Note: The original corner finials have been lost at some stage and replaced by finials of later date. The brass knob handles on the drawers are replacements.
The bookcase's most prominent feature is the exceptionally well carved pediment, whih is decorated with numerous skull and ram's head motifs between swags of husks entwining finely carved paterea.
Various woods have been used: dark, rich red mahogany, grey harewood, pink and yellow tulipwood, and box and abony chequered stringing. The original colours have mellowed over the centuries, but if we could see them today we would probably be surprised by their brightness. This almost garish colour combination was highly fashionable in the late 18th century, and was popularised by Robert Adam and other leading architects of the time.
The design is in the Etruscan style, named after the Etruscan civilisation that inhabited northern and central Italy from the 10th century BC to the 1st century AD. The Etruscans were heavily influenced by Greek art, which they imported in great quantities. Etruscan art oftern depicts everyday items including vases, festive garlands, flowers and sacred offerings to the gods, and it uses striking combinations of colours: red, grey, black, pink, purple and green.
All of the colours (apart from green, which may have been chosen for the original lining) appear in this bookcase, which together with its carved elements, makes it a notable example of the Etruscan style of the 18th century.
Burlington Magazine, April 1957, p. v; advertisement with Sotheby & Co.
Sotheby & Co, A Collection of English Funrniture, Barometers & Clocks formed by a Gentleman residing in New York, 27 & 28 June 1974, lot 109.
Collection of Sam Eckman OBE, London, England.
Hotspur Ltd., London, England.
Collection of Arthur Leidesdorf, New York, USA.
Hotspur Ltd, London, England.
Collection of Harris Masterson, Rienzi, Texas, USA.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,Texas, USA.
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