9220 AN EXTREMELY UNUSUAL GEORGE II SOLID MAHOGANY WRITING TABLE English. Circa 1735. Measurements: Height 30 1/4″ (76.5 cm) Width: 41 3/4″ (106 cm) Depth: 24″ (61 cm)
Of Cuban mahogany. The rectangular top with moulded edge above a frieze set to the front with paired drawers, one of dummy form, to each side the frieze set with single drawers, one of dummy form, each with gilt escutcheons, to the rear half the frieze raised on a pedestal, set to either end with three tiered drawers, each with gilt escutcheon and ring handle, above shaped block feet, to the front half the frieze raised on two legs, each leg terminating in a pad foot.
The only known precedent that exists for the design of this extraordinary desk is a rosewood and brass-inlaid example in the Residenz Ansbach, Munich, circa 1730/40 (figure 1). There is an ever-increasing certainty of the cross-fertilization of ideas in furniture design between England and Germany in the first quarter of the 18th century, as the accession of George I in 1714 increased the transmission of artistic ideas between London and Hanover.
German interest in and knowledge of English cabinet-making was also encouraged by the thriving export trade of English furniture to Germany, particularly through ports such as Hamburg and Danzig.1 Yet this was matched by the converse influence of contemporary German taste on English cabinet-makers. It has long been suspected that John Channon collaborated with Abraham Roentgen, and recent research has also revealed a number of other German craftsmen, such as Michael Rummer, Georg Michael Moser and Frederick Hintz to have been working in London in the mid-eighteenth century.2 It seems likely that the maker of this beautifully-crafted piece was aware of Continental design.
The sober restraint and use of extremely high-quality mahogany is analogous to a short era in the George I and II periods when such understatement enjoyed a vogue. It has been suggested by the eminent scholar and dealer, Christopher Gibbs, that such costly furniture may have been produced for high-ranking clergymen. This class of individuals often hailed from the aristocracy who would not openly display their positions and wealth. Nevertheless, the furnishing of residences in the very refined taste could not fail to impress sophisticated eyes. It is also possible that such refined forms were the product of the influence of solid hardwood Chinese furniture from the Ming period.
1. H. Hayward and S.Medlam, in C. Gilbert & T. Murdoch (eds.), John Channon and Brass Inlaid Furniture, 1993, p29.
2. C. Gilbert & T. Murdoch, Furniture History Society Journal, 1994, pp 69-70.