A fine pair of Empire ormolu-mounted Japanese black and gold lacquer pewter-inlaid ebony Side Cabine
Lot 291
A fine pair of Empire ormolu-mounted Japanese black and gold lacquer pewter-inlaid ebony Side Cabinets
Sold for £431,200 (US$ 525,531) inc. premium

Lot Details
A fine pair of Empire ormolu-mounted Japanese black and gold lacquer pewter-inlaid ebony Side Cabine A fine pair of Empire ormolu-mounted Japanese black and gold lacquer pewter-inlaid ebony Side Cabine A fine pair of Empire ormolu-mounted Japanese black and gold lacquer pewter-inlaid ebony Side Cabine A fine pair of Empire ormolu-mounted Japanese black and gold lacquer pewter-inlaid ebony Side Cabine A fine pair of Empire ormolu-mounted Japanese black and gold lacquer pewter-inlaid ebony Side Cabine A fine pair of Empire ormolu-mounted Japanese black and gold lacquer pewter-inlaid ebony Side Cabine A fine pair of Empire ormolu-mounted Japanese black and gold lacquer pewter-inlaid ebony Side Cabine A fine pair of Empire ormolu-mounted Japanese black and gold lacquer pewter-inlaid ebony Side Cabine A fine pair of Empire ormolu-mounted Japanese black and gold lacquer pewter-inlaid ebony Side Cabine
A fine pair of Empire ormolu-mounted Japanese black and gold lacquer pewter-inlaid ebony Side Cabinets
attributed to François-Honoré-Georges Jacob and Georges Jacob, differences to the side pilaster mounts
the lacquer late 17th century, each with a rectangular portor marble top above a panelled frieze concealing a drawer, opened from inside by a steel catch, above a panelled door decorated with pheasants and finches amongst flora and fauna within foliate cast borders enclosing two shelves, flanked by stylised palmette, anthemion and paterae pilasters, on plinth bases, each 76cm wide, 48cm deep, 99cm high.(2)


  • Provenance

    Probably acquired by Sir John Gladstone, 1st Baronet of Fasque, (1764-1851), for his Liverpool home, Seaforth House, Litherland, circa 1814, then circa 1830 to Fasque, Kincardineshire, Scotland;
    Sir Thomas Gladstone, 2nd Baronet (1804-1889);
    Sir John Robert Gladstone, 3rd Baronet (1852-1875);
    Sir John Evelyn Gladstone, 4th Baronet ((1855-1945), nephew of Sir Thomas Gladstone and first cousin of Sir John Robert Gladstone;
    Sir Albert Charles Gladstone, 5th Baronet (1886-1967), great grandson of Sir Thomas Gladstone and grandson of WE Gladstone;
    Sir Charles Andrew Gladstone, 6th Baronet (1891- 1965);
    Sir (Erskine) William Gladstone, 7th Baronet (1925-) great grandson of WE Gladstone;
    Thence by family descent to the present owner.


    1841 Fasque inventory, p.9, in the Bow Drawing Room, ‘2 Chinese Cabinets’ valued at £8.8.0


    S.G.Checkland, The Gladstones: A family biography 1764-1851, Cambridge, 1971
    Marcus Binney, ‘Fasque, Kincardineshire – I & II’, Country Life, 9 & 16 August, 1979, pp. 386-388 & 462-465.
    J.P. Neale, Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, Vol II, London 1819.
    A.Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813-1912, London, 1915
    Edward Twycross, The Mansions of England and Wales, Vol III, London, 1847, pp.34-35

    Sir John Gladstone, 1st Baronet of Fasque (1764-1851)

    John Gladstones was born in Leith, Midlothian and was the son of Thomas Gladstones, a Leith corn merchant who had moved there from Lanarkshire. John worked for his father's business, before moving to Liverpool in 1787, where he joined the grain merchants Corrie & Company, becoming a partner in Corrie, Gladstone & Bradshaw. Once he had established himself in Liverpool Gladstones dropped the's' from his name, but not officially by royal letters patent until 1835.

    In 1801, after sixteen years Corrie, Gladstone & Bradshaw was dissolved and was continued by John Gladstone and six of his brothers, trading under the name of John Gladstone & Company. He made a large fortune trading corn with the US, cotton with Brazil, acquired sugar plantations in Jamaica and Demerara, and was Chairman of the West India Association from 1809. In 1814, when the British East India Company lost their monopoly, Gladstone & Company sent the first private ship to Calcutta.

