The mere mention of “Chippendale” invokes thoughts of sophistication and the absolute finest furniture ever made...and rightly so. Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) was legendary for his furniture designs that blended English, Chinese and Gothic motifs to create the distinctly elegant style that bears his name. In fact, the English cabinetmaker is the first to have an entire style named after him and not a monarch.
Born into a family of carpenters, little is known about his early career. What is certain is that Chippendale was primarily a designer. His influential treatise of design, The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, published in 1754, was written at the most opportune time, when the demand for luxury goods was at an all-time high. With its 160 engravings of exotic, exquisitely carved and perfectly proportioned designs, the Director propelled Chippendale’s reputation as the most celebrated cabinetmaker of the 18th century.
With an estimated 40-50 artisans working for him in his workshop on St. Martins Lane in London, Chippendale seldom created pieces himself. However, on the extremely rare occasion, and only for the most important clients, Chippendale would undertake a commission. One of the handful of examples of furniture created by the master’s hand that is still in private hands and not in a museum, this majestic Pembroke Table was made for Paxton House in the Scottish Borders.
At once beautifully crafted and flawlessly proportioned, it is believed that the table was made for the estate’s drawing room, where it would have been at the center of attention. The striking “crocodile” grained mahogany is balanced perfectly by the delicate sweep of the cabriole legs. It is known that on pieces he crafted, Chippendale would agonize over every single detail. While this became burdensome from a business perspective, this methodology resulted in the very finest furniture ever made.
The owner of Paxton House, Ninian Home, commissioned Chippendale to furnish the entire estate. Today, it is still regarded as one of Chippendale’s most significant commissions. That collection of furniture remains on view at Paxton House, making this table indescribably rare.
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