Glorious Time Warp

Those who have an affinity for Georgian furniture are usually keenly passionate about it (the long established auction houses have been profiting from that passion for centuries – Christie’s since 1762, Bonhams since 1793, Phillips since 1796 and Sotheby’s since 1804), while the detractors glumly label it all ‘brown furniture’.

Of course I acknowledge not all Georgian furniture is worth going into hock for and I am prepared to admit there is a ‘brown furniture’ element within the genre, but when a piece of Georgian furniture shines, it does it so gloriously.

While I have restored some very fine Georgian furniture in, and for, some of the greatest houses in England and I’ve sold some exceedingly fine pieces myself, my penchant is largely for the type of furniture made for England’s eighteenth-century middling sorts: The honest, oft restrained, sometimes workman-like and occasionally quirky pieces that graced the rooms of gentlemen’s town houses and squires’ manors.

This variety of furniture has a comforting beauty about it; a backbone-of-England resoluteness that glows from deep within its well worn patina. It may be immaculate, it’s more likely to have a myriad of flaws and blemishes, but it oozes charisma.

Today I learned for the first time of an American, David Wilson, an antiques restorer, consultant to Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and a collector of English furniture, who succumbed to cancer earlier this year. The Tennessee antiques dealer, Millicent Ford Creech has been asked to sell part of Wilson’s furniture collection.

There are some very good looking pieces in the collection, but the one piece that really spoke to me, and prompted this post, is a circa 1750 George II mahogany tilt-top tripod table. It’s of a fairly standard form with a circular top, a vasiform column and three spreading legs – the sort you’d expect to see at least one example of in every good English provincial antiques shop.

What sets this table apart is its otherwise unremarkable dished top; made from a cut of mahogany that most cabinetmakers would not dream of making an unrestrained tabletop from. But one eighteenth-century cabinetmaker did. The piece of mahogany is fabulously figured – the sort that one sees in eighteenth-century veneers. Perhaps this piece of wood is what was left over after the veneer sawyers took what they considered the best from.

The rest of the table is relatively sophisticated, so the maker was not a novice or some estate carpenter throwing a table together for his mistress from what he could lay his hands on. He must have known the highly contorted mahogany wouldn’t be stable, but he obviously saw a beauty in it that overrode logic. The passage of time has further embellished the tabletop with the usual scars of usage and immense character.

The George II mahogany tripod table. (M. Ford Creech)

The tabletop, predictably, has well and truly warped which many would see as reason to replace it, but the banjo catch appears to operate unmodified. The table’s not what one would call impeccable, however, it functions perfectly and is simply beautiful.

Not the usual edge decoration one would expect. (M. Ford Creech)

What’s a tripod table for, if not for supporting a glass of wine? (M. Ford Creech)

M. Ford Creech Antiques has a good inventory of interesting English Georgian antiques.

About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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4 Responses to Glorious Time Warp

  1. millcrek says:

    Jack, A very interesting choice. It would have also been mine, most people would see that table as needing repair. I am always drawn to the pieces with evidence of the makers thoughts.


    • Rachel Hansen says:

      Yes, a repair? David was notorious in saying “if it ‘aint broken, don’t fix it”.
      -Rachel Hansen, former assistant to Mr. Wilson


  2. Sid Rickets says:

    This wonderful blog was my introduction to 18th century furniture and has sent me off on many journeys down the rabbit hole following links or just following up on interesting ideas and bits of information. This post is another example of a quick read that has lead to another hour or two of my life being lost to the 18th century. Bliss!
    I’ve started looking at my machines with disdain; I now have my eye on a nice, half-set of hollows and rounds.
    Having worked my way forward all the way from the beginning, I’m not at all looking forward to getting up to date because then I’ll be forced to get my dose of Jack Plane according to whatever schedule you see fit to deliver it. Unacceptable. I may have to go back and start again.


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