Description & Technical information

This outstanding commode belongs to a group of related Baroque commodes, generally ascribed to the workshops of either William Vile, or William Hallett. Many of the designs of this group include well-modelled cherub or putti heads, and here, the carving of the dense West Indian mahogany is of the highest quality. The design and technique of carving are inspired by the work of Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721). An almost identical treatment can be seen in his work at Trinity College Chapel in Oxford.

It would appear to be the pair to the commode in the Mulliner Collection, illustrated in ‘The Decorative Arts in England 1660-1780,’ by H.H Mulliner, Fig 16. Interestingly, the text states:
‘designed specifically for a great house in Yorkshire, from whence it came to this collection. The original owner was a nobleman interested in architecture and the set square and compasses in the ornament symbolise his taste.’

A Pair of commodes clearly by the same maker but less elaborate in form were in the Moller Collection from Thorncombe Park, Surrey, sold by Sothebys in 1993, lot 85.

William Vile of 1700-1767 of 72 St. Martins Lane, London was apprentice to William Hallett and was originally a joineryman in Hallett’s employment. He set up a workshop nextdoor to Hallett and the two cabinetmakers evidentially worked closely together. Many payments were made to Hallett by Vile and are detailed in his accounts.

William Hallett was born in 1707 and died in 1767. He and William Vile were both born in Somerset, which might account for their close working relationship.

Date:  1740
Period:  1600-1750, 18th century
Origin:  England
Medium: Serpentine top, Mahogany, Padouk, Bronze handles
Dimensions: 85 x 122 x 61.5 cm (33¹/₂ x 48 x 24¹/₄ inches)
Categories: Furniture