Posts tagged Furniture

Masterpiece London 2011


Carlton Hobbs, LLC is once again looking forward to exhibiting at the Masterpiece Fair in London, which opens at the Royal Hospital Chelsea next week, and we are very excited this year to be showing a group of works created abroad for the English and Continental markets. A careful blend of tradition and exoticism in these pieces is expressed in the combination of European forms with construction techniques unique to their native regions, namely the British colonies of East Asia and South America.

An extremely rare set of twelve George II carved walnut dining chairs, circa 1740, likely represents the largest extant group of chairs ordered in the Treaty port of Canton (present day Guangzhou) in the first half of the 18th century. While the design of the set represents the earliest model in the development of Chinese export chairs, taking the basic Queen Anne form of a shaped backsplat and cabriole legs, the construction of the chairs is distinctly Chinese with the carved motifs of an exotic character. The style of carving is closely related to an export cabinet in the Cophenhagen Museum of Art and Design, documented along with a set of twelve chairs in the “English fashion,” making it tempting to hypothesize that these chairs formed part of the same commission.

To the south, Chinese craftsmen created European-influenced furniture of great originality in the Straits Settlements, established by the British East India Company in the Malaccan Straits circa 1826. A rare carved teakwood breakfront on view with Carlton Hobbs represents the variety of Straits Chinese furniture modeled on, or related to, English designs dating from the 16th through the 19th centuries. Although these pieces were clearly Anglicized, their Chinese origins are recognizable by the type of wood used, construction methods and Eastern decorative motifs, which include carved openwork of Asian inspired foliate designs and vases. Although wealthy Chinese patrons generally did not have a taste for European-inspired pieces, the Straits Chinese were an exception, becoming “enthusiastic customers” of the Anglicized furniture.

Along with furniture forms, colonial artists also emulated the European style of portraiture, but often with strong references to their own traditions and subjects. An extremely rare painting of a black artist completing a portrait of a white female aristocrat represents this fusion of metropole and indigenous concepts. The painting, possibly executed in Brazil, speaks to position and integration of slaves in 18th century society. Here, the artist is dressed in an antiquated, fanciful costume and wears an earring, silver collar and arm cuff, denoting his servants/slave status. Usually, black male figures appear in portraits of this period in attendance to their masters, serving as status symbols, however, in the case of this painting, the relationship is indicated in a unique and far less subservient manner. The origin of the painting is as yet uncertain, however, strong clues exist as witnessed in the urban landscape seen through the window in the painting. The tiled roofs of this lively and distinctive reddish-pink color are specific to Portugal and colonial Brazil, which was under Portuguese rule until 1822. The slave population in Brazil was the largest in the world, and spanned four centuries, however slaves in this country experienced a less severe lifestyle than those in other parts of the world.


Carlton Hobbs’ New York office will be open as usual from for the duration of the Fair, +1 212 423 9000. Additionally, Carlton and Stefanie can be reached directly at +1 347-603-3441 or at +1 646-710-0777, or by emailing Stefanie at

Carlton Hobbs’ London showroom is located at 16 Bloomfield Terrace, off Pimlico Road and can be viewed any time by appointment.

An English Pair of Carved Neoclassical Giltwood and Ebonized Candelabra.


These candelabra, although based on a French prototype dating from the 18th Century, are almost certainly English due to the lightness of modeling, gilding technique and typically English vase-shaped brass candleholders.

9811 Candelabra

It is likely that the pair, unusually carved in fine detail from wood, were produced either as special commissions or as maquettes for the plaster sculpture industry that flourished in Britain from the mid 18th to the mid 19th century .

By the early years of the 19th century the demand amongst wealthy patrons in England was so great that sculptors such as Robert Shout and Humphrey Hopper began to make a speciality out of small to medium scale plaster sculptures of neoclassical maidens fitted as lamps.

As only two pairs of the present model are known to exist it seems very likely that they are extremely rare examples of maquettes relating to the hitherto obscure plaster cast industry in England.  this has recently become the source of much academic interest due to Timothy Clifford’s important essay “The Plaster Shops of Rococo and Neoclassical Era in Britain”, published in the Journal of the History of Collections in 1992.

This pair were part of the original furnishings of Trevor House, 15 East 90th Street, NY, built for Emily Trevor in 1926.

Henry Moore’s Only Table


The present table was designed circa 1963 by English sculptor Henry Moore (1898-1986). Made entirely of travertine, “one of his favourite stones,” and constructed in two parts, the table was intended for the living room of the Moore family home at 198 Via Mateo Civitali in Forte dei Marmi, Italy, where the family vacationed in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The home was unfurnished and Moore, being “instrumental in the design of the house,” decided to create the table to be executed by Henraux Marble works located in Querceta, approximately one mile away from Forte dei Marmi. Quarried near Rome, the travertine was brought to Querceta for Moore, who began a close working relationship with Messrs Henraux in 1956, when they supplied him with the travertine used in a large sculpture commission from UNESCO, Paris. Moore had purchased the Forte dei Marmi home so that he could work on the UNESCO project and used the travertine stone for part of the interior of the house as well as the table.

