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Cabinet

  • Place of origin:

    Yorkshire (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Byfield, John (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Marquetry of walnut, burr walnut, sycamore, other woods and ivory, with some staining, on a pine and oak carcase, with brass fittings

  • Credit Line:

    Given by H. T. G. Watkins

  • Museum number:

    W.136:1 to 46-1928

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, case 15 []

Object Type
The cabinet is in three sections. The lowest is a chest of five drawers, banded with sycamore and decorated with sprays of berries arranged in pairs and tied with ribbons representing true lovers' knots. The bracket feet have replaced the original bun feet.

The two doors of the central section open to reveal three tiers of drawers and a central inner door concealing a further inner tier of drawers. The outer drawers are decorated with floral marquetry. The inner door has the combined coat of arms of the Lawson and Trotter families and the inner drawers have arabesque marquetry.

The double-domed cresting on the top of the cabinet is inspired by Dutch furniture. The 'pleating' of its cornice is a German feature. The crossed Ls on the front of the upper doors are a reference to the monogram for the French king, Louis XIV.

People
The cabinet was inherited by Margaret Lawson's sister, Mrs Catherine Bower. She then left it to her son Henry, describing it in her will of 1742 as 'my large inlaid cabinet with china Jarrs thereto belonging which were my late sister Lawson's'.

Physical description

Cabinet with marquetry of flowers, initials and family arms. The cabinet is formed of three sections. The carcase is of pine, with walnut veneer inlaid with marquetry of various woods. The drawer linings are in quartered oak with fronts of wood (some with 2-plank construction). The bases are rebated into the sides with planted runners of oak. The front and back are rebated and nailed. The dovetails on the drawers are irregular.

Cyphers and Armorials
The left hand (PR) door shows the GL monogram of George Lawson and the right hand (PL) door shows ML for Margaret Lawson. The door of the inner compartment carries the arms of both families. The Lawson arms, dexter (left) side are described in heraldic terms as 'Per pale, sable and argent a chevron countercharged' (divided in half vertically on half black and one silver, set with a chevron in the opposite colour on each section). The Trotter arms, for Margaret Lawson, on the sinister (right) side are described in heraldic terms as 'Argent a chief ermine with a lion azure overall' (silver, with an upper section showing ermine (the fur), with a blue lion covering both sections). The inside face of the door shows the crest of the Lawson family: 'Two flexed arms argent supporting the rising sun proper' (two flexed arms in silver, supporting the rising sun in its natural colours).

Place of Origin

Yorkshire (probably, made)

Date

ca. 1700 (made)

Artist/maker

Byfield, John (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Marquetry of walnut, burr walnut, sycamore, other woods and ivory, with some staining, on a pine and oak carcase, with brass fittings

Dimensions

Height: 240 cm, Width: 136 cm cresting slightly wider, Depth: 66 cm

Object history note

The cabinet was made in about 1700 to commemorate the marriage of Margaret, daughter of Edward Trotter of Skelton Castle, to George Lawson, of Harlsey Castle, Yorkshire. It passed to Margaret Lawson's sister, Mrs. Catherine Bower, of Bridlington, who in turn left it to her son Henry in her will dated 21st April 1742 with the words: 'Item, I give to my son Henry Bower as a token of my Gratitude for his particular affection & care over me during my many and long illnesses, my Silver Tea Kettle and lamp and my large inlaid cabinet with china Jarrs thereto belonging which were my late sister Lawson's'.
The cabinet was passed down through the Bower family from generation to generation and given to the Museum in 1928.

Marquetry cabinet, donated by Watkins

Notes from R.P. 28/9673
The descent of this cabinet from its original owner to Watkins is well documented and all the relevant details have already been extracted to the notes in the Green Folder.

The aspect of the provenance not yet determined is the maker.

1/11/28 internal note, Ralph Edwards to Brackett
suggests that it and the similar (but less well preserved) cabinet in Streatlam Castle may both "be the work of Gerret Jensen (or Johnson), to whom payments are recorded in the Royal Accounts about 1700 for furniture inlaid with ciphers and crowns. They represent an extremely rare style of decoration, remarkable for naturalistic grace, delicacy of colour & lively drawing".

Historical significance: While English in overall form and style, the cabinet has elements in its decorative detailing which suggest an awareness of continental forms. The high pediments with their intricate mitring or 'pleating' of the cornice mouldings, suggest a German influence, while the marquetry of birds and flowers is reminiscent of Dutch craftsmanship. The crossed 'L's' on the door (for Lawson) may be a deliberate and flattering reference to the monogram of the French king Louis XIV, the leader of European fashions at this time. The sparseness of contemporary furnishings limited the possibilities for exhibiting porcelain, which was consequently often placed on cabinets, overdoors or mantelpieces. This cabinet represents the finest of late seventeenth-century marquetry, a technique which fell from favour in the early 18th century and was not revived until the 1750s.

Historical context note

The fashion for showing Chinese porcelain imported by the Dutch East India Company, at its height in the 1680s and 1690s was popularised by William and Mary and their court architect Daniel Marot (c.1663-1752) who brought the taste from Holland.

Descriptive line

Cabinet decorated with marquetry, possibly made by John Byfield, English (Yorkshire), ca. 1700.

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

Wilk, Christopher ed. Western Furniture: 1350 to the present day in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. London, Philip Wilson Publishers in Association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1966, pp.80-81. ISBN: 1856674435

Cabinet
British: circa 1700
Walnut veneer with marquetry decoration; carcase of pine
H: 239.5 cm; W: 144.7 cm; D: 61 cm
Museum No. W.136-1928
Given by Mr H.T.G. Watkins, Richmond, Surrey

This cabinet was made in about 1700 to commemorate the marriage of Margaret, daughter of Edward Trotter of Skelton Castle, to George Lawson, of Harlsey Castle, Yorkshire.[note 1] The outer doors bear the couple's monograms 'GL' on the left and 'MT' on the right, while the arms of the two families appear on the door of the inner cupboard (figs 1-2), with the Lawson crest on the inner side of the door.

