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E.W.Godwin sideboard

Edward William Godwin (Bristol 1833 - Westminster 1886)

Category

Furniture

Date

circa 1867 - circa 1888

Materials

Ebonised mahogany, silver-plated brass

Measurements

64 x 166 x 51 cm

Place of origin

England

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Collection

Wightwick Manor, West Midlands (Accredited Museum)

NT 1288370

Summary

An ebonised mahogany sideboard, London, designed by Edward William Godwin, circa 1867, in the Anglo-Japanese style, manufactured by William Watt & Co, circa 1868-1888, the rectangular top flanked on either end with a hinged flap supported on two swiveling braces when raised, the front with two panelled cupboard doors separated by a long frieze drawer above two small drawers with open space between them, the drawers and cupboards with silver-plated circular backplates with pierced keyhole motifs and ring handles, the cupboards doors each with three long silver-plated hinges on the outer edge, each cupboard section on four square-section legs and above a square low shelf supported on two open angles to each side, a rectangular shelf at a raised level supported between the four inner legs. This sideboard would originally have had an upper superstructure as is found on the majority of the other known Godwin sideboards. The whereabouts of the upper section associated with the Wightwick sideboard is unknown. The Godwin sideboard was the property of Lady Mander’s mother, Mrs Hilda Grylls (née Viner), and came to Wightwick from Maidenhead following Mrs Grylls’ death in 1971. The superstructure has been cut away and the sawn ends are visible; this had been done before it came to Wightwick.

Full description

An ebonised mahogany sideboard, London, designed by Edward William Godwin, circa 1867, in the Anglo-Japanese style, manufactured by William Watt & Co, circa 1868-1888, the rectangular top flanked on either end with a hinged flap supported on two swiveling braces when raised, the front with two panelled cupboard doors separated by a long frieze drawer above two small drawers with open space between them, the drawers and cupboards with silver-plated circular backplates with pierced keyhole motifs and ring handles, the cupboards doors each with three long silver-plated hinges on the outer edge, each cupboard section on four square-section legs and above a square low shelf supported on two open angles to each side, a rectangular shelf at a raised level supported between the four inner legs. This sideboard would originally have had an upper superstructure as is found on the majority of the other known Godwin sideboards. The whereabouts of the upper section associated with the Wightwick sideboard is unknown. E.W.Godwin was born in Bristol, 1833, and practised as an architect but was also one of the most original furniture designers of the 19th century. The crux of his design was functional simplicity hence the clear inspiration he took from Japanese furniture after attending the 1862 International Exhibition. The original sideboard was designed by Godwin for his own use, he wrote in an article in Architect, Vol.XVI, 1 July, 1876, pp. 4-5, 'When it came to the furniture I found that hardly anything could be bought ready made that was at all suitable to the requirements of the case [his new quarters in London]. I therefore set to work and designed a lot of furniture, and with a desire for economy, directed it to be made of deal, and to be ebonised. There were no mouldings, no ornamental metal work, no carving...Al the furniture for the dining-room I designed specially, but I found deal to be a mistake, and had very soon to get rid of it, and have a new lot made of mahogany, also ebonised..' This first ebonised mahogany version is thought to be the sideboard in the collection of the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. The sideboard has been described by Anne Watson in 'Not Just a Sideboard: E.W.Godwin's Celebrated Design of 1867', Studies in the Decorative Arts (Spring-Summer 1997), pp. 63-84, as 'a turning point in the evolution of design...it rejected contemporary Victorian elaboration and anticipated the more practical concerns of the future.' His work attracted much interest abroad where he was considered by some as a pioneer of modern design. There are ten known examples of Godwin's sideboards (one now destroyed). The examples of complete sideboards are to be found in the collections of the Bristol Museum and Art gallery; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; The Wolfsonian, Miami Beach; and private collections in North America and Germany. The other known lower half is in a London private collection. Japanese interior design and art was an important inspiration for the Aesthetic Movement, led by Oscar Wilde. Wightwick is a house of the Aesthetic Movement and was inspired by the lecture Wilde gave in Wolverhampton in the 1880s. The collection and interior reflect these global influences.

Provenance

In 1937 Sir Geoffrey Mander and his wife Rosalie gifted Wightwick Manor, its contents and gardens to the National Trust. Sir Geoffrey and his family continued to occupy and manage Wightwick adding to the collection in collaboration with the National Trust. Sir Geoffrey died in 1962 but Lady Mander continued to live at Wightwick until her death in 1988. The Godwin sideboard was the property of Lady Mander’s mother, Mrs Hilda Grylls (née Viner), and came to Wightwick from Maidenhead following Mrs Grylls’ death in 1971. The superstructure has been cut away and the sawn ends are visible; this had been done before it came to Wightwick. This sideboard was transferred to the National Trust on the death of Lady Mander in 1988.

Makers and roles

Edward William Godwin (Bristol 1833 - Westminster 1886), designer William Watt, manufacturer

References

Not Just a Sideboard: E. W. Godwin's Celebrated Design of 1867, The lower sideboard section at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, is undecorated ebonized mahogany. "My chambers and what I did to them, Chapter I, A.D. 1867", When it came to the furniture I found that hardly anything could be bought ready made that was at all suitable to the requirements of the case [his new quarters in London]. I therefore set to work and designed a lot of furniture, and with a desire for economy, directed it to be made of deal, and to be ebonised. There were no mouldings, no ornamental metal work, no carving. Such effect as I wanted I endeavoured to gain, as in economical building, by the mere grouping of solid and void and by a more or less broken outline...All the furniture for the dining-room I designed specially, but I found deal to be a mistake, and had very soon to get rid of it, and have a new lot made of mahogany, also ebonised and decorated with a few gold lines in the panels. Since then my buffet [the sideboard in question], coffee table and chair with cane back and seat, have been freely made, nor can I see wherein I can, to any great extent, improve them as examples of cheap furniture. Pictorial dictionary of British 19th century funiture design 1977.

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