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George Hepplewhite (c. 1727-d. 1786)
Along with Thomas Chippendale and Thomas Sheraton, George Hepplewhite was one of the preeminent cabinetmakers in England of the late 18th century. Very little is known about Hepplewhite’s life, as Joseph Aronson rather amusingly points out in the introduction to his publication on Hepplewhite where he writes 'The sole documented fact presently know about George Hepplewhite is that he died.' We now know that Hepplewhite ran a workshop in London in the parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate.
Hepplewhite’s work reflects the inspiration of the neo-classical style of Robert Adam while also incorporating a number of French stylistic traits with the use of elegant silhouettes and slender lines. Hepplewhite’s furniture often showcases the natural figuring of the woods he used as a stand-alone decorative feature, frequently with elegant marquetry inlay. Our Pembroke table exemplifies that style with the presence of the highly figured flame mahogany veneer accented by the central cartouche and the delicate inlay around the edge.
After Hepplewhite died in 1787 his widow, Alice, continued the business and went on to publish the Cabinet Maker and Upholsterers Guide in 1788 with over 300 of his designs that epitomized his style of light ornamentation and simple, refined silhouettes. Plates 62 and 63 from this publication illustrate very similar tables.
One of the most attractive features of this Pembroke table is its inclusion of the marquetry conch shell within the central patera. The incorporation of shells into art is a longstanding tradition dating back to the Greco-Roman times. For both the Greeks and the Romans, the shell was associated with Aphrodite and Venus, respectively, the goddess of love and beauty, and the shell became a symbol of fertility. By the Renaissance period, exotic shells were highly valued objects of beauty and rarity that would be displayed in Kunstkammers and other Wonder rooms.
The Rococo tradition in France in the early 18th century derived its name from the word rocaille, or rock, and coquille, or shell. The natural beauty of the shell's form inspired designs based on its inherent curivilinear lines. In Georgian decoration, the conch shell appears in the second half of the eighteenth century in a variety of forms, including as inlaid decoration on tea chests, serving trays and, as in our present example, tables.
The Pembroke table is a versatile design with its distinctive drop-leaves and smaller proportions. Although unlikely, it has been suggested that the origin of the design dates back to Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (1561-1621) who allegedly ordered a table in this style. It is more likely that 9th Earl of Pembroke, Henry Herbert (1693-1751), is responsible for, or at least associated with, the origin of this design as he was a notable architect and designer in his own right.
The versatility of the form made it a highly popular item in the 18th century home as it could be used for writing, dining, serving tea, or at bedsides. When not in use, the tables could be discreetly tucked away.
|Height||72.50 cm||(28.54 inches)|
|Width||49.00 cm||(19.29 inches)|
|Depth||76.00 cm||(29.92 inches)|
Mackinnon - Fine Furniture
5 Ryder Street
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