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Antique Penwork and Rosewood Writing Slope with Pyramided Top Decorated with a Classical Print and Framed by Stylized Flora Circa 1800

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Description:
Ref: WB615 http://www.hygra.com/uk/n11/WB615

A George III penwork and rosewood writing slope of rare and complex form, the pyramided top decorated with a  colored engraving depicting a classical  theme. The box has two compartmentalized drawers to the sides. The top opens to a sloping writing surface with replacement leather writing surface and a lift out pen tray. There is a compartment for storing papers beneath the  writing surface. The particular form makes the box ideal for personal correspondence.  The raised lid would allow the box to be closed with a half written letter still in situe.  The box could be locked for privacy.  Boxes combining pen work with rosewood  are rare. We document a few in our book Antique Boxes  Tea Caddies, and Society, which may be from the same workshop.
Origin: UK;  Circa1800: ; Materials: .

Size: 37.2 cm wide by 31.8 cm by 18.5 cm tapering to 14.5 cm:  14.7 inches wide by 12.5  inches by 7.3  inches tapering to 5.7 inches.

Condition: good overall for period; working lock and key; see images and individual notes.

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A George III penwork and rosewood writing ,Enlarge Picture

"The pursuit of aesthetic excellence as a manifestation of moral integrity may have been a self deluding veneer for the expense spent on an ever increasing number of luxurious objects, which were deemed necessary for a genteel style of living. This new thinking recognized the need for the infusion of new ideas into the stagnating mores of the time and visual impact was an accessible method of ushering in the new philosophy." See: chapter 2  Antique Boxes, Tea Caddies, and Society.

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The penwork is of repeat patterns depicting styalized flora.  Unusually for a writing box there is a cavetto molding. 

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A George III penwork and rosewood writing ,Enlarge Picture

The re is a colored print on the top depicting an allegorical classical scene.  

There were many publishers of this type of print.

Designs of romanticized classical mythological subjects were designed by Princess Elizabeth (1770-1840), daughter of George III. See: www.thepeerage.com/
p10086.htm#i100857

Some of Princess Elizabeth's work can be seen in the Royal Collection at Frogmore House.

Princess Elizabeth's designs were engraved by notable engravers such as H. Thielcke (1813)and W.N. Gardiner (1804) and printed by W. Bulmer & Co., London.

 

 

 

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The writing surface is leather and a replacement. 

The inside is lined with the original  paper printed with a  geometric pattern. There are some losses which have been replaced with a reprint. 

A writing box of similar type but simpler form,  is illustrated at figure 20 of Antique Boxes, Tea Caddies, and Society, 1700--1880Antigone Clarke & Joseph O'Kelly, ISBN: 0764316885

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 Under the writing surface there is a compartment for storing papers.

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The box has two compartmentalized drawers. which are secured  in the box by brass pins.  A tray such as this might be used for storing sewing accessories.

There are two additional small boxes  with painted sliding lids. These may be  for beads.   

Much of the  lining paper  is original. Some replacements have been made with a reprint.

 

The drawers are of dovetail construction. The cabinet makers scoring line is still clearly visible.  I like the detail at the bottom particularly  where the dovetail turns into a miter. 

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The pen tray lifts out of the box.

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The lid of the box would give some privacy when writing a letter. This is a very personal box.

 

 

The figures in the print may be contemporary, 18th century portraits.

Ladies  had their portraits painted dressed as Greek Goddesses or mythological Queens . Emma, Lady Hamilton, was painted in many a classical guise, including all of the three muses in a single picture! In her self portraits, Angelica Kauffman chose to portray herself as a figure of antiquity.

 

 

 

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The hand coloured  print on the top depicts a classical scene. There are four women on the left ant two seated men  on the right. The background is possibly Mount Parnassus.

The women may be the Muses. One has a lyre in her left hand which would indicate that she is Erato.  Another women has a bow.  Does this mean that she is Dianna who  was not one of the Muses? 

I have been unable thus far to make a positive identification of the print.

The Muses were Euterpe, Thalia, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Erato, Polymnia Urania, and Calliope.

In Greek mythology the Muses  represent  elements of inspiration. often in the arts but also in the sciences.

 

 

 The drawers have turned bone pulls.

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 The cloth on the underside looks original. Its purpose was to avoid scratching the table surface.

 

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"As well as sitting for their portraits, the ladies also showed their love of classicism in considerably more down to earth ways. They took the posing a step further adopting it as an after dinner aesthetic relaxation for the gentlemen. They transformed themselves into living sculptures, by dressing in figure- revealing classical robes and draping their bodies in quasi antique poses. The crowned queen of this suggestive activity was once again Emma, Lady Hamilton."

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There seem to be a few old repairs to the back

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Key.

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All text and images and linked images are 1999-2011 Antigone Clarke and Joseph O'Kelly. If you require any further information on permitted use, or a licence to republish any material, email us at copyright@hygra.com