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The Uppark Pagoda Cabinet

Category

Furniture

Date

circa 1755

Materials

Oak and pine carcass, carved softwood, gold and black japanned decorations and panels, mounted with hard stone (pietre dure) panels and ivory medallions

Measurements

160 x 66 x 48 cm

Place of origin

England

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Collection

Uppark House and Garden, West Sussex (Accredited Museum)

NT 137638

Summary

A Chinese style 'pagoda' cabinet, English, circa 1755-1760, oak and carved softwood, decorated in black and gold, mounted with japanned panels imitating Chinese export lacquer, ivory medallions and seventeenth century Florentine pietre dure plaques. The rectangular cabinet centred by a shrine with steps leading up to a mirror-backed niche surmounted by a triple pagoda roof hung with carved bells and lacquered in red to the inside, flanked to each side by an open-fretwork balustrade and a single pagoda roof above a niche with fretted backs and sides. The cabinet opens to each side with five drawers above a fall front revealing three small drawers and a drawer below, the central niche above a fall front with three small drawers behind and a single drawer below. The lower drawers contain a few labels and traces of glue suggesting that they might have been used to store specimen, fossils and shells, above a frieze of open-fret hung with bells on canted straight legs. No record has been found regarding the author of this cabinet but it is thought to have been commissioned by Matthew Fetherstonhaugh (1714-1774) after his return from his Grand Tour in 1751. He would have brought back from Italy the ivory medallions carved in high relief with the busts of Homer and Brutus and the Florentine pietre dure panels depicting birds amidst flowers knotted with ribbon ties. One of the most important entries for 'a cabinet' in Sir Matthew's account book is dated March 27th 1754 for a payment of "£43.5.6" to 'Mr Hallett' which refers to William Hallett (1707-1781). However, no comparable work by Hallett is known and the designs are closer to Chippendale or Ince and Mayhew. The open-fretwork carving, balustrade, frieze and legs relate to 'Chinese' designs published in 1754 by Thomas Chippendale in “The Gentleman and Cabinet maker’s Director”. The cabinet is also comparable to designs engraved in William Ince and John Mayhew’s volume “The Universal System of Household Furniture” (1762). A few pieces at Uppark are of this distinctive English 'Chinese' style, notably a very fine giltwood pier-glass (NT 137663) and a mahogany breakfast table (NT 137640). This type of designs were particularly in fashion in the mid-eighteenth century when Matthew Fetherstonhaugh undertook major alterations to the interiors at Uppark. Furthermore, following the fire in 1989, fragments of Chinese wallpaper dated circa 1750 were found on the walls of the Little Parlour, where the present 'pagoda' cabinet stands.

Provenance

Most probably commissioned by Matthew Fetherstonhaugh (1714-1774) circa 1755; by descent; given to the National Trust in 1954 with the house and some of its contents by Admiral the Hon. Sir Herbert Meade-Fetherstonhaugh.

References

Coleridge, 1967: Anthony Coleridge. “Georgian cabinet-makers at Uppark, Sussex.” Connoisseur 166 November 1967: pp.157-63. Uppark, West Sussex, 1995 [The National Trust] 1995 Jervis and Dodd 2015 Simon Swynfen Jervis and Dudley Dodd, Roman Splendour, English Arcadia: the English taste for pietre dure and the Sixtus Cabinet at Stourhead, 2015 Coleridge, 1968: Anthony Coleridge, Chippendale furniture: the work of Thomas Chippendale and his Contemporaries in the Rococo Taste. London: Faber, 1968., Plate A, Figure 273

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