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A fine late 18th Century Scottish Sheraton period mahogany fitted dressing table by the firm of Young, Trotter & Hamilton, of 'Holyroodhouse design', circa 1795

This fine & very rare Sheraton period dressing table was produced in Edinburgh by the firm of Young, Trotter & Hamilton, and corresponds exactly to the suite of furniture supplied in 1796 by Young, Trotter & Hamilton to furnish the Royal apartments of the ancient Scottish palace of Holyrood house for the Comte d'Artois (later Charles X) and his companions during their exile in Scotland from 1796-1803.

The segmented mahogany tabletop is cross banded with tulipwood and satinwood with boxwood stringing, and inlaid with a central finely-flamed mahogany oval corresponding to the Young, Trotter & Hamilton wardrobe supplied to Holyrood (RCIN 27840) and the Young, Trotter & Hamilton secretaire bookcase supplied to Holyrood (RCIN 27853). The lid opens to reveal a fitted interior showcasing a central fold-away mirror with adjustable double-ratchet stand, corresponding to the Young, Trotter & Hamilton writing table supplied to Holyrood (RCIN 27847) and the Young, Trotter & Hamilton attributed prie-dieu supplied to Holyrood (RCIN 28621). The sliding, adjustable mirror is flanked by six lidded compartments, each mahogany lid banded with satinwood and boxwood stringing and topped with a central turned ebony knob. The gently bow-fronted mahogany case is banded with satinwood and supported on four straight tapering legs inlaid with boxwood stringing including blind ogee beaded panels & dot, in a simple & striking design, identical to the inlay on the Young, Trotter & Hamilton writing table supplied to Holyrood (RCIN 27847), the pair of Young, Trotter & Hamilton pier tables supplied to Holyrood (RCIN 27597), and the pair of Young, Trotter & Hamilton card tables supplied to Holyrood (RCIN 27852).

 

Holyrood house commission for the Comte d'Artois

The Holyrood house commission was to be the most important commission received by Trotter (known as 'the Chippendale of Scotland') and his firm to that date. The Royal Collection Trust, which still retains a dozen original pieces of furniture supplied in 1796, describes this commission as:

 

"a group of furniture made by the Edinburgh firm of Young, Trotter and Hamilton and supplied to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in 1796 for the residence of Charles-Philippe, comte d'Artois (1757-1836), the future Charles X of France and the youngest brother of Louis XVI. The comte had been in exile since the start of the French Revolution in 1789; he had incurred large debts on the Continent and was offered refuge at Holyroodhouse, where he was able to take advantage of the sanctuary it offered to debtors. Young, Trotter and Hamilton were commissioned to renovate the interiors of the neglected State Apartments at the Palace for use by the comte and his court. The firm had set up a carpet manufactory in the 1760s and James Hamilton, a cabinetmaker, was taken on as a partner in 1775. By 1796 it was undoubtedly the largest furnishing firm in Edinburgh, with an extensive warehouse on the corner of Princes Street. At its head was 24-year-old William Trotter, whose father and grandfather had founded the firm; he became sole proprietor in 1805. The renovations at Holyroodhouse took around four months: as well as supplying new furniture, Young, Trotter and Hamilton cleaned and re-hung tapestries, repaired and papered walls, laid carpets and made curtains for windows and bed-hangings. The total bill for the work was £2,613 13s 9d and the first instalment of £750 was paid by His Majesty’s Court of Exchequer for Scotland. A collection of new mahogany furniture, plain but elegant and decorated with delicate stringing, was provided for the comte d’Artois at the Palace."

Among the furnishings supplied by Young, Trotter & Hamilton for the Comte d'Artois in 1796 still retained in the Royal Collection Trust at Holyroodhouse, are a pair of pier tables (RCIN 27597), a pair of card tables (RCIN 27852) and a writing desk (RCIN 27847), all with identical banded decoration and inlay design to the present dressing table. A 1796 wardrobe in Holyroodhouse (RCIN 27840), features a pair of doors cross banded with satinwood and inlaid with mahogany ovals which correspond to the top lid of the present dressing table.

