An early Georgian bureau cabinet desk has been sold for £120,000 (£140,000 with premium) at Hall’s Auctioneers in Shrewsbury. Similar in style to the lacquered secretaire antique desks sometimes seen in Preston dealers, but with a cabinet in place of enclosed bookshelves, the company said it was the finest piece of antique furniture they had seen in over a decade. In 1997, a Pugin antique dining table was sold for £180,000 from the same saleroom.
The George I bureau is magnificently japanned in red and gilt, and was locally made around 1720. Standing over 7ft tall, it comprises a double-domed cabinet with arched mirrored drawers, above a slant-front bureau. The doors and fall open to reveal lavish gilt chinoiserie inlays, with a myriad of secret drawers, pigeonholes and document compartments.
The bureau was both a convenient home office unit and a statement of wealth, made before the days of antique mahogany partners desks . As any Lancashire antique specialist will tell you, early 18th century desks were mainly of the kneehole writing-table or slope-fronted bureaux variety. The handsome antique mahogany pedestal desks seen in Lancashire showrooms evolved from massive library tables, used in wealthy households from around the 1750s.
The bureau was purchased for £50 in 1930 – about £3000 today. Although the maker is unknown, a very similar piece, attributed to John Belchier, can be seen at Erddig Hall in Wrexham. The reason for its value lies in its rarity – very few 1720 red lacquered pieces are auctioned today. Early 18th century lacquered antique desks are rare, so look in Preston antique dealers for Victorian revival examples.
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