Unusual Paint Decorated Three Tier 'Whatnot'
Unusual Paint Decorated Three Tier 'Whatnot'
Unusual Paint Decorated Three Tier 'Whatnot'

Unusual Paint Decorated Three Tier 'Whatnot'

c. 1850 English

Offered by Robert Young Antiques

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With Drawer Beneath The Bottom Shelf
Pine with Original Grain Painted Surface
"What-Not" is the official name for a piece of occasional furniture of this type. Ralph Edwards states in the Shorter Dictionary of English Furniture, (Hamlyn Publishing 1964, P. 638);

"WHAT-NOTS are Portable stands invented to carry or display a variety of objects; usually rectangular in plan with shelves arranged in tiers supported by turned columns at the angles". He also states that the first published reference to a what-not was recorded in 1808, but that another one of the type figured in a Gillow's cost book in 1800. Edwards goes on to say that they were generally made of solid mahogany, became associated with the Victorian period and that the later examples are often found with spirally twisted uprights.

This example dates from c.1840-50 and is unusual in many respects. Firstly it is a vernacular provincial piece. Made in the earlier C19th style, with baluster turned uprights and squat vase form finials, it is constructed of pine and beech wood. Each shelf is finely framed on three sides with a slightly raised gallery, with a sloping inside face. However, this example retains excellent original hand painted decoration to simulate solid mahogany, which now of course is far rarer and more interesting than the more common mahogany examples.

Obviously made by a professional rural cabinet maker, it has many features in common with the smarter and more fashionable examples of its time, including the framing to the shelves and a dovetail constructed drawer below the lower tier. It also retains its original brass casters.

There is something engaging about these rare provincial paint decorated pieces, that were made contemporaneously with their fashionable counterparts yet have an entirely different and possibly more compelling character.

Made at a time when it was fashionable to display multiple decorative accessories including ceramics, silver, grand tour and other such artefacts, we now appreciate the skeleton of the piece, its lines and surface. Such pieces now frequently serve an entirely different purpose and make cool, portable and unique drinks cabinets in contemporary interiors, with well structured space for glasses on one tier, bottles and decanters below and with cork screws, bottle openers, coasters and accessories in the drawer.

Curious how these charming and quintessentially Victorian What-Nots have come back into "fashion" and are now enjoying a new lease of life for reasons of both style and function.
Height 41.50 inch (105.41 cm)
Width 18.00 inch (45.72 cm)
Depth 16.00 inch (40.64 cm)
Robert Young Antiques

Robert Young Antiques
68 Battersea Bridge Road
SW11 3AG

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