Fine English Furniture at Bonhams

Bonhams are conducting a Fine English Furniture sale at their New Bond Street rooms in London on the 11th of March, 2015.

Amongst some outstanding furniture lots up for auction is this superb Queen Anne cabinet (lot 1), which I am instanter adding to my Proposed Furniture Program.

Queen_Anne_walnut_mural_corner_cupboard_c1710_01aQueen Anne walnut mural corner cabinet, circa 1710. (Bonhams)

Jack Plane

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Picture This XLIV

In a cabinet outside The Waterloo Chamber in Windsor Castle sits one of the smallest pieces of history. Once belonging to Queen Victoria and no bigger than a 5p piece, the article in question was deadly.

Now, the bullet which killed Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson is set is take visitors by storm at an exhibition marking the launch of his flagship war vessel, HMS Victory.

On the 21st October 1805, during the Battle of Trafalgar, a French sharpshooter hit the ultimate target. His lead musket ball found Lord Nelson and dealt a fatal wound.

The bullet pierced through his left shoulder, taking with it the lace of his epaulette, and passed through his spine at the sixth and seventh thoracic vertebrae. It finally lodged two inches (5cm) below his right shoulder-blade in his back muscles.

After historical analysis, it is thought that the shot was fired from around 20 metres and was most likely random, and not a targeted shot.

The shot was fired from the top of the mizzen mast on the Redoubtable, a 74-gun French battle ship, which came to the aid of the French Vice Admiral’s flagship. Unfortunately, its marksman was also killed during the Battle and so it is not exactly known who shot Nelson.

Victory‘s surgeon, William Beatty, worked hard and did manage to remove the bullet but the damage had already been done. Nelson died three hours later, around half-past four, murmuring his last words: “God and my Country.”

the_bullet_by_which_Nelson_was_killed_01a_Neil_Howard_RCTThe bullet which killed Admiral Lord Nelson, encased in its locket shell by surgeon, William Beatty. The inscription inside reads: “The bullet by which Nelson was killed”.  Image Credit: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015.

After Nelson’s death, Beatty preserved the bullet by having it made into a locket. Set in a crystal case, it is surrounded by pieces of Nelson’s coat lining and epaulette. The piece of braid around the outside of the case was a later addition as it is too large to have been driven in by the missile.

The grisly memento is said to have been worn by Beatty for the rest of his life until on his death, in 1842, his family presented the treasure to Queen Victoria. Today, it forms part of the Royal Collection and usually, it is on permanent display in the Grand Vestibule of Windsor Castle.

Beginning this Saturday, the bullet will be on loan to Chatham Dockyard for their latest exhibition ‘HMS Victory: The Untold Story‘. The exhibition marks 250 years since HMS Victory was launched and will detail its career.

Victory floated out of the Old Single Dock in Chatham’s Royal Dockyard on May 7 1765 and would go on to gain recognition from leading fleets in the American War of Independence (1775-1783), the French Revolutionary War (1793-1802) and the Napoleonic War (1803-1815).

Even though posthumous, Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 confirmed the naval supremacy that Britain had established during the 18th century. He commanded 27 ships of the line against a Franco-Spanish fleet of 33, of which they lost 22. Not a single British vessel was lost and, as such, the battle’s success is often cited as the Britain’s greatest naval victory.

Alongside the Nelson bullet will be HMS Victory’s figurehead, which is on loan from the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth. The figurehead will form the centrepiece of the exhibition.

The new exhibition, ‘HMS Victory: The Untold Story’ will run from the 14 February – 31 May 2015 and entry is included in dockyard’s normal admission price.

Source: Royal Central

Jack Plane

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“Get off my Feckin’ Land”!

The last successful invasion of Britain by France was, as everyone knows, in 1066 when the Normans stepped ashore at Pevensey in Sussex with 10,000 men and 400 official embroiderers. (The majority of English didn’t actually consider the event an ‘invasion’, rather, an opportunity to avoid the import tax on French brandy.)

