An important Regency mahogany, crossbanded and ebony marquetry four-sided Partners Desk
Lot 88*
An important Regency mahogany, crossbanded and ebony marquetry four-sided Partners Desk
Sold for £173,600 (US$ 287,870) inc. premium
Lot Details
An important Regency mahogany, crossbanded and ebony marquetry four-sided Partners Desk
possibly attributable to Marsh and Tatham, in the French manner,
the rounded rectangular brown tooled leather and crossbanded top applied with a brass moulded edge above a frieze and a central recessed kneehole, flanked by two drawers above a pair of panelled doors inlaid with stylised flowers around a circular band, with fleur-de-lys spandrels flanked by lotus leaf carved pilasters, with the same arrangement to the opposing side, the sides with a similar arrangement, but narrower and simulated, on a plinth base, with castors, interior of cupboards with later fittings, 191cm wide, 125cm deep, 79cm high.

Footnotes

  • Provenance: Believed to have belonged to Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784 – 1865)
    with the antique dealer Markeson of Crawford Street in the late 1960’s
    sold Malletts, Bond Street, June 2nd 1969

    This magnificent four-sided mahogany pedestal desk belongs to a small group of similarly shaped Regency desks on distinctive raised platforms, the most famous of which is the brass and ebony inlaid ‘Anglesey Desk’, supplied to the Marquess of Anglesey in 1815 attributed to Marsh and Tatham, which sold Christie’s, London 8 July 1993, lot 125. Another in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum has cupboards flanked by caryatid terms and the frieze, sides and panels carved in low relief (see M. Jourdain, Regency Furniture, rev.ed., 1965, p.74, fig.165.) A further desk of similarly massive proportions, but without the platform, was supplied by Thomas Tatham in 1811, and stood in the centre of the Blue Velvet Room at Carlton House, illustrated by Charles Wild in 1816 (see Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002). It was thought to have been given away by William IV to the second Marquess Conyngham, son of George IV's favourite, Elizabeth, Marchioness Conyngham and is now in a private collection (cf. Hugh Roberts, For the King’s Pleasure, 2001, p.341.)

    Regency desks of this size and stature are rare. Such pieces were designed to be free-standing in the centre of a room and were characterised by a rectangular top with frieze drawers supported on two pedestals with banks of drawers or cupboards on both sides of the pedestals so that, in theory at least, two people could use the desk at the same time. In the case of the present desk, there are kneeholes on all four sides which makes it even more unusual. The high quality of the mahogany veneers, the fine leaf-carved pilasters and the ebony decoration incorporating linked stylised flower heads, all point to an important early 19th century firm of cabinet makers.

    Although unmarked, this desk does show some characteristics of the leading Mayfair cabinet-makers and interior decorators, Marsh & Tatham (subsequently Tatham, Bailey & Sanders). William Marsh (active 1775-1810) and Thomas Tatham (1763-1818) were partners in a very successful firm of cabinetmakers and upholsterers based in Mount Street. They carried out major commissions for the Prince of Wales at Brighton Pavilion and at Carlton House. Charles Heathcote Tatham (1772-1842), brother of Thomas, was sent to Rome by the architect Henry Holland (1745-1806) in 1794 to collect Classical fragments. Tatham's drawings of these, published as ‘Etchings of Ancient Ornamental Architecture’ in 1799-1800, provided Marsh and Tatham with the inspiration for much of their furniture.

    In 1806 Marsh and Tatham designed a set of four yew wood bookcases in the Greek style, for the library at Carlton House at a cost of £820 (see Hugh Roberts op.cit. p.333, fig.414) Whilst they are of a completely different design to the offered lot, the use of circular ebony marquetry panels is reminiscent of the Palmerston desk. Likewise, a secretaire and drum shaped table both from the collection of Ralph Dutton at Hinton Ampner also attributable to Marsh and Tatham employ a similar use of ebony decoration on a mahogany ground (see Margaret Jourdain, Regency Furniture 1795-1820, 1934, p.71, fig.22 and p.129, fig.142.)


    The Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston

    Henry Temple, third Viscount Palmerston was born in 1784, the eldest of the five children of Henry Temple, second viscount (1739-1802). As a child he had a privileged upbringing which included a two year continental tour when he was only eight followed by schooldays at Harrow and a university education at Edinburgh and Cambridge. By the time he had become a politician he was a well-known figure in aristocratic circles. Much has been written on his spectacular career, culminating in his becoming Prime Minister for most of the decade from 1855 to 1865. His life outside politics is less well recorded apart from his love of hunting and his reputation with women, which earned him the nickname Cupid. His longest relationship was with Emily Lamb, Lord Melbourne’s sister and wife of the 5th Earl Cowper. Upon Cowper’s death in 1839, Emily married Lord Palmerston and they remained together for the rest of their lives.