The cabinet has a complete and interesting history. It passed to Margaret Lawson's sister, Mrs Catherine Bower, of Bridlington, who in turn left it to her son, Henry, in her will dated 21 April 1742 with the words: 'Item, I give to my son Henry Bower as a token of my Gratitude for his particular affection & care over me during my many and long illnesses, my Silver Tea Kettle and lamp and my large inlaid cabinett with china Jarrs thereto belonging which were my late sister Lawson's'. The cabinet was passed down from generation to generation until it was given to the V&A in 1928.

The unusual and imposing double pediment has four small plinths rising from the top, which may have been designed to display the Chinese porcelain which was associated with the cabinet. The fashion for showing Chinese porcelain imported by the Dutch East India Company, at its height in the 1680s and 1690s, was popularized by William and Mary and their court architect Daniel Marot (c.1663—1752), who brought the taste from Holland. The sparseness of contemporary furnishings limited the possibilities for exhibiting porcelain, which was consequently often placed on cabinets, overdoors or mantelpieces.

The cabinet represents the finest of late seventeenth-century marquetry, a technique which shortly afterwards fell from favour and was not revived until the middle of the following century. The maker of this cabinet is as yet unknown. British marquetry cabinets on this scale are extremely rare; a cabinet made for William Bowes of Gibside and Streatlam, Co. Durham, and his wife Elizabeth Blakiston, who married in 1691 (fig.3), is, however, so closely similar, as to suggest that both were made by the same local cabinet-maker. The lower drawers have strikingly similar sprays of berries (or possibly the dried seed pods of the honesty flower) tied with true-lovers' knots.[note 2]

While decidedly British in overall form and style, the cabinet has elements in its decorative detailing which suggest an awareness of continental forms. The high pediments, with their intricate mitring or 'pleating' of the cornice mouldings, suggest a German influence, while the marquetry of birds and flowers is reminiscent of Dutch craftsmanship. The crossed `L's on the doors (for Lawson) may be a deliberate and flattering reference to the monogram of the French king Louis XIV, the leader of all European fashions.

The elaborate marquetry decoration includes, on the inside of the doors, the subtle use of burr woods to suggest the marble tops of console tables which support Classical urns containing flowers. The composition follows decoration on contemporary Dutch cabinets (p.76). Flowers are also present on the inner drawer fronts and include roses, tulips, lilies, anemones and pinks. The respect with which the cabinet has been treated by the same family explains its superb condition. It retains its high-quality brass drop handles, though bracket feet have replaced the original bun feet.

Notes
1. Information provided by the donor in 1928. The exact marriage date is unknown, although Margaret was born in 1670 and died in 1728. George (d.1726/7) was the son of Godfrey Lawson, a wealthy Leeds woollen merchant. The Trotter and Lawson families were evidently closely connected as George's sister, Elizabeth (b.1663), married Margaret's eldest brother, John (b.1659).
2. The cabinets are compared in R. Edwards, The Dictionary of English Furniture (London: Country Life, revised edition, 1954), p.169, and in Herbert Cescinsky, 'Four English Marquetry Cabinets', Burlington Magazine, vol.IV, no.CCCXXI (December 1929), P13.277-84.

Labels and date

Made to commemorate the marriage of Margaret, daughter of Edward Trotter of Skelton Castle, with George Lawson (d. 1726/7) of Harlsey Castle, both in Yorkshire. A similar cabinet was formerly at Streatlam Castle, Co. Durham.
[John Hardy] [1976]
CABINET with marquetry of flowers, initials and family arms
About 1700

The marquetry on this cabinet may have been made by more than one craftsman. The simple flowers on the drawer fronts are cut differently from the elaborate scrolls, birds and flowers on the doors. Whoever designed it must have known of the complex floral and bird marquetry that was then fashionable in France and The Netherlands.

Marquetry of walnut, burr walnut, sycamore, other woods and ivory, with some staining, on a pine and oak carcase; brass fittings
Probably made in London
Signed in pencil on the inside of the carcase: 'John Byfield'
Made, probably for East Harlsey Castle, North Yorkshire, to commemorate the marriage, in about 1700, between Margaret Trotter (1670-1728) and George Lawson (died in 1726 or 1727).
The marquetry incorporates the monograms GL and ML, and the combined Lawson and Trotter arms inside.

Given by H.T.G. Watkins [27/03/2003]

Production Note

The pencil inscription 'John Byfield, Maker' has recently been found on the underside of a dustboard concealing a secret compartment at the base of the upper section, proper left. English marquetry cabinets on this scale are extremely rare. The only known similar cabinet (now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York: Museum number 31.86) was made to commemorate the marriage of William Bowes of Darlington, County Durham and his wife Elizabeth Blakiston in 1693 and is associated with Streatlam Castle. The geographical proximity of these patrons to the Lawson and Trotter families suggests that both cabinets were made by a local cabinet-maker. The continental influence of both the form and decoration of these cabinets suggest that the maker may have been of Dutch origin. But the quality of the carcase work suggests that his workshop was experienced in the higher quality English construction techniques prevalent at this date.

Materials

Pine; Walnut; Sycamore; Ivory; Oak; Brass

Techniques

Cabinet-making; Veneering; Marquetry; Staining

Categories

Furniture; Woodwork; British Galleries

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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