    John Gladstone was a Member of Parliament for Lancaster 1818-1820, Woodstock 1820-1826 and Berwick-upon-Tweed 1826-1827. In 1815 he built St Andrew's Episcopal Church in Renshaw Street, Liverpool and St Thomas' at Seaforth; he was also a founder of Liverpool Collegiate Institution. He was the first of four generations of Gladstones in the Commons.

    Sir John married his first wife, Jane Hall in 1792, who died in 1798; he then married Anne MacKenzie Robertson in 1800 and had six children:Anne MacKenzie Gladstone (1802-1829); Sir Thomas Gladstone, 2nd Baronet (1804-1889), Conservative M.P for Queensborough 1830, for Portarlington 1832-5 and Leicester 1835-7; Robertson Gladstone (1805-1875);John Neilson Gladstone (1807-1863), M.P for Devizes in 1852 and 1859;William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898,)Prime Minister of Great Britain 1868-74,1880-85, 1886 and 1892-94) and Helen Jane Gladstone (1814-1880).

    John Gladstone was created baronet by Sir Robert Peel on 18 July 1846 and died 5 December 1851 at Fasque. By June 1799 Gladstone was worth £40,000; by 1812, £145,000; by 1829, £333,600; by 1828 £502,550 and worth £745,679 in 1848.

    The Right Hon. W.E Gladstone wrote of his father 'No one, except those who have known him with the close intimacy of family connection, could properly appreciate the greatness of that truly remarkable man'.

    Sir John Gladstone as Patron of the Arts

    Although much is known about John Gladstone’s professional career, through his correspondence and the many biographies that have been written about the family, the evidence for his interest in the arts is harder to unravel. Checkland notes in his biography (op.cit, 1971, p.87) that John Gladstone and his family were ‘all lovers of music both as listeners and performers’ and that they played the flute, flageolet, tambourine, harp and piano. He goes on to say that all the children were sketchers and they ‘read and discussed novels and poetry’. Before moving to Seaforth he is recorded as having bought expensive books, drawings and pictures and by 1820 he was acquiring paintings by Salvator Rosa and Jacob Riusdael (see Graves, op. cit, appendix).

    It is likely that at this time he was influenced by a notable figure in Liverpool society, William Roscoe (1753-1831), a reformer, poet, historian, lawyer and Whig MP for Liverpool in 1806. John Gladstone was a known friend of William Roscoe in his earlier liberal political period and both attended the same Unitarian Chapel in Renshaw Street. Roscoe was well known as an art collector. He was a great supporter of the cabinet maker George Bullock and introduced him to a number of his circle, including Thomas Johnes of Hafod, who described him in 1808 as 'Roscoe's protégé'. In 1810 Roscoe was Treasurer of the Liverpool Academy, when Bullock was President. Bullock showed his bust of Roscoe in the 1804 exhibition at the Academy and was commissioned to make a pair of cabinets in ebony and with brass inlay which are now in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Bullock was asked to assist in the décor for Roscoe's celebration banquet in 1806 to commemorate his election.

    Bullock was not the only receiver of Roscoe's patronage G. Allen, in his 'Biographies of Working Men', discusses the life of the sculptor, John Gibson, R.A. (1790-1866), who was actively encouraged by Roscoe and was working for the Liverpool firm of Samuel Franceys. In 1813 Gibson designed and carved a monument to Henry Blundell, which was erected in Sefton Church, Lancashire. Of more note, Allen states "One of the last works he executed while still in Mr Francis's service (c.1816/1817), was a chimney-piece for Sir John Gladstone, father of the future premier. Sir John was so pleased with the execution, that he gave the young workman ten pounds as a present", this is an interesting recorded commission for Seaforth House.

    Although Gladstone did not spend time in Paris, he sent his son Tom there in 1825 where he was attached to Lord Granville’s embassy and it is possible that during this visit the present pair of cabinets were purchased.

    Clearly Gladstone wanted to be seen as a man of taste, decorating his property with fine furniture and paintings to demonstrate his increasing wealth and importance and to ally the Gladstone name to politics for the next generation.

