeenth-century households enjoyed the opulence of even a solitary chair; simple benches, forms or stools being the norm. However, with Britain’s increase in wealth during the seventeenth-century, chair ownership increased. Chairs became one of the most prestigious items a man of above-average means might own and so, in 1661, the government introduced a hefty chair tax.

Actually, the common term ‘chair tax’ is somewhat of a misnomer as it affected stools as well and was in fact levied, not on the seat as a whole, but on the number of legs it possessed. Whilst it might be obvious a three-legged chair or stool would be the natural choice in a dwelling with an uneven compacted clay- or stone flag floor, the excise on that fourth leg surely caused embarrassment to many a squire and promising merchant eager to display their wealth.

17C_oak_thrown_chair_01aFig. 1. High status seventeenth-century thrown chair.

The chair tax didn’t hinder the up-take of chairs in the seventeenth-century and yet despite Britain’s continued growth and prosperity throughout the eighteenth-century, the manufacture and ownership of three-legged ‘excise chairs’ remained commonplace (especially in rural areas) as an expression of frugality and humility. 2. Very fine Geo I ash and elm excise chair, circa 1720. (Wakelin & Linfield)

18C_three-legged_stcik-back_chair_01aFig. 3. Ash and elm three-legged Windsor chair, circa 1750.

Welsh_stick_chair_Montgomeryshire_c1760_01bFig. 4. Three-legged Welsh stick chair, circa 1760.

Geo_III_elm_backstool_c1770_01aFig. 5. Ash and elm excise chair, circa 1770. (Robert Young)

ash_&_elm_cockfighting_stool_c1870_01aFig. 6. Ash and elm cockfighting stool, circa 1810.

The excise imposed on chair legs remained for a century-and-a-half until the act was repealed by order of the Prince of Wales in a bid for popularity when he became Prince Regent in 1811.

Jack Plane

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Borne in the USA

Auctioneers, Skinner (Boston, USA), are holding their spring European Furniture & Decorative Arts auction in Boston on Friday the 8th of April 2016. While furniture isn’t very strong, British silver and early British pottery is well represented including lot 206, a Queen Ann blue dash charger (fig. 1).

QA_blue_dash_charger_c1702-14_01aFig. 1. Queen Ann blue dash charger, circa 1702-14. (Skinner)

Of the furniture on offer, Lot 664 is a mahogany and yew double Gothic Windsor settee (fig. 2). Made in the nineteenth-century, the settee would natheless be a steal if bought within the estimate of US$600-800.

19C_mahogany_&_yew_double_Gothic_Windsor_settee_01aFig. 2. Mahogany and yew double Gothic Windsor settee. (Skinner)

Lot 666 is a devilishly simple oak geometric chest of drawers (fig. 3). I suspect the bun feet are later additions; however I would like to be proven wrong.

William_&_Mary_oak_COD_c1690_02aFig. 3. William and Mary oak geometric chest, circa 1690. (Skinner)

Jack Plane

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Picture This LXXXI

The rather nice mahogany chest of drawers in figure 1 is lot 313 in Bonhams’ The Scottish Sale in Edinburgh on the 13th of April 2016.

Geo_III_mahogany_COD_c1765_09aFig. 1. George III six-drawer chest, circa 1765. (Bonhams)

The chest is probably by Thomas Chippendale and stands on horizontally blocked brackets – a feature of much of Chippendale’s cabinetry. Further reading on horizontally stacked corner blocks and associated problems here, here, here and here.

Three of the chest’s four feet are missing one or more strata from the bottom of their horizontal corner blocks (figs. 2 & 3).

Geo_III_mahogany_COD_c1765_09cFig. 2. With three corner blocks ineffective, the respective brackets are directly in contact with the floor. (Bonhams)

Geo_III_mahogany_COD_c1765_09dFig. 3. Missing strata and worn brackets. (Bonhams)

In their accompanying footnotes, Bonhams mention a related chest, lot 32, sold by them on the 13th of June 2012 in their Fine Furniture and Works of Art sale in New Bond Street, London, but for some reason say nothing of another, virtually identical chest, lot 138, offered by them in their Home & Interiors sale in Edinburgh on the 24th of February 2016.

Jack Plane

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The Olympia Art & Antiques Fair 2016

The Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair is set to return to London for the 44th year, as The Art & Antiques Fair, Olympia. Running over seven days from 27th June until 3rd July, it is a key event in the global art and antiques calendar for 2016 and will play host to a vast array of items from antiquity to the present day.

As London’s original art and antiques fair, it offers unrivalled diversity and more choice of high quality vetted art, antiques, furniture, jewellery and collectors’ pieces than any other show in the British capital.

Mary Claire Boyd, Fair Director said: “Every year, thousands of visitors are bowled over by the wealth of pieces and scale of the interiors ideas in the historic Olympia hall. Dealers collect their best pieces throughout the year especially for this seven day event and the presentation of stock is different every year but always inspiring.

The high level of the jewellery also gives the event a distinctly glamorous edge. To have this number of experts ready and willing to share their knowledge and talk about the history of the pieces is a rare treat”.

She added: “Our strict vetting policy involves a team of 100 experts checking every piece for sale before the fair opens so visitors can buy with complete confidence.”

A tailored events programme with interesting, informative and thought provoking talks will take place throughout the Fair, featuring high profile speakers from the world’s leading art, design and heritage organisations – including the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID), World of Interiors, the British Museum, the V&A and the Landmark Trust.

A Collectors’ Preview on Monday 27th June, late night openings, champagne bar and a specially created menu at the Mosimann’s restaurant all set against the elegant backdrop of Olympia National Hall in West London, combine to make the Fair a prestigious and must – attend event in London’s summer calendar.

Tickets are priced at £15 in advance, £20 on the door and £60 on Preview day*.

The Art & Antiques Fair, Olympia, takes place at the Olympia National, London, W14 8UX.

For more information and to purchase tickets please visit

*A transaction fee of £1.20 applies

Jack Plane

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Potato Rings

No, nothing to do with tasty snacks or Irish gangs of colluding dealers up to their shenanigans, rather, potato rings are choice items of Irish silverware.

Though dish rings were conceived in early eighteenth-century London, it was Irish silversmiths who adopted and developed them to the height of perfection; often depicting bucolic scenes comprising farm buildings, rustics, cows, fowl and pigs.

Designed to raise hot dishes above vulnerable polished mahogany dining tables, many Irish dish rings were later equipped with blue glass liners, thereby converting them into serving bowls of sorts and earning them the derogatory moniker ‘potato rings’.

potato_ring_ Edward_Boyce_Dublin_c1784_01aPierced, repoussé and chased dish ring by Edward Boyce, Dublin, circa 1784.

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

Jack Plane

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2016 BADA Fair

The 2016 BADA Fair is now running until the 15th of March 2016 at Duke of York Square in London’s King’s Road.

Jack Plane

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Picture This LXXX

QA_walnut_cabinet-on-chest_c1710_01a_DreweattsIn their upcoming sale at Donnington Priory, Dreweatts describe lot 284, a walnut featherbanded cabinet-on-chest, as “Queen Anne, circa 1710, in George II style”.

The cabinetmaker credited with this astonishing prescience is one John Peter Allix (1749-1807).


Jack Plane

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