In between selling Victorian dining chairs and antique desks, Cumbria antique dealers like to browse the auction news – especially the big London sales, where five-figure sums are not unusual for Victorian dining chairs. Preston dealers will have been spluttering over their coffee cups on 13th December, when Sotheby’s of Bond Street sold an 18th century marquetry commode for a record £3.35m. This beat the previous record set by Christie’s two years ago, when £2.4m was paid for a Chippendale antique cabinet.
As with many antiques of this quality the commode, c.1770, had a noble provenance, having been passed down through the Earls of Harrington. It was presented for auction by the trustees of the 10th Earl. Sotheby’s believed it was also a Chippendale, having much in common with two known Chippendale pieces, one of which was sold at Christie’s for £300,000 in 1995. Sotheby’s could find no evidence of the commode being a Harrington commission. However, the family had a strong connection with Baron Harewood, a regular Chippendale patron.
The Sotheby’s commode has nothing in common with the Victorian chamber pot cabinets seen among the antique desks at Preston auctions. The word commode is derived from the French word for “convenient” and actually means a decorative low storage cabinet or chest, on cabriole legs or – as with the Sotheby’s commode – shorter feet. The elegant inlaid and engraved neoclassical cabinet, with gilt fittings, was in exceptional condition. This, plus its private provenance, enticed two out of six interested parties to keep bidding past the £2.5m mark.
Antique dealers in Preston sell antique desks and cabinets in the Chippendale Revival style, allowing Lancastrians to own fine Chippendale furniture at a fraction the price of the originals.
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