Writing Cabinet

Channon, John

This spectacular cabinet relates to a family of high quality rococo furniture, embellished with brass-inlay and a distinctive repertoire of gilt brass mounts, known as the ‘nymph and satyr’ group.

The exterior of the writing cabinet, which is of serpentine design, is richly styled with engraved brass-inlay and finely chased ormolu mounts. The lower stage contains four long drawers, the top one is fitted with a baize covered writing slide, with sliding pen trays with divisions for ink bottles at each side.

The front corners of the upper stage are headed by Nereid masks with pendants incorporating rococo foliage, cascade ornament, shells and rock work clusters. The base mounts feature scallop shells, rococo fronds and a waterfall. The main doors, veneered with a well-figured mahogany, are outlined with a shaped panel executed in padouk crossbanding. The doors are headed by a Bacchic mask above a pair of winged dragons surrounded by foliate strapwork with two naturalistic vine trails extending to the keyhole escutcheon.

The impressively equipped interior contains tiers of folio divisions, pigeon holes and shallow drawers within the depth of each door. The body of the interior is decorated with brass stringing-lines, edge beading and ring handles. It centres on a door enclosing an ingenious system of sliding panels which conceal seventeen secret compartments. The base mounts feature scallop shells, rococo fronds and a waterfall.

The evidence for attributing this cabinet to the Channon workshop is based on a pair of library bookcases at Powderham Castle, Devon, which have carved and gilt decoration and engraved brass-inlay inscribed ‘J. Channon Fecit 1740’. Other London firms were using this decorative technique during the early Georgian period but Channon remains a candidate for the authorship of this cabinet.

The cabinet was purchased with the aid of a contribution from the LACF in 1985.


Furniture: Writing Cabinet, Mahogany with engraved brass inlay

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