A fine quality Victorian kidney desk in richly figured burr walnut by John Barrow for Gillows of Lancaster, the top lined with faded green leather, above three drawers in the frieze and four graduated drawers in each pedestal, each with original Rococo revival gilt brass handles. The sides are locked by means of a winged pilaster with a sliding panel at the capital which marks the escutcheon. The central drawer is stamped Gillows and with the pencil inscription ‘John Barrow, Febry 1859’ to the underside. The locks stamped J.T. NEEDS/ 100 NEW BOND ST/ LATE BRAMAH 124 PICCADILLY’. At the back there are adjustable shelves for small books.
The kidney desk originated from a table with a kidney-shaped top. This design, often referred to as a haricot, first appeared as a writing or dressing-table during the Louis XV period (1715-74) in France before being introduced into England in the late 18th century. The kidney table evolved to incorporate drawers and often small shelves for books and thus became the favoured knee-hole form desk of the Sheraton and Victorian periods. Its practicality of shape and design as well as its pleasing and innovative aesthetics made it very popular. The finest examples of this style of desk were made by Gillows of Lancaster in the late 18th century until the mid-19th century.
John Barrow was the son W.J Barrow, the Liverpool cabinet-maker whose name appears in the Gillow records between 1800-1840.John Barrow was apprenticed to Leonard Redmayne in 1826 and appears in the Gillow records between 1834 and 1848. See S.Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London, 1730-1840, vol II, p.215. A similar kidney shaped desk in burr walnut stamped Gillows and bearing John Barrow’s pencil signature sold Sotheby’s London, 15 November 1996, lot 113.
The design for this form of desk, ‘Gillows Estimate Sketch Books’, (1840) no. 5293, Westminster City Archive, for An Oak Pedestal and Kidney Table supplied to Ferguson & Co.
S.Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London, 1730-1840, vol II, p.215.
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