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Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779)

Thomas Chippendale was born in Otley, Yorkshire. After his initial training under his father and the local joiner, Richard Wood, he moved to London and by 1753, had taken premises in the most important cabinet-maker's district of St. Martin's Lane. The following year he published the first edition of The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director, advertising a 'large collection of the most Elegant and Useful Designs of Household Furniture in the Gothic, Chinese and Modern Tastes'.

This was by far the most comprehensive catalogue of furniture and design at the forefront of current fashion ever to have been produced and proved to be just as influential abroad as it was at generating orders at home. In 1754, he moved to larger premises in St. Martin's Lane, having secured additional financial backing from his new partner, James Rannie.

They took the title 'The Cabinet and Upholstery Warehouse' with a chair in the French manner as a symbol of their work. Chippendale was a master publicist and produced the second edition in 1755, followed by the third in 1762. For the next ten years he embarked on providing arguably the finest English furniture ever to have been produced, so much of it imbued with the fashionable taste for classical antiquity that became the dominant trend in interior decoration.

Due to the wide circulation of the Director among Chippendale's contemporary workshops, it is difficult to attribute many pieces to Chippendale unless there is documentary evidence in the way of invoices or other records that assures the provenance. The Chippendale workshops never signed their work, however there is a presumption that it came from him if it is of high enough quality and was made for a house whose owner subscribed to the Director.

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