The term ‘Boulle’ was taken from the surname of it’s most skilled artisan André Charles Boulle (1642–1732). Boulle was a cabinetmaker, sculptor and gilder to King Louis XIV of France, and from 1672 he was granted the royal privilege of living in the Palais du Louvre.
‘Boulle’ work refers to the practice of overlaying furniture with a thin layer or tortoiseshell that is inlaid with brass and pewter in opulent patterns and elaborate designs, as shown in the Louis XV style boulle clock, circa 1870 (above). Boulle work, although requiring great skill and expense, became such a fashionable means of finishing furniture that its use continued through to the 18th and 19th centuries. Whilst Boulle’s original work resides in the most important international collections and museums (including the Royal Collection, Chateau de Versailles, and the Rijksmuseum) you can still find pieces of Boulle work by later cabinet-makers which are often of similar quality (especially as so many copied Boulle’s technique and style).
19th century pieces like this serpentine front games table capture the essence of André Charles Boulle’s work perfectly; with classical designs in brass inlay to the top and on the exhibition quality figurehead ormolu mounts. The red tortoiseshell background is accentuated by ebonised sections of the exterior, and it opens to a baize-lined interior.
Established in 1807 by Edinburgh businessman Richard Whytock, the furniture-making firm became ‘Whytock and Reid’ when he formed a partnership with John Reid in 1876. If you’ve lived in Edinburgh, you might have seen their workshop based in Sunbury House, Belford Mews (near Dean Village).
Whytock earned his first warrant from Queen Victoria in 1838 (similar to the one seen above), and the recognition of their craftsmanship continued until their doors closed in 2004. Their clients were from various walks of life; from the Royal Family and some of the largest public projects across Scotland, to country houses and family homes.
Whytock and Reid also collaborated with prolific architect and furniture designer Sir Robert Lorimer for over 30 years – you can find out more about the Lorimer influence here.
This marble top secretaire a abbatant by Whytock and Reid has all of their classic qualities and is one of the finest examples we have in our warehouse. Circa 1900, it is made in the Louis XVI style and retains the original Whytock & Reid locks by Langebearg & Co, Birmingham, and has a receipt for alterations from Whytock & Reid on 25 October 1955.
We are proud to have one of the biggest collections of Whytock and Reid furniture in the UK. You can see their full range in our dedicated category.
[The original version of this post was from our newsletter – 12 June 2020]
The mirror is not a modern invention but has instead been used since ancient times, from Egyptian mirrors in polished bronze (2900BC), to Chinese bronze mirrors dating as early as 2000BCE. The complete history of mirror production is fascinating but incredibly complex, and so for brevity we will start at the 15th and 16th century.
At that time, there was a large divide between mirrors of quality versus quantity – from the expensive and competitive pursuit of ‘crystalline’ glass between Germany and the Venetian Republic, to the cheaper, inferior small steel ‘mirrors’ which could be purchased from street vendors.
Throughout the 16th century, the Venetian mirror was considered the epitome of (costly!) fashion, especially in France – and King Francois I purchased several adorned with gold and precious stones. This Venetian technique used glass with a metallic backing and it became a practice adopted by craftsmen in London and Paris by the middle of the 17th century. These mirrors were a popular addition to room furnishings by this time – and their frame also became an important consideration. These ranged from painted, carved, gilded and ornament decorated.
Certain types of mirrors were also designed to suit the architecture of homes of the time, especially overmantel mirrors – created to fill the empty space between the mantelpiece and the ceiling. Girandole mirrors (like the one on the right) emerged in the 19th century and served a double purpose: with a convex sheet of glass in a circular frame, and candle arms attached, the candlelight would be reflected and illuminate the room.
We keep in stock as much variety as possible with these mirrors – and lately the more ornate, gilt overmantels have proved a popular choice.
For those wanting something a little smaller and narrower, we also have pier mirrors which were designed to fit on a ‘pier’ space (for example, a wall between two windows), and often above pier cabinets.
Georgian Antiques celebrates 40 years in business by proudly presenting the first major exhibition of work by the sculptor Phyllis Bone RSA (1894-1972). Trained in Edinburgh and Paris, she is now remembered principally for her architectural sculpture of the 1920s, including the Scottish National War Memorial. An exceptional ‘animalier’, she earned her livelihood by exhibiting finely modelled pieces cast in bronze or plaster. In 1944 the quality of her work was acknowledged officially when she became the first woman elected a Royal Scottish Academician.
Remarkably, this exhibition is the first ever retrospective of her work. Collected over a 35 year period, it includes 36 display pieces in bronze and plaster covering a long and productive career from 1918 to the late 1960s. Also included are 9 works on paper made after she had moved from Edinburgh to Kirkcudbright, her home for her last 23 years. All works are from a private collection, so this will be the first time they are shown in one venue.