Today marks the 218th anniversary of the Battle of Fishguard – also known as ‘The Last Invasion of Britain’. Around 1,400 troops from La Legion Noire attempted a three-pronged attack on Britain and Ireland under the command of Irish-American Colonel William Tate. It didn’t go well from the start: The landings in Ireland and the North of England failed utterly, but Tate and his motley crew did land at Carregwastad Head near Fishguard in Wales (left coast of Britain).

The bulk of the force comprised irregulars (most of whom had been released from gaol for the occasion) who began looting the area while the remainder rolled out their beach towels on Goodwick Sands.

The local fishermen were out in their boats at the time, but a solid defence was mounted by the village’s formidable women folk, lead by Jemima Nicholas – latterly known as ‘Jemima Fawr’ (Jemima the Great).

Tate surrendered and was imprisoned, but Britain later returned him and his remaining misfits to France in 1798 as part of a prisoner exchange.

It has often been proposed that Fishguard be renamed ‘Frogguard’, but the town’s original name remains – as does the heroine, Jemima’s head stone.

Jemima_Nicholas_headstone_01aJack Plane

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On Gluing the Joints of Boards

To make the beſt and strongeſt Glew, for Glewing the Joints of Boards.

[Take] Scummed Milk which has ſtood ſo long, that no more Cream will ariſe from it: Scum it very clean, and ſet it over the Fire in a Leaden Pot, letting it boil a little; and if any Cream ariſe take it off.

Then put into it a ſufficient quantity of Joyners Glew cut into ſmall bits, which will ſoon melt; boil it to a good body, that it may be neither too thick, nor too thin, (for in this boiling lies much of the Art;) take it from the Fire, and keep it for uſe, as other Glew.

This Glew binds beyond belief, and will not be ſubject to reſolve with any ordinary moiſture of the Weather: and the reaſon is becauſe the Curdy Part of the Milk, freed from its Oil, is joined with the Glew. Now you muſt take care, that it burns not to the ſides of the Pot, for then it will be deprived of its ſtrength: To prevent which, (both in its firſt making, and in your after melting of it) you had beſt both to make and melt it in B. M.[1] or a boiling Veſſel of Water, ſo will you prevent burning, and by thoſe means boil it more ſafely to what body you pleaſe, without danger of hurting the Glew.[2]

Jack Plane

[1] Balneum Mariae, or bain-marie; a vessel filled with water or sand, in which another vessel is placed to be heated.

[2] William Salmon, Polygraphice, or, The Arts of Drawing, Engraving, Etching, Limning, Painting, Vernishing, Japaning, Gilding, &c., eighth edition, A. and J. Churchill, and John Nicholson, London, 1701, p. 938.

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Shaker: Function, Purity, Perfection

Shaker: Function, Purity, Perfection is an homage to the traditional Shaker values of grace and simplicity. Featured are twenty-eight essential pieces that highlight the defining elements of Shaker design and demonstrate a dedication to perfection.

Designer and furniture expert Sir Terence Conran speaks about the profound Shaker influence on twentieth-century furniture, and David Stocks and Jerry Grant of The Shaker Museum│Mount Lebanon illustrate Shaker history, tradition, and the furniture-making techniques that ensured lasting value and beauty.

Shaker: Function, Purity, Perfection is also available for pre-order through the museum’s online store for $50 and ships February-March 2015.

Jack Plane

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Picture This XLIII

Here’s another delightful little oddity from Bonhams’ upcoming Oxford sale on the 18th of February, 2015. The provincial fruitwood lowboy (lot 781) is a far cry from its sophisticated cosmopolitan cousins, but has undeniable charm natheless.

mid_18C_fruitwood_lowboy_01a_BonhamsGeorge III fruitwood lowboy, mid eighteenth-century. (Bonhams)

The unusually constructed, rather boxy carcase is supported on cabriole legs at the front and club legs at the rear (an obvious time and money saving ploy).

One of this lowboy’s most beguiling features must surely be the location of the keyhole in the central drawer. In the absence of an en suite combination handle/escutcheon, the lock has been installed well and truly off-centre to allow the keyhole to nestle inconspicuously within the convoluted outline of the handle backplate.

