A George III mahogany Carlton House desk
Lot 85
A George III mahogany Carlton House desk
Sold for £55,250 (US$ 92,809) inc. premium
Lot Details
A George III mahogany Carlton House desk
The stepped three quarter superstructure with pierced gilt bronze gallery above ten drawers and a hinged leather inset writing surface above a pair of frieze drawers on turned legs, labelled to the underside 'KIRKWOOD', 124cm wide x 67cm deep x 96cm high, (48.5" wide x 26" deep x 37.5" high)


  • Provenance: Purchased by Leonard Cunliffe from Pawsey & Payne, 1 Bury Street, St James' London on June 7th 1912 for £118.80 who bought the desk from Christies, London, lot 123 on behalf of Mr Cunliffe on June 6th 1912 for 115.10 charging a commission of 2.5%.

    A closely related Carlton House desk formerly with Blairman & Son, London is illustrated in E. T. Joy, The Country Life Book of English Furniture, London, 1964, pl.95, p.71.

    This distinctive design of writing table, with its superstructure of two or three tiers of small drawers rising from the back and curving around the sides, dates from the late 18th Century. It was first seen in a plate published by George Hepplewhite in 1792 and illustrated again by Shearer in 1793. Thomas Sheraton also illustrated a similar desk in his Cabinet Maker's and Upholsterer's Drawing Book, 1793, pl. 60, entitled 'A Lady's Drawing and Writing Table'.

    The term Carlton House presumably came about as a result of some kind of precedent at Carlton House in London and then the term then perpetuated. Carlton House on Pall Mall was the home of George III while Prince of Wales, having been inhabited by his mother until her death in 1773. In 1783 the Prince Regent instructed the architect Henry Holland (1745-1806) to rebuild the house and work was to continue in various forms for the next thirty years. A rosewood Carlton House desk remains in the Royal Collection although with a flat rather than stepped superstructure. Interestingly, it was not until 1796 that the term 'Carlton House desk' was first used and is referred to by the firm of Gillow in their cost books for clients. Hugh Roberts records in his article for Furniture History, The Journal of the Furniture History Society, Vol.XXXI, that an account from the cabinet-maker John Kerr for a 'large Elegant Satin wood Writing Table containing 15 drawers and 2 cupboards' is preserved in the Royal Archive. The Kerr desk is no longer in the Royal Collection but is thought to have been identified as a desk that was given by the Prince of Wales to his acting private secretary Captain, later Admiral, John Payne (1752-1803) for his services in accompanying the Prince's wife Caroline of Brunswick to England in 1795. The Kerr desk was formerly with Mallett, London and is illustrated in L.Synge in Mallett's Great English Furniture, London, 1991, p.138, fig 155.
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