    Seaforth House

    Situated in the township of Litherland and parish of Sefton, … about four miles and a half to the North of Liverpool. This is the seat of Sir John Gladstone, Bart. This mansion, though not very extensive, is commodious in its interior arrangement. The principal front faces the south, and commands a delightful sea view in that and in a western direction.
    Twycross, 1847, p.34.

    Seaforth House was built on 100 acres of Litherland, four miles north-northwest of Liverpool, there are no records or mention of Seaforth prior to this date, when Seaforth was designated a village. The name Seaforth was taken by Gladstone from the title of Lord Seaforth, the head of the MacKenzie family, to which his second wife's mother belonged, he also built two cottages for his wife's sisters on the land. This was the childhood home of Sir John's children including his famous fourth son, William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98, Prime Minister of Great Britain 1868-74,1880-85, 1886 and 1892-94). W.E Gladstone in later years wrote of his time in Liverpool "From my father's windows at Seaforth, I used as a small boy to look southwards along the shore to this town. I well remember that it was crowned by not so much cloud as a silver-grey smoke. Four miles of the most beautiful sand that I ever saw offered to the aspiration of the youthful rider the most delightful method of finding access to Liverpool."

    The Liverpool Post of April 9th 1913 records that "It was well remembered by many- a long, somewhat low building, having a veranda along the front, facing Elm-road". J.P Neale observed in his Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen that, "the house is not large, but is particularly commodious in the disposition of the apartments, with a pleasing exterior"(see illustration).

    None of the contemporary descriptions of Seaforth describe the interiors, however Gladstone’s daughter Anne refers to the house in a letter to her brother Tom, saying that her father was spending so much on altering the house that it should now be called ‘Guttling Hall’ (A.M.G. to T.G., 20 October 1817). The letters mention alterations to the library and picture gallery and the building of a major extension.

    In 1830 after the Gladstones had left for Fasque, Seaforth was let out to the Paulet family, who were often visited by Jane Carlyle, wife of Thomas Carlyle. In the 1860's Robertson Gladstone, Sir John's second son, returned to live at Seaforth, but died there alone in 1875, the house was eventually demolished in 1881.


    In 1829 John Gladstone bought the Fasque Estate in Kincardineshire from Sir Alexander Ramsay of Balmain for £80,000. Gladstone had lost his close attachment to Seaforth following his daughter Anne’s death earlier that year and because of his wife's constant ill health caused by the effects of living close to the windy shores. It was three years before they eventually moved into Fasque during which time Mrs Gladstone stayed near the spas at Leamington and Tunbridge Wells.

    Fasque itself had been rebuilt in 1809 by the Edinburgh architect John Paterson who had transformed it from a simple Georgian house into a Gothic revival crenellated castle (see illustration). It was an enormous property, far bigger than anything he had owned before and close to his childhood home. The main feature of the house was the staircase which had twin cantilevered flights which curved round and then opened up into an oval tribune, surmounted by a dome. On the first floor were the impressive state rooms, the library and the drawing room and downstairs were the study, billiard room and dining room. Unlike at Seaforth, where he had spent time remodelling the library and picture gallery, John Gladstone concentrated on the exterior of Fasque, building a large artificial lake and making a new approach to the house, building stables and redesigning the gardens. As far as the interiors went at Fasque, he confined himself to redecoration. (Checkland, op.cit. p.281).

    The present pair of cabinets appear in an inventory of Fasque dated 1841, indicating that they were in the house before Sir John Gladstone died, and soon after the family had moved from Seaforth. They are located in the Bow Drawing Room, which was a small room on the first floor, situated between the Library and the main Drawing Room.

    Gladstone died in 1851 at Fasque and was buried in the vault of St Andrew's Chapel, which he had founded in 1846 and his eldest son, Thomas, succeeded him. Fasque itself was established as the ancestral home of this influential family, the present day Gladstones still occupy the west wing of the house, while the remaining rooms have been left virtually unchanged since the time of Sir John’s occupation.