Jack Plane

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Picture This XLII

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my adoration of beautiful and unusual English and Irish furniture. This stylistically and dimensionally archetypal early George III chest is handsomely yet bizarrely veneered in fruitwood and yew.

The chest (lot 874) is up for auction at Bonhams’ in Oxford on the 18th of February, 2015.

Geo_III_fruitwood_&_yew_COD_c1765_01a_BonhamsGeorge III (Irish?) fruitwood and yew chest of drawers, circa 1765. (Bonhams)

Jack Plane

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Ladies Beavers and the Sign of the Female Ass

I have reported on eighteenth-century trade cards before (here and here) and am happy to post these interesting and curious trade cards that are recently come to the fore.

Catherine_West_trade_card_c1733-69_01a_LWLTrade card of hatter, Catherine West, circa 1733-69. (Lewis Walpole Library)

Catherine West
at the Hatt & Seven Starr’s in Monmouth Street the
Corner of Browns Gardens Facing the Seven Dials

Sells all sorts of Womens Apparel Both New & Second Hand Wholesale & Retail at Reasonable Rates viz. Silk Gowns, Scarlet Cloaks, Market Womens Cloaks, all Manner of Stuffs in the Piece, Ruſsells, Stuffs Damasks, Cambletts, Cambletees, Prunell’s, Callamancoe’s, Irish Stuffs, Joans, Spinning & Made in the Genteleſt Manner, Likewiſe Gives Ready Money for Womens Apparel Rich or Plain.
N.B. at the Above Place are Sold Ladies Beavers, Mens Hatts New or Second Hand by ye Maker John West.

William_Brewis_c1804_01a_Bodleian_LibrariesTrade card of William Brewis, circa 1804. (Bodleian Libraries)



RESPECTFULLY begs leave to inform the Inhabitants of Warkworth and its Neighbourhood, that he has made a freſh Commencement in the above Buſineſſes, and hopes by his much amended Conduct and ſteady Attention, that he will merit the Favour of the Public.
   W.B. Shaves and Cuts Hair in the firſt faſhion, makes Perukes to any Pattern, Poles and Bleeds Horſes with the greateſt Dexterity, Lights Lamps by the Year or Quarter, Blacks Shoes at Five Minutes Notice, lets out to hire a Female Aſs by the Day, Week, Month, or Quarter.
   N.B. When a Stage Keeper is wanted, apply to the above.
   ** An Apprentice wanted, with whom a Premium is expected.

Auguſt 1, 1804.

Jack Plane

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Picture This XLI

I recently came across a rather nice mid eighteenth-century mahogany serpentine chest of drawers, the bracket feet of which are supported by horizontally laminated pine blocks.

bracket_foot_Geo_II_mahogany_serpentine_COD_c1755_01a_Corfield_PotashnickHorizontally blocked bracket foot, circa 1755. (Corfield Potashnick)

Although thoughtfully constructed, the underlying flaw in this technique is quite apparent: Horizontally oriented pine does not wear as well as pine end grain.

As a result, rather than supporting the mahogany brackets clear of the floor, the bottom layer of pine has worn to the extent the brackets themselves now exhibit wear and are in a vulnerable state should the chest be shunted or dragged across the floor.

Compare the image above with those in Picture This XXVII and figure 8 in Bracket Foot Construction.

Jack Plane

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I’ve done My Number Two…

… chest of five chests of drawers that I’m making for the up-coming book.

The second chest of drawers is a five-drawer Queen Anne chest from around 1705. The pine carcase is veneered with English walnut and the figured mouldings are of (locally grown) Bastogne walnut. The drawer fronts are bordered with walnut feather banding.

The differences in construction between this chest and the previous, William and Mary chest are subtle, but nonetheless distinct. The constructional details will be explored in depth in the up-coming book – which same should also be of assistance to those interested in dating antique case furniture.

book_QA_chest_itw_01aThe Queen Anne chest in-the-white…

book_QA_chest_polished_01a… and finished.

Jack Plane

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