 

According to The Royal Collection Trust,: "the elegant style was similar to the furniture supplied by Young, Trotter and Hamilton to the residents of Edinburgh’s stylish New Town. The comte d’Artois was joined at Holyroodhouse by members of his family and his servants; he remained there until 1803. He eventually succeeded to the French throne in 1824 and, following his abdication in 1830, returned to take up residence in the Palace, when the Trotter furniture was re-used. The Holyroodhouse commission cemented the reputation of Young, Trotter and Hamilton as the makers of the most fashionable furniture in Edinburgh. Trotters (as the firm was known after 1805) were also called in to the Palace [at Holyroodhouse] in 1822 to supply furniture and upholstery for the visit of George IV and to fit out the Great Drawing Room in Charles II’s old Guard Chamber for George IV’s levée.The firm also renovated areas of the Palace for Queen Victoria’s visit in 1850."

 

Young, Trotter & Hamilton likely based their design for this dressing table on slightly earlier sketches by the London firm Ince & Mayhew, afterwards adding their own signature Scottish style to the inlay and finishing. Retaining all original brass handware and with working key.

 

Measurements: 29 inches high (with lid closed); 27-1/2 inches wide; 20-1/2 inches deep

An exceptional George III golden rosewood adjustable reading, writing & drawing table with original gilt-tooled leather surfaces
attributed to George Simson of St. Paul's Churchyard, London
after the design by Thomas Sheraton (1793)
circa 1795

Designed by Thomas Sheraton in 1793 and executed in the finest quality timbers available, this multi-purpose reading & drawing table was crafted to be free-standing and seen in the round with all sides finished and inlaid with the same level of detail.

The solid mahogany table top veneered in rosewood with boxwood stringing and inset with original crimson Moroccan gilt-tooled leather surface, the removable solid rosewood bookstop (shown detached in the 1793 Sheraton drawing) line-inlaid with boxwood and featuring brass pins which slot into the inset table-top collars creating a reading/paper ledge upon the adjustable easel surface, the easel top rising on a superbly crafted adjustable mahogany ratchet. Beneath the rising easel surface, a solid mahogany and rosewood veneered pull-out writing slide, inset with original crimson Moroccan gilt-tooled leather surface.

 

Three dummy drawers feature original twin brass pulls and boxwood diamond-shaped dummy keyhole escutcheons; the single functioning drawer with original brass key & working lock, the drawer-front veneered in thick finely figured and faded rosewood with boxwood stringing, the drawer interior crafted of solid Cuban mahogany with fitted compartment for quills, inks, writing implements & drawing paper.

 

The desk raised on elegant square section tapered legs delicately splayed outwards and outlined with boxwood, featuring pointed arch/ogee inlaid terminals and elegantly gaitered feet with boxwood dot inlays.

 

The faded golden rosewood showcasing glorious golden colour and patina throughout, the interior solid mahogany of the finest quality.

 

Materials: 

Rosewood solids & veneers, mahogany solids, drawer interiors & fittings in solid mahogany, boxwood inlays, oak & pine supports under the solid mahogany table top, two Morrocan gilt-tooled leather surfaces (likely original), brass pulls, brass lock & key

 

Provenance:

with Robert Dirstein Design Group (Toronto, Canada)

Measurements: 30 inches high (with lid closed); 20 inches wide; 14 inches deep

GEORGE SIMSON

 

According to Christopher Gilbert, the London cabinetmaker George Simson "apprenticed to Noah Chivers (who also used a label) in 1772 and became free of the Upholders' Company in 1780. By 1787 he was in business as an upholder, cabinet-maker and undertaker at 19 St Paul's Church Yard, where he continued to trade until 1840...Insurance records show that in 1792 he had taken over seven properties adjoining No.19...Simson's lavel has been found on well over thirty pieces of highly fashionable furniture often inspired by pattern book designs (he subscribed to Sheraton's 'Drawing-Book') or reflecting up-market Regency-styles. A lady's secretary and cabinet of c.1795 veneered in satinwood and sabicu [and featuring Simson's characteristic Pointed Ogee & Dot inlay to the legs] is of particular interest because it relates closely to the well known family of secretaire and dressing cabinets incorporating clocks and automatic organs from Weeks' Museum of mechanical curiousities in the Haymarket, permitting attribution of this celebrated group [the so-called 'Weeks' Cabinets'] to Simson on the basis of stylistic analogy."

