English. Circa 1820.


Height: 45 1/2" (115.6 cm); Width: 22" (55.9 cm); Depth: 14" (35.6 cm).

Of polychrome penwork decorated wood. The canted rectangular top above a pair of doors, each decorated with an ebonized ground with polychrome chinoiserie scenes of figures in gardens, above a canted base, the sides decorated with floral penwork decoration. The interior with six variously sized drawers decorated with further penwork chinoiserie garden scenes, the inner doors decorated with ebonized ground and polychrome chinoiserie scenes of figures in gardens. Decorated overall with foliate scrolling penwork borders and frieze. The stand with inset frieze on square tapering legs terminating in  turned cylindrical feet.

Some original written labels to the inside of the drawers including Cypraa, Helix, and Bulla

Private Canadian Collection

The present cabinet belongs to a small group of similarly exquisitely decorated pieces, that can be attributed to the same maker. One of these pieces is illustrated in Marked London Furniture 1700-18401 and described as “a magnificent cabinet on stand with polychrome penwork decoration in the Chinese taste. It is inscribed in pencil ‘Made by George Wimpear in the employ of Mr Loudon, December 16th 1821’ (figure 1). It is not known whether Mr. Loudon was a master and George Wimpear a journeyman, or whether the former was a patron. The interior of the signed piece is decorated with scenes around Clifton, Bristol, and may have been executed there.

A much larger cabinet, formerly in the collection of Maurice ‘Dick’ Turpin sold by Christie’s (9 March 2006, Lot 300) employs the same decorative schemes and even replicates one of the vignettes from the inside right hand door of the present cabinet (figure 2). A further, small table cabinet in penwork, with a related canted top and decoration was sold in the American art trade in 2014 (figure 3). The table cabinet includes a vignette also found on the Turpin cabinet, further supporting the attribution of this group to the same hand.

Like the present example, the vignettes of the aforementioned cabinets are framed in ‘India’ flowers. The decoration is executed in penwork, a technique by which a varnished lacquered surface is painted with decoration added in ‘India ink,’ a true black ink made from lamp-black (soot), drawn with a quill and fine brushes. An important source for penwork design was Rudolf Ackermann’s The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics, published in London between 1809 and 1828. Ackermann had opened a combination print shop, drawing school, and art supply store in London in 1795,”2 which encouraged the fashion for related decorative penwork, or ‘Painting on Wood and Fancy Work,’ as he described it. Contemporary textiles printed with hand blocks or the newly invented copper rollers also helped to popularize this style of Asian floral borders.3

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.