Art from the Emerald Isle: Irish Furniture in the Eighteenth Century

L01.10c

One of a pair of Irish George III period mahogany armchairs 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Percy Macquoid, author of the seminal four volume History of English Furniture between 1904 and 1908, wrote the following about Irish furniture in the Georgian era: ‘the furniture, decorations, and silver plate of Irish workmanship of this time show great refinement of taste and perception of proportion.’  Much has been written about Irish furniture since Macquoid’s publication, and the Knight of Glin and James Peill’s publication Irish Furniture (2007) is one of the most helpful publications to date.

Today we are looking at a selection of Irish furniture in our collection that reflects the trends and taste of Irish craftsmen throughout the eighteenth century.  Where possible, we have drawn links between the pieces and relevant comparisons in the aforementioned publication.

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An Irish George III period mahogany centre table 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Pictured above is a very fine Irish George III period mahogany centre table of excellent colour, with a rectangular moulded top above a pierced frieze carved with eagle heads and foliage centred by a scallop shell, on shell carved cabriole legs with claw and ball feet.  The table is in rare centre table form.

The table displays many Irish characteristics, including the pounced ground to the apron decoration and the elongated scrolls trailing down from the tops of the legs. The back-to-back double eagle heads relate to a mahogany side table with complete eagles holding acanthus in their beaks and whose feathered tails become scrolling acanthus carved across the apron (see op. cit. Irish Furniture, p. 231, cat no. 109).

This table has a distinguished provenance, coming from the collection of George Nathaniel, Marquess Curzon of Kedleston (d. 1925).

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An Irish George III period carved giltwood mirror 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Our next piece is this George III period Irish carved giltwood mirror, with a bevelled plate held within a finely carved flat relief highly decorated frame surmounted by a basket of flowers, the base with a carved scallop shell and the sides with trailing foliage and flowers, all amongst a plethora of scrolls, flowerheads and leaf fronds.

This flat relief form of carved decoration in the giltwood frame is typically associated with Ireland, as is the use of a basket of flowers for the central cresting.  There is a mirror of very similar form and decoration, probably supplied to Sir Laurence Parsons, 3rd Bt., for Birr Castle, Co. Offaly. (see op. cit. Irish Furniture p.260-261, cat no. 222).

L01.10b

A Pair of Irish George III Period Mahogany Armchairs 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

This exceptional pair of George II Irish mahogany armchairs are of particularly fine quality.  Each chair has a superb scrolled top rail above a pierced splat with scrolling arms featuring downswept hand grips above an upholstered seat, standing on cabriole legs carved with shells and acanthus leaves and terminating in square block animal paw feet, the rear legs chamfered and outswept, the front and rear legs joined by a shaped stretcher.  Of particularly good colour throughout.

These chairs are illustrated in Irish Furniture (p. 209, cat. no. 17) with the following note: ‘These armchairs, probably originally part of a set of dining-chairs, have typically Irish squared paw feet.  The fetlock above is incised to look like hair.  The backs are given extra finesse by an engraved line near the edge.’

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An Irish George II period Centre Table 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

We are finishing with this unusual and rare small George II – George III Irish mahogany Chippendale period side table.  The table features a central carved shell on the shaped frieze standing on four bold cabriole legs terminating in claw and ball feet, with a later marble top.  The shell is one of the classic design motifs used in Irish furniture throughout the eighteenth century, and it is prominently featured here in the centre of the table’s frieze.

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