The exhibition will run as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018, at Georgian Antiques (10 Pattison Street, Leith EH6 7HF), viewing Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, Saturdays 10am-2pm. A fully illustrated 64-page catalogue by art historian Elizabeth Cumming has been published to accompany the exhibition. You can purchase a catalogue (£10) via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Whilst the weather might be trying to keep the Easter Bunny away, we will be open as usual this long weekend. If you can’t make it to our warehouse feel free to email any enquiries over to us (via the contact form here) and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
The term ‘davenport’ is first noted in Gillows’ Cost Books in the 1790s. Gillows were a prosperous cabinetmaking firm operating out of Lancaster and London from the 1730s to the 1840s. The term appeared in the phrase ‘Captain Davenport, a desk’ next to a design of it. This became one of their most famous inventions.
The Gillows company records consist of journals, day books, waste books, bill books, cash books, ledgers and more. They date from 1731-1986 and are currently housed in The City of Westminster Archives Centre.
The Gillows archive is an important piece of history, as it is the most complete set of records for any British furnituremaking firm.
We aim to always have a selection of Gillows, or Gillows style, furniture in stock. If in doubt, try looking for the Gillows makers label – as you’ll see, you can find one stamped to the drawer of this George II Style Mahogany Card Table. The firm began using the ‘Gillows Lancaster’ stamp after 1780.
Some key characteristics of davenports include a gallery around the top, leading on to a sloping lid, most often opening up to reveal a storage space. Some davenports are also fitted with a spring-loaded section to the top and a combination of drawers to the sides (both real and dummy drawers).
Many furniture makers became more inventive with davenport designs over time, with pull out fronts, rotating top sections, and decorative inlaid patterns. They also expanded it from being a contained, rectangular unit, to adding cabriole legs and pedestal bases.
There are several examples of davenports found in museum collections worldwide, including this Victorian davenport desk, circa 1840, in satinwood and with marquetry panels (Shrewsbury Museums Service).
Although at one stage very collectable, they’ve recently been over-shadowed by writing tables, and partners desks.
However, davenports have a distinct advantage: their size.
Compact, and offering plenty of hidden storage, they are a brilliant alternative for homes that are short on space. The variety of davenports available also show the creativity of Regency cabinetmakers and their successors. In our warehouse we have focused on acquiring davenports that are made in quality materials and are in excellent condition. You can see more of these here.
Piano Top Davenports:
Whilst some davenports have a sloping lid with the writing surface to the top (often in leather), other furnituremakers excelled at creating piano top davenport desks.
Named after the curved shape and form of pianos, they will usually have a hinged lid which opens up to reveal a series of compartments and a retractable writing slide. We have a couple piano top examples currently available, including these two mid-Victorian burr walnut davenports. Both have the benefit of hidden storage underneath their curved lid, with drawers and compartments for pens and antique inkwells – or quills if you are really inclined!
To open their ‘jack in the box’ section in the top you only need to pull forward a small button in the writing drawer (inside the hinged lid).
Sliding Tops & Rosewood
Rosewood timber is native to Brazil, Honduras, Jamaica and India, and due to the slow growth rate of these trees is a prized material, and distinguishes quality furniture. During the Regency period it was exported to the United Kingdom from Brazil, Jamaica and Honduras, and whilst it has a characteristic dark brown colour with streaks and grains it can be hard to manipulate and work (it has a high oil content).
We have almost every type of furniture in rosewood in our warehouse – from large William and Mary period Indo-Dutch cabinets, to bookcases, chiffoniers and breakfast tables. One notable example is this William IV rosewood davenport, which also has a three quarter gallery in rosewood as well as the main body. At only 64 cm deep when closed, the top can then slide forward to allow for it to be more like a desk – floating over the knees of the person sitting at it.
It is the perfect space for storing or using a laptop, which can then be closed and used as a writing desk (if you still use pen and paper like we do!)
This davenport also features the stamp of ‘M. Willson, 68 Great Queen Street’ to one of its drawers. This is the stamp of Mary and Matthew Willson, the wife and son of Thomas Willson who was a furniture broker and appraiser in London (operating 1799-1854). You can see more of this davenport here.
If you’ve visited our warehouse you’ll know that this is only a small offering of the variety of davenport desks that we have available.
These distinctive, quality items of furniture would be a brilliant addition to any home office, or for someone looking for a unique place to use and store their iPad, laptop or Kindle Fire.
Because who said that new technologies and antiques can’t mix?
Looking to visit us over the festive period? We’ll be closing for a brief break, but checking our emails regularly. Feel free to send through any enquiries as usual, or come to our warehouse on the following dates:
Saturday 23 December: 10am – 2pm
CLOSED from Sunday 24 December – Friday 29 December
Saturday 30 December: 10am – 2pm
CLOSED Sunday 31 December and Monday 1 January 2018
Tuesday 2 January 2018: 10am – 2pm
Wednesday 3 January 2018: Normal opening hours resume.