Width: 60” 152.5cm
Depth: 30 ½” 77.5cm
The table has a marble top above a blind-fretwork carved frieze supported on four square tapering legs, with acanthus leaf carving above a trellis pattern fretwork design and terminating in a shaped block foot carved with a cabochon. The table with further carved brackets.
This remarkably accomplished table is directly inspired by Chippendale’s Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, with different elements taken variously from plates 37, 38 and 39 in the 1st edition of 1754 (reissued as plates 58–60 in the 3rd edition, 1762). The legs and feet are a hybrid of the variants shown at left and right of plate 37; the frieze apron corresponds to that in plate 38; while the rest of the frieze derives from the right end of plate 39.
Appreciation of the table demands closer inspection than a two-dimensional image will allow but is worth every moment of the time invested. The carving on this table is quite simply a tour de force.
Daniel Norton, Northwood Hall, Middlesex
- L. Isaacs
William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851–1925)
- Harris & Sons
The table was originally one of a pair, which must have furnished a substantial reception room – perhaps just one element of a large commission. Latterly they were at Northwood Hall, Middlesex, which occupies the site of an 18th-century house, Maze Farm. Rebuilt and renamed by Daniel Norton (1806–1888) in the third quarter of the 19th century, Northwood Hall has since been renamed again, Denville Hall (and is now an actors’ retirement home). Daniel Norton was a timber and coal merchant, living in Uxbridge in 1851; ten years later he had acquired Maze Farm (still so called) with 220 acres. He very likely purchased the tables as antiques to furnish his new house. The house was sold by the Norton family in 1912, and the furniture was presumably dispersed at the same time.
In 1915 the tables were bought by the celebrated collector William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851–1925), from the dealer D. L. Isaacs (who disclosed the Northwood Hall provenance); and they were sold after his death by Knight, Frank & Rutley, 3–4 June 1926, lots 273–274 (plate XV). At or after the Leverhulme sale they were acquired by M. Harris & Sons (successor to D. L. Isaacs), who published the pair in their Catalogue and index of old furniture and works of decorative art from late sixteenth century to early nineteenth century (c. 1932), Vol. I, p. 267. At some point the tables were separated and sadly the second table was reduced in size and painted white. Its current whereabouts is unknown.
Furniture made with such close reference to the Director (or to other printed sources) is usually indicative of an out-of-London workshop, and this table is probably no exception, notwithstanding the exceptional quality of its carving. Another feature suggestive of regional manufacture is the ad-hoc use of a robust iron cross-brace to secure the frame under the marble top, which despite its improvised appearance may well be original.
Several distinguished regional firms are known to have drawn on Director designs, including Gillows of Lancaster, Wright & Elwick of Wakefield and Alexander Peter of Edinburgh. Richard Gillow, Wright and Elwick all subscribed (individually) to the first edition of the Director, while Peter worked alongside Chippendale at Dumfries House. The present table has no idiomatic features that ally it to the known work of a particular maker. It must, however, come from a significant town practice, and could well be the work of one of the subscribers to the Director. In the absence of other evidence, the most promising hunting ground for both maker and patron is Yorkshire, for more of the tradesmen subscribers were based in York than in any other provincial town. Among these were Robert Barker (who shared at least two patrons with Chippendale), George Reynoldson, Reynoldson’s one-time apprentice Richard Farrer, and Richard Wood (whose apprentice William Benson later became Chippendale’s foreman). Tantalizingly little is known of the work of any of these firms.
- Harris. Catalogue and index of old furniture and works of decorative art from late sixteenth century to early nineteenth century (c. 1932), Vol. I, p. 267