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Dressing table

Dressing table

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1820-1830 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Solid mahogany, veneered on beech, oak and poplar, with lacquered brass mounts and a white marble top

  • Credit Line:

    The Bettine, Lady Abingdon Collection. Bequeathed by Mrs T. R. P. Hole

  • Museum number:

    W.17:1 to 3-1987

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This type of dressing-table, with looking-glass attached, was a form developed in the early years of the 19th century, and some exceptionally grand examples were made by Parisian cabinet-makers, for example Jacob-Desmalter & Cie and François Rémond. This one belongs to a group purchased in Paris by Lord Stuart de Rothesay, who served twice as British ambassador there (1815-1824 and 1828-1830). Stuart de Rothesay acquired a large quantity of French Empire furniture, which he later brought back to Britain to use both in his London home and Highcliffe Castle, the house in Dorset that he built in 1830-1834.

Physical description

Note on key: works normally

Place of Origin

Paris (probably, made)


1820-1830 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Solid mahogany, veneered on beech, oak and poplar, with lacquered brass mounts and a white marble top


Height: 143 cm, Width: 83.8 cm, Depth: 43 cm

Object history note

This is probably one of a large number of pieces of French furniture, ceramics, metalwork, books and other decorative arts, from the Empire period and earlier, acquired in Paris by Charles Stuart (from 1828 1st Lord Stuart de Rothesay) (1779--1845). The Empire furnishings were probably purchased during his first period as ambassador to Paris (1815--1824), the earlier furnishings during his second embassy (1828--30). The Empire furnishings may have been intended for a London house. He acquired 4 Carlton House Terrace, where improvements were carried out from 1827 to 1831, and he moved in in 1834. Older furnishings were more probably purchased for his country house, Highcliffe Castle, Hampshire (now Dorset), which was remodelled and enlarged in the most ambitious Gothic style from 1830 to 1834, with some work continuing throughout the 1830s. In 1841 the house in Carlton House Terrace was let, and the family moved their London residence to Whitehall Yard. It was possibly at that time -- or in 1845, the date of Lord Stuart de Rothesay's death -- that the Empire furnishings were moved to Highcliffe. Lord Stuart de Rothesay's collections were inherited in 1867 by his younger daughter Louisa, Lady Waterford (1818--1891), who maintained Highcliffe Castle. She left the house and its collections to her distant cousin Major-General Edward Stuart Wortley (1857--1934).
However, it is just possible that the present table was not acquired until after Lord Stuart de Rothesay's death -- if the label on the main drawer refers to the French Second Republic (1848--52) [~CHECK]; but the meaning of this label is very unclear. The first certain record of the table at Highcliffe is the label referring to 'Colonel Wortley' (the rank General Wortley held from ~WHEN to ~WHEN). When General Wortley's younger daughter Elizabeth ('Bettine') married Montagu Bertie, 8th Earl of Abingdon, in 1928, he bought the castle and its contents from his father-in-law. The Abingdons sold Highcliffe and most of its contents in 1949, but retained the present group of furniture and some other pieces. After her husband's death in 1963, Lady Abingdon lived for much of the time with her close friends Mr and Mrs Tahu Hole, to whom she bequeathed all her personal possessions on her death in 1978. Tahu Hole died in 1985, and a year later his widow Joyce approached the Museum and offered the collection as a bequest. She died in December 1986, and in accordance with her will the Museum chose those items that it wished to add to its collections. Other items from the collection were sold to benefit the Museum, and the proceeds added to the funds bequeathed.

Historical significance: The dressing-table with attached glass was a form developed in the early years of the 19th century. The Paris cabinet-maker Jacob-Desmalter made a particularly spectacular one for the Empress Josephine at the Tuileries Palace in 1805, and in 1811 he supplied another of the same design to the Empress Marie-Louise at Compiègne. One of the grandest examples of the form with X-supports, used here, is a dressing-table made by François Remond in about 1823 for the Duchesse de Berry (who was a friend of the Stuarts).
A similar but smaller dressing-table was included in the 1949 sale from Highcliffe Castle (lot 596). Many other pieces of this date and quality also appeared in the sale, suggesting that Sir Charles Stuart may have bought a number of supplementary useful pieces (such as this one and the commode, W.23-1987), for use in the Embassy in Paris. (But as noted above, under 'Object History', it is possible that the present piece was acquired later.)

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Medlam, Sarah. The Bettine, Lady Abingdon Collection: The Bequest of Mrs T.R.P. Hole. A Handbook. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1987, p. 58 (cat. no. F.17).


Mahogany; Beech; Oak; Poplar; White marble; Brass


Veneering; Turning; Casting




Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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