Chippendale – what to look out for
Whilst celebrating the 300th. anniversary of Thomas Chippendale’s birth I am reminded that one of the first exhibitions I ever mounted was to celebrate the 200th. anniversary of his death. Since then we have increased the knowledge available about Chippendale many times over particularly with the acquisition for the nation of the Dumfries House collection. There are a number of significant factors one has to look out for when attributing a piece of furniture to his workshops. It is not enough to just say that a similar example is illustrated in his famous design book, The Gentleman and Cabinet Makers Director, as this was widely subscribed to by Cabinetmakers and patrons alike who would have produced or had made closely related pieces. Often it is the hidden secrets which are the giveaway.
As an example and seen on several pieces documented to be by Chippendale is the block work on the back foot of this gentleman’s press along with the red wash used on the underside of the bottom boards also shown above.
Another sign is the s-shaped keyhole we see on so many of the pieces by Chippendale and again shown on this press.
Although he undoubtedly produced some of the finest 18th. century furniture we need to acknowledge that he also produced a large amount of quite ordinary items for the many grand houses of that time. Everything from Butler’s Trays to bedside pot cupboards emanated from his St. Martin’s Lane workshops in London and indeed he even undertook restoration work for some of his clients’ goods. Whilst I cannot prove to the exacting standards required by today’s museums that this piece was made by the master himself or in his workshops, all the available evidence points to this provenance