1812 is a famous date in French history. It’s also the address of a famous auction room in Cumbria. In November, the link was cemented when three pieces of French ormolu furniture – including a bijouterie table and two antique cabinets – realised almost £4000 at the 1812 Auctioneers, Kendal.
In Cumbria and Lancashire antique tables, chairs and cabinets in the French rococo style are highly sought after by antique collectors and interior designers. The 18th century was the Golden Age of French cabinetmaking, the heavy baroque look gradually giving way to lighter rococo and classical styles. French designers took their inspiration from the Orient, Renaissance and Middle Ages, as well as classical Greece, Egypt and Rome. Antique desks and cabinets were often small and delicate, utilising tropical hardwoods such as mahogany, satinwood and kingwood – supposedly called because it was favoured by Louis XIV and XV. Styles that were first established in France rapidly found favour in Britain and the US; in Preston, antique balloon back dining chairs will often bear French baroque and rococo trademarks despite being British made.
One of the most valuable pieces at the 1812 sale in Cumbria was an antique cabinet originating from France. A 19th century Kingwood vitrine (display cabinet)with a foliate scroll arch top and signed pictorial panels, it went under the hammer for £2400. A matching Kingwood bijouterie table and commode sold for £950 and £600 respectively.
When it comes to fine French furniture, it’s best to buy from an antique dealer. In Cumbria, antique cabinets bought at auction often require heavy Restoration work, which is best tackled by professionals.
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