The Nostell Priory Metamorphic Library Steps - 1767
workshop of Thomas Chippendale (fl. 1766 - 1771 when operating without a business partner)
4 Jul 1767 (invoiced)
Mahogany, brass, horsehair
188 x 125 x 58.5 cm
Place of origin
St. Martin's LaneOrder this image
Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire (Accredited Museum)
On show at
A set of mahogany and upholstered metamorphic library steps, London, 1767, made by Thomas Chippendale (fl. 1766 - 1771 when working without a business partner) for the library at Nostell Priory, originally covered in black leather. As a stool with padded seat upholstered in later horsehair, above a frame with proud corners and fluted frieze. The projecting corners with cut-corner 'panels' and with foliate guilloche-carved bottom rail. The four feet square-section and with moulded collar. The seat hinged at one end and enclosing a folding set of steps of five treads, the uppermost with a shaped gallery to one edge. The steps fixed by means of sliding locks.
Referred to in accounts of 4th July 1767 as 'To a large Mahogany Library stool with the seat to rise as a step ladder the seat stuff'd and Cover'd with black leather £14 0s 0d.' Referred to in an undated list of items all invoiced between 30th June 1767 and 15th September 1768, so probably of items completed and/or delivered, as 'a Mahogany library stool'. One of many pieces of Chippendale furniture which survive in their original position in the library at Nostell, an interior of which Sir Rowland was hugely proud and which he commemorated in a painting - originally intended to hang at 11 St. James's Square - commissioned in the same year that the desk was delivered. Painted by Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1739 - 1808), the picture shows an idealised version of the Library, its width doubled to create a well-proportioned composition. However, he accurately recorded its fittings and original decoration, as well as the famous Chippendale desk [NT 959723]. This set of steps is said to be in Chippendale's 'early Neo-Classical vein'. A similarly ingenious, but more ornate and marquetry-inlaid, set was also supplied by Chippendale to Harewood House circa 1771. (Entry adapted by Megan Wheeler, February 2018)
Purchased by Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet, and referred to in accounts on 4th July 1767. Thence by descent until accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of death duties on the estate of Rowland Winn, 4th Baron Oswald (1916 - 1984), 1986.
Makers and roles
workshop of Thomas Chippendale (fl. 1766 - 1771 when operating without a business partner), cabinet maker
Boynton and Goodison, 1968: Lindsay Boynton, and Nicholas Goodison. “Thomas Chippendale at Nostell Priory.” Furniture History 4 (1968): pp.10-61., pp. 44 & 90 Boynton and Goodison, 1969: Lindsay Boynton and Nicholas Goodison. “The furniture of Thomas Chippendale at Nostell Priory.” Burlington Magazine III June 1969: pp.350-60., p. 352 Gilbert (1978): Christopher Gilbert, The Life & Work of Thomas Chippendale (1978), 2 volumes., Vol. I, pp. 170 & 185 and Vol. II, Figure 262 Boynton and Goodison, 1969: Lindsay Boynton and Nicholas Goodison, 'The furniture of Thomas Chippendale at Nostell Priory', Burlington Magazine III, May 1969: pp. 281-5., Figure 26