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Library bookcase

possibly Wright & Elwick (c. 1747 - 1824)

Category

Fixtures and fittings

Date

circa 1767

Materials

Pine, veneered with burr elm and birds eye maple with some mahogany details

Place of origin

Wakefield

Collection

Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire (Accredited Museum)

NT 960961.4.2

Summary

The second of five bays to the fitted library bookcase to the South Wall of the Library at Nostell Priory. This the bay to the left-hand of the central bay, and capped by a pediment. Part of the set of library bookcases lining the room's four walls. English, installed before August 1767, but not documented in surviving accounts. Possibly by Wright & Elwick (fl. 1747 - 1824) of Wakefield. In situ when Sir Rowland and Lady Winn were depicted in the Library in 1767 in a painting by Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1740 - 1808). Originally painted white, light green and pink. Re-painted and grained in imitation of bird's eye maple by Thomas Ward (d. 1848) of 68 Frith Street, Westminster who gave the hall chairs [NT 959702.1 - .8] at Nostell similar treatment. -- Beneath the bookcase's pediment and with open upper section fitted with five adjustable shelves between pilasters with Ionic capitals. A pair of cupboard doors enclosing drawers with gilt brass pierced Rococo backplates and cast handles below. Some of the drawers fitted with oak covers fitted with locks and with a keyhole lined with a brass thread escutcheon cast with decoration and topped by a small roundel or circular tab fixed by a pin. The drawer fronts themselves without keyholes. Similar escutcheons are fitted to the double-sided clerk's desk at Nostell [NT 959801].

Full description

Attributed to Wright & Elwick of Wakefield on the basis of the unusual drawers in the cupboards which form the lower register of this set of bookcases, which have tops, fitted with locks and notched thread escutcheons around the keyholes. These may be the ‘sliding boxes’ referred to in Wright & Elwick papers relating to other commissions. London-trained cabinetmakers from Wakefield, Yorkshire, the partnership of Richard Wright and Edward Elwick lasted from 1747 to 1771. Both subscribed to the first edition of Chippendale’s Director of 1754 and enjoyed patronage from a large number of country houses in Yorkshire and throughout the rest of England. Chippendale disparagingly alluded to 'the Ingenious Mr Elwick' in a letter to Sir Rowland Winn on 26th August 1767, which suggests that Elwick had some involvement at Nostell. Twelve mahogany dining chairs at Nostell [NT 959745] are also in the manner of Wright & Elwick, as is a chest-on-chest [NT 959320]. The Winns patronage of both Wright & Elwick of nearby Wakefield and Thomas Chippendale (born and brought up in Yorkshire) shows their commitment to using local firms or firms with strong local connections. The double portrait of Sir Rowland and his wife, Lady Sabine [NT 960061] shows them standing in front of the library table by Thomas Chippendale [NT 959723] in the library lined with these bookcases, possibly by Wright & Elwick. Painted to hang in their London house, the picture was, amongst other things, a very good advertisement for the work of Yorkshire cabinet-makers. Information here courtesy of Andrew Cox-Whittaker, who is currently researching Wright & Elwick’s involvement at Nostell Priory as part of a wider study of the firm. (Megan Wheeler, 2018)

Provenance

Installed circa 1767. Transferred to the National Trust with Nostell Priory in lieu of tax in 1953 through the generosity of the 4th Baron St Oswald and the Trustees of the Nostell Estate.

Makers and roles

possibly Wright & Elwick (c. 1747 - 1824), cabinet-maker

References

Gilbert, 1990: Christopher Gilbert. “New light on the furnishing of Nostell Priory.” Furniture History 26 (1990): 53 - 66, p. 54 Gilbert (1976), C. Gilbert, 'Wright and Elwick of Wakefield, 1748 - 1824: A Study of Provincial Patronage', in Furniture History, Vol. 12 (1976), 34 - 50, pp. 35 - 36

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