 

References / Comparable examples: 

Bonhams (London) 26 Sept 1991, lot 80 "A George III mahogany and rosewood banded Pembroke table by George Simson, with rounded leaves, on square tapering legs headed by satinwood tablets, outlined overall in boxwood stringing, the drawer with George Simson's trade label".

Christie's (London) 17 October 2017, lot 601, described as "A George III laquered brass-mounted satinwood, sabicu and tulipewood secretaire and dressing-cabinet, the case attributed to George Simson, retailed by the Thomas Weeks Museum, London, circa 1800".

Christie's (London) 04 Oct 2012, lot 346, "A kingwood sofa table by George Simson".

American Art Association, Anderson Galleries (New York) 08 December 1921, lot 333 "Rare inlaid mahogany writing table, English, 18th century, made by George Simson, a famous London cabinet maker, of St. Paul's Churchyard, London. Molded oblong, hinged top with supporting quadrant. Interior fitted with writing slide covered with original green baize, and varied compartments. On square tapering legs."

Mr. Gilbert illustrates a number of labelled examples of Simson's work in 'Marked London Furniture' (1996) which furthers the attribution of the present reading & writing table on stylistic grounds, including: ilustration no.840 'George Simson: lady's secretary and cabinet, sabicu and satinwood, c.1795-1800', ilustration no.841 'George Simson: secretaire bookcase, satinwood c.1800', illustration no.851 'George Simson: Pembroke table, mahogany with rosewood crossbanding and satinwood inlay, c.1800, and illustration no.861 'George Simson: sofa table, kingwood with burr yew banding and inlay, c.1820'.

Ref: Gilbert, Christopher. Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840 (London: Furniture History Society) 1996, p.50.

 

POINTED OGEE/GOTHIC ARCH & DOT INLAY

The feature of pointed inlaid line arches surmounted by a dot on the upper portion of the tapering legs is a re-current feature on labelled pieces by George Simson including a labelled Pembroke table, sold Bonhams, London, 26 September 1991, lot 80.

A crossbanded cylinder desk sold at Bonhams features his signature pointed inlaid line arches surmounted by a dot, as well as the desks original pull out writing surface inset with a ratcheted red tooled leather panel. This signature decorative inlay also appears in numerous Bonheur-de-jour tables by Simson.

Note: The decorative feature of inlaid Gothic line arches surmounted by a dot was also characterisically used by the Edinburgh firm of Young, Trotter & Hamilton (subscribed to Sheraton’s drawing book in 1793) though YTH used a less angular variation than Simson's, and very occasionally the Gothic arch & dot features in some tables by Gillows of Lancaster & London (subscribed to Sheraton’s drawing book in 1793).

A dramatically figured Scottish sabicu wood chest of drawers of highly unusual block front form, featuring magnificent turned green horn knobs inlaid with mother-of-pearl,
in the manner of William Trotter of Edinburgh,
circa 1830

Three inverted and recessed front deep drawers in block-front form featuring highly attractive turned green horn knobs inlaid with mother of pearl florets, surmounted by a single shallow 'hidden' top drawer frieze. Each of the three deep drawers carved and cock-beaded to the inverted front out of a single piece of three-inch thick West Indian sabicu wood (called 'horse-flesh mahogany'), the top moulded out of a single plank with stepped ogee edge.

The original Bramah brass locking mechanisms on each drawer are patent stamped with the cipher of WR for William IV (1830-37).

 

This highly unusual piece showcases exceptional quality of materials and workmanship, evident in the massive slabs of sabicu wood which have been cut out of the solid and recessed and beaded for the drawer fronts. Block front chests are extremely rare in British furniture design.

 

Another remarkable feature is the exceptionally fine green horn knobs made inlaid with mother-of-pearl - a remarkable process to have achieved almost two centuries ago, and equally remarkable to have remained in pristine condition.

