Getting Down to Brass Tacks: The Exceptional Inlaid Furniture of John Channon

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Detail of the inlaid brass escutcheon on a secretaire cabinet attributed to John Channon 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Like William Gomm, John Channon was not known in the cannon of furniture history until the second half of the twentieth century.  Noted furniture historians, including R. W. Symonds, identified the incredible quality of  a group of, specifically brass-inlaid, furniture, but identifying a cabinetmaker eluded them at the time.  John Hayward, the Deputy Keeper of the Department of Furniture at the Victoria and Albert Museum can be credited with the discovery of Channon’s workshop and production as published in the Victoria and Albert Museum Bulletin in 1965-66.

Possibly of Huguenot origin, Channon came from a family of cabinet-makers from Essex.  He established his business in London in 1737 in St Martin’s Lane and achieved great popularity during the reign of George II with prominent patrons.  Channon is the attributed maker of the ‘Murray’ bureau at Temple Newsam House, Leeds and the ‘Beckford’ bureau-dressing-table, one of a pair, at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In his research, Hayward explored the possibility that the brass mounts could have been supplied by other craftsmen, particularly those with Continental training.  Broadly speaking, brass-inlaid furniture tends to display Continental characteristics and a particular resemblance to Germanic decoration of the time.  This association suggests the involvement of German immigrant craftsmen, and Abraham Roentegen, famed for his brass-inlaid work, is a leading contender as he was working in London in the 1730s.

Designs for such detailed brass ornamentation would have been published in London and readily available in print shops in Great Newport Street and the Strand, adjacent to St Martin’s Lane.  Notable examples include Gaetano Brunetti’s Sixty Different Sorts of Ornament (1732), B. Toro’s Masks and Other Ornaments (1745), and P. Babel’s A New Book of Ornaments (1752)

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A George II Brass Inlaid Secretaire Cabinet Attributed to John Channon 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Secretaire Cabinet

We recently acquired a fantastic secretaire cabinet with richly figured veneers that features distinct decorative features associated with the work of John Channon.

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A George II Brass Inlaid Secretaire Cabinet Attributed to John Channon 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

One of the notable features of this cabinet is the scrolled cartouche-escutcheon, which is elaborately engraved with a fabulous panther mask surrounded, fountain-like, by scrolling Roman-acanthus foliage, which recalls the engraved ‘arabesque’ ornament published by French ornamentalists such as Jean Berain and Daniel Marot.  This escutcheon features a hinged hidden key-hole cover, which can be released by a concealed spring.  This feature can also be seen on some of Channon’s other sophisticated pieces.

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A George II Mahogany Blanket Chest on Stand in the Manner of John Channon 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Blanket Chest on Stand

We have also acquired an impressive George II mahogany blanket chest on stand in the manner of John Channon.  The chest is of rectangular form and features an engraved and inlaid gilt brass escutcheon and brass carrying handles with elaborate backplates.  The chest stands on an outstanding carved and moulded stand with bold cabriole legs carved with acanthus leaves that terminate in lion paw feet.

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A George II Mahogany Blanket Chest in the Manner of John Channon 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Channon’s work can be seen at many of the best museums around the world, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which has an exceptional selection of Channon’s work.

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