Furniture created by the exalted Thomas Chippendale is distinguished by a signature blend of spectacular artistry, materials and design, and this chest on chest is no exception. Brilliant lines, perfect proportion and overall commanding workmanship are evident throughout this George III-period masterpiece. The use of the highest-quality Cuban mahogany, his signature “red wash” and S-shaped keyholes, original brass hardware, among others, distinguish this chest on chest as a very rare Chippendale original. Seldom does one come across a piece of furniture that embodies the greatest, most desirable elements of its era, created by the hand of such a legendary craftsman.
The talent and genius of Thomas Chippendale's designs dominated the furniture styles of the 18th century. He was the first person to boast such a strong following that an entire style bears his name and not that of a monarch. The son of a Yorkshire cabinetmaker, Chippendale quickly excelled in the family business. By the age of 36, he owned a series of workshops throughout England and an expansive timber yard for harvesting the finest woods.
In 1754, Chippendale published The Gentleman and Cabinetmaker's Director, considered the “bible” of furniture design of its day. The book contained over 161 plates with an astounding range of furniture in the Gothic, Chinese and Rococo styles. Subsequent publications of the text throughout Europe and North America included many Neo-Classical designs, serving to propel Chippendale into the international spotlight. Soon, this modest craftsman counted among his distinguished clientele countless members of nobility and society, including Catherine II of Russia and famed actor David Garrick. He also obtained substantial contracts with the noble houses of Nostell Priory, Harewood House, Burton Constable, Ayrshire and Kent, some of which still house many of his finest pieces in their private collections. Today, the name Chippendale invokes images of refined taste and unparalleled elegance. Considering his utilization of the most handsome timbers with rich, warm patinas, coupled with his uncanny flair for emphasizing the natural beauty of the wood, it is no wonder pieces such as this rare chest are so treasured by collectors.
Mahogany became the preferred medium for fine English furniture beginning in the mid-18th century. It was prized by cabinetmakers for its hardness, stability and dynamic grain configuration. The wood displayed an unrivaled brilliance, especially in refined Georgian-period designs in which the natural grain and color of the timber speak for itself. In 1733, the removal of the import taxes on mahogany made the material easier to obtain, yet it was still the most expensive lumber of the period, a trend that continued well into the 19th century. This elegant chest on chest illustrates why mahogany will forever be connected with the zenith of English furniture craftsmanship.
A similar chest on chest is featured in The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale by Christopher Gilbert, illustrated on page 118.
44 5/8" wide x 21 3/4" deep x 70 7/8" high