An historical auction salute to master furniture maker Thomas Chippendale

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 27th October, 2023

Famous 18th century English furniture maker Thomas Chippendale’s skills will be on show with an attributed nine-drawer mahogany carved floral knee hole desk (lot 107) at Christian McCann Auctions forthcoming Melbourne sale from 12pm Sunday November 12 at 7 Harper Street, Abbotsford – carrying a catalogue estimate of $20,000-$30,000.

Chippendale, who died in 1779 in London, is synonymous with the Anglicized version of Rococo style furniture.

In 1754, a year after opening in St Martin’s Lane, he published his celebrated Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director – the most important collection of furniture published until then in England, which illustrated almost every type of mid-18th century domestic furniture design.

Comparatively few pieces are attributed to Chippendale because, once his business expanded and he became head of such a large operation, he stopped making his own furniture – so some lucky buyer has the chance to obtain a rare and prized piece of history.

Another valuable furniture piece is a 19th century exhibition French four-door salon cabinet in the manner of Charles Andre Boulle (lot 71) with a similar catalogue estimate.

Charles Andre Boulle was the youngest of four sons (all of whom followed in his footsteps), sired by French furniture maker, gilder and sculptor to Louis XIV (1638-1715), Andre-Charles Boulle (1642-1732).

The father’s outstanding ability to inlay furniture with pictorial marquetry in wood, and later elaborate tortoiseshell and brass, gave rise to the technique entitled “boulle”.  

Boulle’s creations were slavishly imitated during the 18th and 19th centuries and, today, Britain’s Royal Collection (assembled by George IV - 1762-1830 to furnish the royal palaces with large quantities of fashionable French furniture) contains several magnificent pieces from his workshop as well as many examples of his style of inlay.

There are plenty of other outstanding, but perhaps more affordable, furniture pieces including a 19th century quality French serpentine shaped boulle credenza (lot 30), an English George III Sheraton satinwood three-drawer bombe shaped cabinet with crossbanded inlay and original silver-plated handles (lot 46) and an English mahogany cabinet canteen with six cutlery drawers containing 167 solid silver pieces made by gold and silversmiths Bradford in Yorkshire.

Just as important to auction goers and of palatial proportions is a 19th century French ormolu three-piece clock set (lot 70) – with the central timepiece featuring a rococo scroll and floral mounts flanked by classic maidens – and carrying a catalogue estimate of $40,000-$60,000.

Several of Australia’s leading artists feature among the auction paintings including David Boyd’s Playing in the Garden (lot 61), Robert Dickerson’s Figures (lot 60) and Pro Hart’s Miners and Yabbies (lot 34).

Porcelain is another attraction with a large pair of hand painted 19th century French Sevres lidded vases (lot 54) in the mix at $18,000-$27,000.

One of the more attractive sculptures on offer is an outstanding 19th century French bronze figure group of a young couple on a rouge marble base (lot 111) and signed by V. Bupial of Paris.

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