Measuring 41-1/2 inches in width, 38 inches in height, 22 inches in depth

A fine Louis Philippe mahogany rouge groitte marble-topped Gueridon centre table, France, circa 1835

A fine Louis Philippe mahogany Gueridon centre table,
retaining its original rouge groitte marble-top,
France, circa 1835

An elaborately turned mahogany centre table with original circular molded mottled Belgian rouge groitte marble-top on a figured mahogany frieze, raised upon a gracefully carved vase-turned fluted and reeded pedestal ending in a circular moulded collar atop a well figured circular plinth base issuing acanthus carved tripod legs terminating in scroll motif feet.

 

Measuring 44 inches in diameter; 28.5 inches in height.

Charles X gueridon with rouge groitte ma

An attractive 19th C mahogany and brass-mounted two-tiered dumb waiter, in the manner of Gillows of London & Lancaster

An attractive & very sturdy 19th century mahogany and brass-mounted two-tiered dumb waiter

 

The two circular tiers with carved fluted and reeded edges supported by three ring-turned brass columns, raised upon a sharply ring-turned knopped column with three gracefully downswept square tapering legs terminating in brass capped feet on castors.

 

This form of 'Dumb waiter' with two tiers raised by three columns was illustrated in Gillows of Lancaster & London Estimate Sketch Book dated 14 February 1803 (see illustration). The form was evidently popular since the same model 'with two tops' appears again in Gillows Estimate Sketch Book of 1819.

 

Today, this open-tiered & very sturdy form of dumbwaiter makes a stylish portable bar, showcasing bottles on the lower tier and glasses on the upper, as well as the more classical use as a dessert stand for grand meals.

 

Measurements: 44-3/4 inches high; 24 inches diameter

History of The Dumb-Waiter

 

According to Kathryn Kane, "a favorite form of fashionable entertainment among the upper classes of England in the early eighteenth century was a fruit or sweetmeat banquet. Essentially, these were grand desserts which were set out very elegantly, usually on a long table in a large drawing room. Though most guests at these sweetmeat banquets did enjoy wine with their sweets, the presence of all those waiters and goblet boys put a considerable damper on conversation. It was well known at that time that servants were always listing for any tidbit of information they could use to blackmail the people concerned or to sell the secrets to professional blackmailers. The more embarrassing and intimate the indiscretion, the higher the price the sharp-eared servant could demand. Thus, guests at sweetmeat banquets had to mind their tongues and refrain from discussing the juicy gossip in which they were most interested. By the late 1730s, some clever furniture designer or cabinet-maker found a solution to this problem. They reinterpreted the tiered glass pyramid on a larger scale, in mahogany. This completely English furniture form was called the dumb-waiter, since it would serve in place of a human waiter. These mahogany "waiters" were both deaf and dumb, and were therefore unable to hear or tell secrets. Thus, they became popular in upper class homes, especially for sweetmeat banquets, almost overnight. Early dumb-waiters were almost always made of mahogany, the most elegant and fashionable wood of that age. They were constructed with a single, central carved or turned shaft, typically supported on three arched legs which terminated in claw and ball feet. Most of these dumb-waiters had casters attached to their feet so they could be easily moved around a room. The earliest casters were made of layers of thick leather, but by mid-century, brass casters were more common. The ornamental central shaft would support three, or sometimes four, round trays of graduated sizes, also made of mahogany, which were affixed so that they would revolve around the shaft. In addition to being beautiful and fashionable, mahogany was an exceptionally hard and strong wood which could take a very hard, smooth, high gloss polish, known in the trade as "teaboardy." This was the same type of finish which was used to finish tea trays and tea boards, since it made the wood nearly impervious to moisture and heat. Some of the trays had a raised edge, carved from the mahogany board of which the tray was made. Other trays were flat, with the addition of a raised gallery edge, usually about a couple of inches high. On these hard, glossy finished trays could be placed the wines and confections which were served at a sweetmeat banquet, thus eliminating the need for eavesdropping servants. Gossip and all the popular on-dits could then flow freely in conversation at these fashionable banquets."