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Dressing table

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1754 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Linnell, John, born 1729 - died 1796 (designer)
    Linnell, William (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pine and mahogany, with japanned decoration (painted with layers of pigmented varnish); handles of gilt bronze

  • Museum number:

    W.55:1 to 24-1952

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 52, The George Levy Gallery, case 4 []

Object Type
This dressing table is made of gilded, painted and japanned pinewood, with lattice doors in the Chinese style. It was made in about 1754 and is from the Duke's Bedchamber at Badminton House, Gloucestershire.

The dressing table was designed by John Linnell (1729 - 1796) and supplied by his father, William (1703 - 1763) to Charles Noel Somerset, 4th Duke of Beaufort (1709 - 1756) by 1754. They also made similar furniture in 1752 for Mrs Elizabeth Montagu (1720 - 1800), a leading authority on Shakespeare at that time.

Design & Designing
John Linnell had been a pupil of St. Martin's Lane Academy. A number of his furniture designs survive, including one for a chair now in V & A (museum no. E.71-1929). It is virtually identical to the set of eight 'Chinese' chairs from the Duke's bedchamber, at Badminton House.

Publications like William Halfpenny's New Designs for Chinese Temples (1750) and Thomas Chippendale's Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director'(1754) helped spread the fashion for all things Chinese. Mrs Montagu's Chinese-style furniture, made in 1752, was one of the earliest dated commissions of this type. Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines and Utensils (1757) by Sir William Chambers (1723 -1796) offered cabinet-makers more authentic designs.

Physical description

Japanned and parcel-gilt pinewood cabinet decorated with Chinese landscapes and figures.

Place of Origin

London (made)


ca. 1754 (made)


Linnell, John, born 1729 - died 1796 (designer)
Linnell, William (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Pine and mahogany, with japanned decoration (painted with layers of pigmented varnish); handles of gilt bronze


Height: 98 cm, Width: 144 cm, Depth: 72.5 cm

Object history note

Commissioned by the 4th Duke and Duchess of Beaufort for the Chinese Bedroom at Badminton House, South GloucestershireDesigned and supplied by the workshops of William and John Linnell, Berkeley Square, London.

When Dr. Richard Pococke visited Badminton in 1754 he referred to the `Bedchamber finished and furnished very elegantly in the Chinese Manner' (Travels through England, II, p.31). The 1835 inventory (401.4.4.(2),the earliest to survive) mentions ‘a Chinese sideboard with Drawers' as being in the South Breakfast Room. The inventory of 1849 (RA1/1/10a) referrs to a `Chinese Cabinet with drawers & Secretary' as being in the Chinese Room. That of 1913 (N5/1/1) mentions a ‘4' 8" Wide Queen Anne Lac Cabinet fitted three drawers in centre at six ditto at sides the latter enclosed by trellis doors, decorated Chinese landscapes river scenes pagodas set in gilt top with pierced gallery shaped from on square legs'. It was sold at Christie's on 30th June 1921 (lot 61). Having passed through the ownership of Sir Philip Fandel Philips, Lady Ludlow and finally Mrs James Rank before being purchased by the V & A in 1952 (Sotheby's, 11th July 1952, lot 129).

Historical significance: During the 1740s and 1750s, Chinese-inspired furniture was very fashionable. Engravers and aspiring cabinetmakers ranging from Battey Langley to Thomas Chippendale included designs for Chinese furniture. Joseph Goupy designed an octagonal House of Confucius at Kew, with walls made up of open lattice work. In 1750, William Halfpenny published New Designs for Chinese Temples, which included this type of Chinese lattice work. Despite her criticism of ‘the barbarous gaudy gout of the Chinese', Mrs Montague had a Chinese room at her own house in Hill Street, St. James's, decorated with very similar pieces of furniture by William Linnell, the highly fashionable cabinet maker of Berkeley Square. The Duke of Beaufort's Chinese furniture, already at Badminton by 1754, is probably the last examples of English Rococo-influenced Chinoiserie, before William Chambers, who had actually been to China, published his Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines and Utensils in 1757.

A pair of small china cabinets on stands, in the same Chinoiserie taste, were sold from Vaynol Hall, nr. Carnarvon, North Wales. Their history there is uncertain.

Descriptive line

Japanned pinewood cabinet decorated with Chinese landscapes and figures. British (London), 1753. Designed by John Linnell and made by William Linnell.

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

Pococke, Richard (Dr). Travels through England. London, 1754. Vol. II. p. 31.
Macquoid, Percy. A History of English Furniture: The Age of Satinwood. London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1908. pp. 13 - 24, fig. 16.
Tipping, H. A. Lacquer Furniture from Ragley and Badminton. Country Life 1921. Vol. LXIX. pp. 798 - 900.
[Christie's, Badminton, 30th June 1921, lot 61.]
[Sotheby's, 11th July 1952, lot 129.]
Hayward, Helena. Chinoiserie at Badminton: the furniture of John and William Linnell. Apollo. August 1969. pp. 134 - 139.
Hayward Helena and Pat Kirkham. William and John Linnell, Eighteenth Century Furniture Makers. London: Christie's and Studio Vista, 1980. Vol. I. pp. 106 - 108, pl. 5, 5a.

Labels and date

ENGLISH; about 1755
Japanned in black and gold

Attributed to William Linnell.
From Badminton House, Gloucestershire. [pre October 2000]
British Galleries:
This dressing table is decorated with 'japanned' Chinese landscapes and carved Chinese fretwork. Chinese decoration was considered especially suitable for bedrooms and dressing rooms in mid-18th century Britain. The cabinet-makers, William and John Linnell, were among the first to take up this style and the room at Badminton was at the forefront of fashion. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

No bill for the famous Badminton Chinoiserie room has survived but there is strong evidencefor the attribution to the Linnells. William Linnell supplied Mrs Montague with similar furniture for a Chinese Room at her house in Hill St., St. James's, London, in 1752. A design for a chair, very similar to the set of eight `Chinese' chairs, which belonged to the Duke's bedchamber, survives in a bound collection of drawings by William Linnell's son John, compiled in 1800 and now in the V&A's collection of designs (Museum number: E.71-1929).

Reason For Production: Commission


Japanning; Painting (coating)

Subjects depicted

Clouds; Ponds; Temples; Mountains; Figures (representations)


British Galleries; Furniture

Production Type



Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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