    François-Honoré-Georges Jacob and Georges Jacob
    The two cabinets, although unstamped, can reasonably be attributed to François-Honoré-Georges Jacob known as Jacob-Desmalter (1770-1841) as one of the pair is virtually identical to the pair of cabinets sold in the sale of Furniture, Silver and Porcelain from Longleat, Christies, Thursday 13 June 2003, lot 330. The pair from Longleat bears the stamp Jacob D R Meslee, which was used by the firm between 1803 and 1813, when François-Honoré was working in partnership with his father Georges (1739-1814). Georges Jacob had been one of the most important chair makers in late eighteenth-century France, supplying many sets to the garde-meuble for the sophisticated interiors created in the royal palaces for Queen Marie-Antoinette. His son, who took the name of Jacob-Desmalter, is most closely associated with the Empire style between 1803 and 1813 when his firm supplied almost all the furniture for Napoleon’s palaces, for Josephine at Malmaison and for Napoleon’s family and generals in Paris and abroad. Almost all their production of a cabinet work during this period was in mahogany with rich gilt-bronze mounts, occasionally using other rich woods. Napoleon seems to have had no furniture commissioned which used Japanese lacquer or other decorative materials, although one eighteenth-century commode using Japanese lacquer panels was restored by Jacob-Desmalter for the imperial household. (H. Lefeul, F.H.G.Jacob-Desmalter: ébèniste du Napoleon I et Louis LVIII, Paris, 1925)

    In 1813 the firm was apparently in financial straights and indeed went bankrupt in October, as a result of which Jacob-Desmalter was given permission to trade with England, in spite of the war and blockade. Based on its association with the stamped Longleat piece, our cabinets might well date from this early export of furniture to England. The mounts on the Gladstone cabinet are quite delicate and indeed with their direct quotation of the candelabrum motif parallel those on a console table supported by caryatid figures made for the Trianon at Versailles shortly before. (see Pierre Kjeleberg, Les ebenistes du XVIII siècle, Paris, nd., pg. 433.)

    The Lacquer Panels
    The panels, which parallel other examples of seventeenth-century export lacquer, would have originally come from cabinets or chests made for the European market and were supplied in large quantities through the East India Companies. They would seem to date from about 1640-90. (see O. Impey and C. Jorg, Japanese Export Lacquer 1580-1850, Amsterdam, 2006). It is generally assumed that the supplies used by the eighteenth-century marchands-merciers in Paris came from re-using these early cabinets when they were no longer so fashionable (unlike in England, where the number of surviving seventeenth-century cabinets on stands attests to their continued popularity). Thomas Hébert was probably the first to use lacquer panels for a commode furnished to the crown in 1737. He may have acquired some of his old lacquer from the sale of out-of-date furniture held by Louis XV. Lacquer would also seem to have been imported directly from both China and Japan for use on furniture.

    The English passion for lacquer furniture
    The cabinets fit into a long tradition of English fascination with lacquer furniture, and more specifically with the commissioning and collecting of French furniture with lacquer panels. The French dealers had created a fashion for furniture often incorporating earlier panels of Japanese lacquer, and furniture by the leading Parisian cabinet-makers was supplied to the royal household and the leaders of taste in ancien-regime Paris. Horace Walpole and the Earl and Countess Spencer, following suit, were among the many English who shopped in Paris from the marchands-merciers, such as Charles-Raymond Granchez and Dominique Daguerre who, realising the potential of the English market, in 1786 took up residence in London. There he supplied, among others, the Prince of Wales whose passion for French furniture, and in particular for furniture with lacquer decoration, established this French taste in England. Among the pieces the Prince acquired was a side table for the Chinese drawing room at Carlton House from Weisweiler, for which Daguerre may have acted as an intermediary. Following the sales of the royal furniture by the revolutionary government, the Prince of Wales had his agents purchase many fine pieces of French furniture, many of them in Japanese lacquer. Among his most notable purchases was a drop-front secretaire by Bernard van Riesenberg (BVRB) which had belonged to the Duchesse de Mazarin and which François Benois purchased for him in 1820 for 2000 livres. No doubt in this spirit, George Watson Taylor acquired the famous Riesener lacquer cabinet and secretaire made for Marie-Antoinette’s apartments at Versailles, now in the Metropolitan Museum, which had belonged to the 10th Duke of Hamilton and was one of the most expensive items when sold in 1882 at the Hamilton Palace Sale.

