A fine and rare Regency polychrome-japanned Chinoiserie papier-mâché and tôle side cabinet, probably Pontypool, the design attributed to Frederick Crace, circa 1810. Estimate 15,000 — 25,000 USD. Photo Sotheby’s.
The rectangular top with rounded corners above a pair of cupboard doors opening to a shelved interior and raised on bun feet; decorated overall with Chinoiserie figures in pavilioned landscapes, the top decorated with circus figures and figures in a boat on a lake, all within scrolling borders. height 36 1/2 in.; width 36 1/2 in.; depth 18 1/4 in., 92.7 cm; 92.7 cm; 46.4 cm
PROVENANCE: Partridge (Fine Arts) Ltd., London
Notes: Similarly decorated Japanned tôle goods were produced in the Pontypool factory owned by the Allgood family from the mid-18th century until circa 1820. However, examples of furniture incorporating panels of Pontypool tôle are extremely rare, as the factory mainly produced small decorative objects such as urns and trays.
The present cabinet also has affinities with the work of John and Frederick Crace, whose commissions included work for the Prince Regent at Brighton Pavilion between 1800 and 1804, where they designed interiors in the Chinese style. Their accounts for this period show that from the start the Craces were involved in much more than merely the applied decoration at Brighton. Not only did they amuse the Prince with a variety of Chinese curiosities, including costumes, ivory junks, and even ‘seven pounds of Chinese tobacco’, but large quantities of furniture were supplied by them too. Most of it seems to have been either Chinese – especially bamboo furniture – or English in the Chinese manner. In 1802 ‘One very Fine Japan India Cabinet…£14’ was invoiced, the following year five more, one costing £15, and in 1804 a charge was made for japanning a stand for a cabinet in black and gilt (see Megan Aldrich (Ed.), The Craces Royal Decorators, 1768-1899, 1989, pp. 21-26.)
A nearly identical cabinet from the collection of the Duke of Devonshire, sold at Sotheby’s, London, ‘Chatsworth: The Attic Sale’, October 5-7, 2010, lot 370. (£127,250) This cabinet is nearly identical in form and incorporates papier-mâché and tôle panels. The original location of the Devonshire cabinet is unknown but towards the end of the 19th Century it was photographed in The State Closet at Chatsworth. It is unlike anything else in the Devonshire collection. For this reason it is perhaps reasonable to speculate whether it might have been a gift to, or a singular purchase by the 5th Duke. He was a close of friend of the Prince Regent and would have known of the Prince’s commissions for the Pavilion at Brighton. The 6th Duke also knew the Prince, later George IV, well and stayed at the Pavilion on a number of occasions as well as having his own house in Brighton.
A red papier mâché tôle and japanned center table, the top of which is very similar to this cabinet (sold Sotheby`s London, 28th April, 2010, lot 624) was formerly in the collection of the late Francis Egerton and Peter Maitland.
Sotheby’s. Important English and European Decorative Arts, New York | 22 oct. 2014, 10:00 AM