Travertine is a porous, yet durable, sedimentary rock used primarily in building. Some of the most famous edifices constructed of travertine include the Colosseum in Rome, Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Paris, and Kazansky Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Moore’s thoughts on the stone are summarized in his description of the UNESCO Paris project: “It’s a beautiful stone. I’d always wanted to do a large piece in it…In ten or twenty years’ time, with the washing of the Paris rain, it will be fine. Half of Rome is built of travertine.”

The entire design and construction process of the present table was carried out during “one long summer holiday period.” It remained in the family’s Italian vacation home until Henry Moore’s death, and was eventually inherited by his daughter, Mary Moore Danowski. Apart from two wooden carved benches made in the early 1920s, the present table is the only piece of furniture Moore’s daughter recalls him ever creating.

The Hinton House Table


Formerly in the collection of the 4th Earl Poulett, this table originally formed part of the celebrated collection of Hinton House, Hinton St. George, Gloucestershire.

It is an exceptionally rich and sophisticated example of English furniture design of the late 18th and early 19th century. The stylish simplicity of the table’s curving outswept legs, derived from the example of the Klismos chairs of ancient Greece, reveals the influence of antiquity on the fashion of the period. Thomas Sheraton was one of the leaders of taste who incorporated these forms into English furniture design in his The Cabinet Dictionary of 1803.

Circular tables raised on a pedestal and set with a leather top first evolved as pieces of library furniture in the second half of the 18th century, when they were soon adopted by the most eminent furniture-makers of the day. Such pieces, which later acquired the name ‘drum tables,’ appear to have been a development from the rent table, a peculiarly English mid-18th-century form used in the estate offices of grand country houses. The rent table differed from the form of the drum table in having a square paneled base.

It seems probable that the present table was acquired by the 4th Earl Poulett, a figure of sophisticated taste and considerable style whom it would have eminently suited. As Lord of the Bedchamber and a friend of the Prince Regent, later George IV, the Earl moved in the most fashionable circles of the English Regency. At his second marriage in 1811 to Margaret Smith Burges, the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, gave away the bride.

The 4th Earl Poulett was only one of the most flamboyant in a line of eminent collectors. An inventory of the effects of the 4th Earl, taken on his death in 1819, may well refer to the present table in its record of a “mahogany circular table for writing” in the grandest of Hinton’s state rooms, the Saloon. The Saloon was one of a series of rooms remodeled by the important architect James Wyatt towards the end of the 18th century as part of the 4th Earl’s project of improvement and addition at the house. The table is certainly recorded at Hinton in a photograph of circa 1969, showing the table in situ in Wyatt’s gothic Gallery, directly adjacent to the Saloon.

Blue John.

Figure 1- Pair of Blue John Chimney Ornaments.

Carlton Hobbs BlueJ Columns

Carlton Hobbs BJ Treak CliffFigure 2- Treak Cliff and cavern

First discovered over two thousand years ago by the Romans, Blue John is an unusual mineral from the area around Mam Tor mountain at Treak Cliff near Castleton in Derbyshire, England (figure 2). This is the only known location where Blue John can be found, though other types of fluorspars are mined throughout the world. The name “Blue John” is believed to derive from the French bleu jaune,1 meaning “blue-yellow,” and it is characterized by bands of blue/purple and yellow/white colored veins. It is a difficult material to work with, as the stone is soft, brittle, and can be altered in coloration by excessive heating.2 Because of its rarity, the material is no longer used on a grand scale. Presently, only approximately one quarter of a ton is excavated each year and is used primarily for jewelry and small objects.

Carlton Hobbs BJ BoultonFigure 3- Blue John and ormolu mounted Sphinx vase by Boulton, c. 1770.

Carlton Hobbs BJ chimneyFigure 4- The Music Room at Kedleston Hall

Blue John was first used by the ancient Romans and then again beginning around 1760. In late 18th century England, local industry centered around the production of decorative objects in Blue John such as vases, obelisks, and mantel garnitures. These were sometimes embellished with gilt-bronze mounts (figure 3). One of the most proficient users of the stone was Matthew Boulton. He worked extensively in Derbyshire marbles and fluorspars to produce a variety of decorative objects like urns, cassolettes, and perfume burners. Boulton’s technical virtuosity is seen in both the sculpting and application of gilt-bronze mounts to the delicate stone.

Blue John was used to furnish the finest British houses, notably Chatsworth, home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and Kedleston Hall, where it was first employed by Robert Adam. A chimneypiece designed by Adam and made by Joseph Hall or Derby was installed in the Kedleston Music Room in 1761 (figure 4). It is the earliest recoded use of Blue John in the applied arts.

In the Carlton Hobbs collection, a pair of blue john decorations are distinguished by their large scale and fine regular veining (figure 1). They were almost certainly employed as ornaments for the shelf of a fine neoclassical chimney piece.

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