A very fine Regency rosewood and parcel gilt display cabinet of grand proportions, attributed to Henry Holland; the superstructure comprising a glazed double door cabinet now lined with silk with showcase lining, with a gilded pediment, sitting on a white shaped marble top under which are two drawers and a further two cupboard doors, now with silk lining, the whole standing on unusual gilded turned feet.
Henry Holland (1745-1806) was one of the leading English Georgian architects of the period who designed interiors and furniture in both the French and the Greco-Roman styles and therefore a key figure in the introduction of late 18th century French Neo-classicism into English furniture design. After studying architecture he became the partner of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in 1771 whose daughter he married and with whom he built Claremont House in Esher, Surrey (1771-4). He was later employed by the Prince of Wales, the future Prince Regent. The Prince took an avid interest in new architectural trends and in 1787 commissioned Holland to build the Marine Pavilion in Brighton. He was therefore in a position to commission furniture from the leading English and French cabinet-makers to fill his grand buildings. In a book of ‘office drawings’ in the library of the Royal Institute of British Architects there are sketches for furniture, mirrors and pier tables.
Holland evolved an elegant Neo-classical style to rival that of Robert Adam, as can be seen at Brooks's Club, 60 St James’ Street, London (1776-8). The success of this building made his name known in aristocratic circles and he designed a number of pleasing country houses, including Berrington Hall, near Leominster, Herefordshire (1778-81). He was also responsible for the remodelling of Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire (1787-1802) for the 5th Duke of Bedford, including the entrance portico (demolished), the conservatory (later the sculpture gallery) and Chinese dairy along with the remodelling of Althorp, Northamptonshire(1787-9), for the 2nd Earl Spencer (including cladding the building with mathematical tiles) and alterations at Broadlands, Hampshire (1788-92) and Southill, Bedfordshire (1796-1800).
Cabinets such as these often had doors lined with pleated silk and sometimes as here, the door frames contained wire grilles. Rosewood was a popular wood with cabinetmakers during the Regency period, when timbers employed were often dark in order to show off the finished brass and ormolu mounts to maximum effect. The overall feel of this cabinet, the distinctive feet, and the contrast between the dark rosewood and the gilt mouldings relate closely to a group of furniture at Southill. Samuel Whitbread inherited Southill in 1796 and commissioned Holland to transform and redecorate the house and also to acquire furniture for it. This was a project worked on intensively by Holland and which can be considered as his most complete work, as he was responsible, not only for the architecture, but also for the interior design and that of the furniture.
The architect Charles Heathcote Tatham was closely associated with Holland and was sent by him to make drawings in Rome of Classical architecture to be
used at Carlton House. As an architect, he was influenced by French sources, notably Pierre Patte and Marie-Joseph Peyre, but unlike Chambers, he did use Greek elements in his designs. Most of Holland's furniture designs were never published and those which have survived are few. It is unfortunate timing that he died at a time when Classicism had re-established itself. In the year following his death, this style was continued under Thomas Hope and his publication in 1807 of 'Household Furniture and Interior Decoration'.
Holland's work shows two distinct styles. He has a strong chinoiserie style, which can be seen in his work for the Prince of Wales at Carlton House and at his ‘Marine Pavilion’, as the Brighton Pavilion was then called. However, his most enduringly influential style was his Francophile Classical style. He often used French cabinet-makers and had a long standing association with the 'marchand mercier', Dominique Daguerre. The work for Samuel Whitbread is the most complete expression of his variant on the Classical tradition. At Southill, the Anglo-French style of early Regency furniture is typified by several low marble topped cupboards and bookcases that were probably made from Holland's designs by Royal cabinet-makers Elward, Marsh and Tatham of London (active 1774-1840). The overall appearance of these ‘dwarf cabinets’ remind one of commodes by the Parisian ébenistes; Claude-Charles Saunier (1735-1807), Jean Henre Riesener (1734-1806) and German-born Adam Weisweiler (1744-1820). The French inspiration is shown in the richly figured veneers, delicate ormolu mounts, gilded columns and marble tops.
The painted motif framing this cabinet may derive from Holland's early work for George IV at Carlton House (1788-92). A carpet from the Throne Room, illustrated in Pyne's watercolors and still extant in the British Royal Collections (RCIN 3183), features a similar diamond framed rosette pattern along its border.
Huon Mallalieu, 'The Illustrated History of Antiques', Quarto Publishing plc, London, 1991.
Frances Collard, 'Regency Furniture', Antique Collectors’Club Ltd, 1985.
CONDITION REPORT ON REQUEST.