    Palmerston’s Principal Residences

    Throughout his early life Palmerston lived at Broadlands in Hampshire, a house which had been substantially remodelled by his father and which contained furniture and objects commissioned by him during the late 18th century. Cabinet makers such as Mayhew and Ince as well as French makers Dominique Daguerre and Francois Hervé were all commissioned to produce furniture for Broadlands by the 2nd Viscount .
    The most notable piece of the 3rd Viscount’s furniture at Broadlands is a lecturn desk, of the type used by Churchill over a hundred years later:

    It was [Palmerston’s] invariable habit, even in old age, to write his letters standing at a high desk. This interesting piece of furniture is still preserved in the library at Broadlands. Asked why he adopted this singular mode of conducting his correspondence, he replied: ‘I have so many letters to write in the course of my day’s work that if I was once to sit down I should fall asleep.’
    Al Dasnet, Piccadilly in three Centuries, 1920, pp.99-100

    Lord Palmerston also spent time at his wife’s ancestral home Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire, the contents of which were sold by Fosters 7-14 March 1923. However the desk did not appear in that sale.

    The Palmerston’s London residence was Cambridge House which stood on the north side of Piccadilly (no.94). It was built for Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont, who appointed Matthew Brettingham as his architect in 1756. It was initially known as Egremont House, and was completed, or nearly so, by 1761. The house changed hands several times over the next hundred years. During the 1820’s it was occupied by George Cholmondeley, 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley, Royal Steward and friend of George IV. From 1829 to 1850 it had the status of a semi-Royal residence after it became home to Queen Victoria’s, uncle Prince Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge (1774 – 1850). However Palmerston was its most famous occupant, taking on the lease five years after the Duke of Cambridge's death. The house was used by Palmerston and his wife as a home instead of 10 Downing Street. The regular Saturday parties which took place at Cambridge House established Lady Palmerston as the premiere political hostess in London. After Palmerston's death at Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire in 1865 his body was taken to Cambridge House from where his funeral procession departed to Westminster Abbey.

    Some months later, the Times announced a four day sale of the ‘Furniture and Effects’ at Cambridge House to be held by Messrs Green of 28 Old Bond Street. (9th – 12th January 1866). Although a copy of this catalogue has not yet come to light, it is possible that the present desk could have been amongst the offered lots. The Pall Mall Gazette of the 10th January commented: Yesterday morning Cambridge-house was besieged by a host of furniture dealers, brokers and others, attracted by the report that the goods which were announced to be sold there were those of the late Prime Minister. Interestingly the Gazette went on to report that the house was in fact the property of a Sir John Sutton, lord of the manor of Westminster and that many of the contents belonged to him rather than Palmerston. Notwithstanding, the auctioneer negotiated the sale of the lease to the Naval & Military Club at £3,000 a year. The club soon came to be known as the "In and Out" on account of the prominent signs on the buildings entrance and exit gates. They retained ownership until the late 1990’s when the property was sold to a private buyer. Bonhams, Knightsbridge sold many of the contents of the building on the 21st January 1999.

    Despite extensive research, the full history of this desk is still not completely clear. Given the desk’s unquestionable style and presence, it is even possible to speculate that it could once have belonged to the Duke of Cambridge and remained at his London house, 94 Piccadilly after his death in 1850. By the time Lord Palmerston moved in and occupied the same building, it may well have come to be associated with the Prime Minister and retained that as its provenance in later years. Having said this, the desk would have been an entirely appropriate receptacle for Palmerston’s wide-ranging correspondence and political papers, perhaps used in conjunction with the lecturn - type desk which is still at Broadlands. What we do know with certainty is that by the time it came onto the market in the late 1960’s, the Palmerston provenance was firmly established.
Auction information

This sale is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future sales, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this sale, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £50,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £50,001 to £1,000,000 the Hammer Price
12% from £1,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

Payment in advance: by cash, check with banker's card, credit card, bank draft or traveler's cheque.

Payment at collection: by credit or debit card.

Credit card charges: a surcharge of 2% is applicable when using Mastercard, Visa and overseas debit cards.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Lot symbols
* Import low rate

VAT on imported items at a preferential rate of 5% on Hammer Price and the prevailing rate on Buyer's Premium.