    The Gladstone Acquisition
    As it has not been possible to determine when the two cabinets entered the Gladstone collection, it is not possible to say whether they came to England at this point or later. When Jacob-Desmalter sought to enter the new English market in 1813, he seems to have appreciated the taste for Japanese lacquer furniture and created contemporary pieces for this English market. It is worth noting however, that, although the taste for Japanese lacquer was not strong during the Empire, there was nonetheless some interest after the Restoration. Jacob-Desmalter, for example, supplied a set of furniture with Japanese lacquer panels to the Duchesse de Berry, daughter-in-law to Louis XVIII, and Molitor made two cabinets, or bonheurs du jour, which were acquired by the Garde Meuble for the Chateau of Saint-Cloud in 1820 and are now in the Louvre collections.

    Nonetheless the likelihood is that the Gladstone cabinets were supplied to English buyers, who flocked to Paris after 1814 to take part in the celebrations of the restored Bourbon monarchy and to shop. Acquiring French furniture was part of the contemporary art market and French and English dealers hastened to fulfill the demand. Although our evidence for the trade in French furniture is still fragmentary, nonetheless there is evidence, both of purchasers travelling to France and buying directly in Paris and French dealers supplying their English customers themselves or through English agents. Thus George IV seems to have had agents such as François Benoit or a M. Wattier buying for him. Wattier, for example, supplied him in 1816 with a pair of cabinets for Carlton House in ebony and mahogany, with Japanese lacquer and European japanned panels. (U. Leben, Molitor, London, 1992 pgs. 47 and 190.)

    At the sale of the Parisian dealer Maelrondt in 1823, there were several lots of lacquer furniture in his catalogue. Maelrondt had acted as a dealer for English collectors during the Empire, selling, for example, to the Prince of Wales through English dealers such as Robert Fogg, one of the most assiduous dealers in the early nineteenth century. The fact that Maelrondt was one of the only French dealers to have had such items in his sale may indicate that he had acquired them for re-sale in England. It is perhaps interesting to note, that whereas few collectors or dealers had furniture with Japanese lacquer at this date, the passion for furniture with hardstone or marble decoration continued to flourish in Paris. The evidence from contemporary sales catalogues in London between 1800 and 1820 would suggest, however, that the collecting of such furniture was still confined to the richest and most important collectors. Generally the descriptions seem to refer to early cabinets or screens rather than contemporary pieces, although some collectors, such as Sir Gregory Page Turner had a ‘beautiful Japan commode elaborately painted in Chinese figures birds and flowers’ which was sold to Manning or Smith for £22 1s (lot 255, Phillips sale, 8 July, 1815) and which could refer to a eighteenth-century or contemporary piece.

    Whether John Gladstone bought his cabinets for Seaforth is unfortunately not possible to determine. It is possible that at this time, through the figure of the Liverpool cabinet-maker George Bullock, there was an awareness of French design and thus of French furniture. Bullock, who had opened his showrooms in Liverpool in 1806 retained strong Liverpool connections with patrons such as William Roscoe even when he moved from Liverpool in 1812. Bullock’s furniture designs show his awareness of the designs of Napoleon’s architects Percier and Fontaine and Jacob-Desmalter, perhaps through the interest of his short-lived partner, the architect Joseph Gandy, or perhaps through connections with Matthew Bolton. It is interesting to note that on one piece of furniture at least, a tripod stand at Sudbury, which shows similar motifs on its legs to those used on the Gladstone cabinets. (ed. L. Wood and M. Levy, George Bullock, London, 1988, pg.112) Bullock supplied the John Gladstone with some of his own furniture and was generally involved in creating a French Empire style for his clients. However, there is no evidence to show whether he might have been involved in the purchase of the cabinets, and they could have as easily been acquired from a London dealer.

    Even if the cabinets were acquired by John Gladstone later in the century on his move to Fasque, they reflect a fascinating episode in English taste, when the market for French furniture brought to this country works by Boulle, seventeenth-century marquetry pieces, eighteenth-century furniture with panels in lacquer or pietra-dura, clocks and works of art by master bronzemakers, supplied by specialist dealers, arguably created what was the first serious market for antiques in the modern sense of the word.

Saleroom notices

  • A secretaire cabinet with similar mounts and Japanese lacquer panels is in the Royal Collection, see H.Clifford Smith, Buckingham Palace, Country Life, 1930, plate 309
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