Description & Technical information

A George III mahogany pedestal desk almost certainly by Thomas Chippendale.
Note: The library table retains the original brass handles and probably the original dark green leather insert.
This desk was a special commission. Unlike the standard model, one of its pedestals had dummy drawers to front and back and was fitted with two doors and sliding trays to the side. 
One door was at some later stage permanently fixed shut, and drawers were fitted to one side of the pedestal, resulting in front drawers in both pedestals. The converted pedestal, however, retained half the cupboard space, with one door now fixed. The original sliding trays within were now too big and were removed completely.
This conversion has now been reversed, and the pedestal has been returned to its original form, with two opening doors to the side and dummy drawers at front and back. Fortunately the original drawer fronts had been retained, allowing them to be reinstated as dummies as intended. The sliding trays, however, have not been replaced. The pedestal has instead been left as one single compartment, accessed from the side. For today’s office use this allows space for computer equipment or other electronics to be concealed behind two fine original Chippendale doors.
Sadly it has not yet been possible to find out when this desk entered the Royal Household. The Duke of Kent’s mother, Queen Mary, was an avid collector of antiques and added much to the Royal Collection in her time, possibly including this desk, but it may alternatively have been part of the original Chippendale commission for the Duke of Gloucester in the 18th century. The surviving accounts from the Duke of Gloucester for 1764 - 6 show payments to the firm of Chippendale & Haig for a total of £134 15s 6d, while the fact that Chippendale dedicated the second edition of his The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director to the Duke also suggests a commission of some importance.
The other pieces attributable to the firm in the Royal Collection include a sofa and two matching armchairs, to which George IV added two bergères and thirteen side chairs of two different sizes. Six large and seven smaller side chairs were supplied by Thomas Chippendale the younger. The style of the first part of the suite dates it to between 1770 and 1775. The closest comparisons are chairs supplied to Harewood House and Nostell Priory, both in Yorkshire, England. The payments of 1764 - 6 must have been for some other pieces, which may include the pedestal desk.
For comparison, the writing table at Dumfries House, Ayrshire, Scotland, that was invoiced by Chippendale in 1759 cost £22 0s 0d. The payment from the Gloucester account therefore must have been for a considerable amount of furniture.
Following the Duke of Kent’s death on active service in 1942, his widow Princess Marina had to sell of much of their personal collection, including this desk, to pay death duties. The Christie’s sale catalogue for 13 and 14 March 1947 contains a number of pieces that could have belonged to the Duke of Gloucester’s Chippendale commission .

Date:  circa 1770
Period:  George III
Origin:  English
Medium: Mahogany
Dimensions: 79.5 x 195.5 x 118 cm (31¹/₄ x 77 x 46¹/₂ inches)
Provenance: HRH Prince George, the Duke of Kent, Belgrave Square, London, England.
Stair & Company, London, England.
Private collection, USA.
Categories: Furniture