George III Sabicu & Marquetry Table attributed to Chippendale Junior
The oval top with two drop flaps, with tulipwood and sycamore banding, inlaid with entwined foliage and ribbons, above the curved frieze, strung with fine boxwood and ebonised lines, and inlaid with ribbon-tied swags of husks, the whole raised on four tapering reeded legs with fluted blocks capitals and carved paterae above.
Finely conceived in the fashionable neoclassical taste, this table without doubt was made by a top London cabinetmaker, such as Thomas Chippendale junior. The shape of its fluted blocks headed reeded legs relates to stylistic features emblematic of the Chippendale’s workshop, used on seat furniture made for Brocket Hall, Nostell Priory, Harewood House, Paxton House, Stourhead and etc. The use of exotic veneers and the finest quality of marquetry is also characteristic of the oeuvre of Thomas Chippendale junior; in this particular case, quite unusually, a dramatically figured West Indies variety, colloquially known in period as sabicu wood, or ‘horseflesh mahogany’, or tamarind (see plate number 28 from “A Specimen Wood Workbox of 1808 by Gillows” by Adam Bowett), used on a large scale to a rich yet understated visual effect. This timber is infamously hard to work, because of its messy grain, running in all directions, but the figuring is highly decorative. A look underneath this table further reinforces the attribution, because of its fine and thoughtful construction and the use of neatly finished, finest quality solid mahogany as secondary timber, including and lopers which support the drop-flaps. The underframe, notably, is treated with the dark red clay wash to the outside to tone down the oak side rails, showing when the flaps are open - a feature typical of the Chippendale firm; traces of the same red clay wash are still present on the inside of the underframe. This wash is apparently the same or similar to the one used on sofa tables supplied by Chippendale to Stourhead (NT 731546.1 and NT 731546.2); the neat construction of the underframe also relates to furniture from Stourhead. Those same sofa tables at Stourhead, have an unusual constructional feature, which gives away a thoughtful and highly skilled maker: the tops, of cleated construction, have longitudinal cuts to underside to prevent shrinkage and warping. Solid mahogany is also used in the underframe construction of these tables. Notably, on the present table the top and flaps have veneers lined on solid mahogany to minimise shrinkage and cracks, too, but the flaps also have diagonal cleats, of the same mahogany, to prevent warping. Such attention to detail leaves no doubt that this table was produced by highly skilled craftsmen and, more importantly, designed with a certain degree of calculation involved, and a clear understanding of the behaviour of timbers and the life of a piece of furniture after delivery to a client. The presence of batten-carrying holes is also indicative of Thomas Chippendale’s workshop.
Closely related distinctive marquetry of ribbon-tied pendant swags of husks, linked by berries, is used on friezes of a pair of side tables, almost certainly by Thomas Chippendale junior, illustrated in Ronald Phillips, The Legacy of Thomas Chippendale, 2018, pp. 78-81, and also on card tables supplied by Chippendale to Newby Hall, Yorkshire. The identical pattern of the bellflowers and their engraving suggest that they might have been made by the same hand.
H. Franklin, Esq., illustrated, P. McQuoid, A History of English Furniture,
The Age Of Satinwood, London, 1904, p. 93, fig. 85;
Sotheby’s, London, June 19, 1981, lot 96;
Christie’s, London, November, 17, 1994, Lot 91;
A pair of games tables with identical marquetry and legs, almost certainly
part of the same suite, was sold, Sotheby’s, New York, October 21, 2005,
lot 289 ($90,000).
A Specimen Wood Workbox of 1808 by Gillows, Lancaster; Adam Bowett,
Regional Furniture Society, pp 71-96, September 2017
Ronald Phillips, The Legacy of Thomas Chippendale, 2018, pp. 78-81
The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale Junior, Judith Goodison, 2017
A History of English Furniture, The Age Of Satinwood, London, 1904, P.
McQuoid, p. 93, fig. 85;
The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, Christopher Gilbert, 1978
Edward A. Maser, Classical Ornament of the Eighteenth Century Designed
and Engraved by Michelangelo Pergolesi, 1970, plates 33, 48 and 58.