Furniture Style: Regency Period 1800-1830
A fine quality early 19th Century Regency period fiddle-back mahogany Secretaire Bookcase, in the manner of Thomas Hope, having scrolled and anthemion carved cornice with central applied bronze plaque depicting classical heads. The Bookcase, with ebony framed panels throughout, having geometric glazing bars above secretaire drawer and panelled cupboard doors below, supported on bold lion's paw feet.
The tragedy and comedy masks, represented on the top of the bookcase, are possibly designed by Thomas Hope. Hope represented a series of comic and tragic masks in his book 'Household Furniture' (pl. XXXVII), which derived from his drawings that he made during his Grand Tour between 1787 and 1795, probably in Greece or Italy. He included some of these masks in different designs in 'Household Furniture' including the Blue John vases (pl. XIII, no.3, cat. no. 70), on cabinets and on the ends of several tables (pl. XX, no. 2-3; pl. XI, nos. 1-2). The bronzes on his own designed furniture pieces were executed by a French metalworker Alexis Decaix, who at the height of his career opened a shop in Old Bond Street, where he was selling bronze and ormolu objects.
The lion's paw supports are also a distinctive trait of Hope's designs. In 1795, during the Grand Tour, Thomas Hope visited Rome for the first time. During his stay he admired an ancient bath made of rosso antico, known as the Tomb of Agrippa, placed in the portico of the Pantheon, with lion's paw endings. However, Hope's most significant source is most likely to have been Charles Heathcote Tatham's 'Etchings… of Ancient Ornamental Architecture', in which he illustrated the aforementioned ancient bath (pl. 95). A similar design to our Bookcase could also be found in Hope's book 'Household Furniture' (pl. 11 no. 2), represented as front and end of a large library or writing table.