Enfilade

Storied Reconstructed Furniture Sold at Bonhams

Posted in Art Market by Editor on March 27, 2012

Bonhams, London, New Bond Street
Sale 19957 – Fine English Furniture and Works of Art, 7 March 2012
Lot No: 133*

A satinwood, mahogany, sycamore and marquetry and parcel gilt secretaire cabinet reconstructed from an important cabinet by Seddon, Son & Shackleton of 1793 reputedly for Charles IV of Spain, the panels possibly by William Hamilton R.A.

Estimate of £20,000 – 30,000; sold for £25,000 inclusive of Buyer’s Premium

Inlaid with boxwood and ebonised lines, the upper section with pierced gilt metal fret and white marble pilasters, above a bowed central drawer and door painted with a vase of flowers, flanked by a pair of lozenge panelled doors also painted with floral sprays, each with leaf carved reeded and fluted turned pilasters and each enclosing four pigeonholes and a shelf, flanked by larger bowed panelled doors, one painted with the figure of ‘Night’, the other with probably ‘Day’, surmounted by domed plinths with gilt crown finials; above five frieze drawers, the lower part with inverted breakfront and central secretaire drawer with gilt bronze moulded panelling painted with a cherub flanked by reeded pilasters, enclosing a leather lined writing surface, two short drawers and ten compartments, flanked by a short panelled bowed drawers to each side, on six leaf carved and fluted tapering legs joined by a platform stretcher, on turned feet, the central Wedgwood plaque now missing, stamped several times ‘3258’, the reverse marked, ‘MGM 5 X7760’, ‘A605-495’, ‘UAP’, 131cm wide, 49cm deep, 173cm high (51.5″ wide, 19″ deep, 68″ high).

This secretaire on stand is a remarkable survival. Not only is it made from one of the most spectacular late eighteenth century English cabinets ever produced, but it also belonged to the MGM studios in Hollywood where it was used as a film prop. Although parts of its history remain obscured, the exceptional quality of both the cabinet work and the painted decoration are clear to be seen.

The present secretaire comprises parts of the upper section of a magnificent cabinet believed to have been made by Seddon, Sons and Shackleton (active c.1790-1798), to designs by Sir William Chambers (1723-1796), with painted panels by William Hamilton RA (1751-1801). The cabinet was said to have been commissioned by King Carlos IV of Spain (1788-1808) in 1793.

The cabinet was well-known amongst Edwardian connoisseurs and was illustrated and described in early twentieth-century books on English eighteenth-century furniture. It was exhibited twice, once at the Franco British Exhibition in London in 1908, and secondly in a selling exhibition held in the Plaza Hotel in New York in 1910.

At some point during the twentieth century, the cabinet was broken up and made into separate pieces of furniture. A commode made from parts of the centre of the cabinet was sold twice at auction, first at Christie’s in London, 19th November 1987, lot 125 and secondly at Sotheby’s New York, The Collection of Mr & Mrs Saul P. Steinberg, 26 May 2000, lot 236. The fact that present secretaire was made from parts of the same cabinet was not known until it was recognised by Bonhams, London in 2011.

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