“Lion” Mahogany

The title of this posting is taken from a Country Life article published on the 10th of June 1911.

For many of the great collectors of English furniture, beginning during the early to mid 20th
century, the most desirable pieces have always been items with carved lions’ masks and hairy paw
or claw and ball feet. These pieces were made during what is often viewed as the transitional period
as mahogany gradually began to take over in popularity from walnut. In particular, the additional strength of
mahogany allowed for an even finer level of carved detail which was exploited by the most talented
makers. The deep colours and burnished shine, and patina built up over time, of exquisitely carved mahogany has always been particularly alluring to collectors.

Probably the greatest of all early collectors, Percival Griffiths, had a particular interest in lions’
mask pieces. He was one of a number of collectors advised by the furniture historian and art advisor
R. W. Symonds throughout his collecting career, and in Symonds’ English Furniture from Charles II to George II, we can see many of the pieces Griffiths managed to acquire. Indeed, this publication is still a go-to reference for any modern day collector.

We are delighted to currently have such an example in our current condition: a settee, dating from around 1740-1750, which has carved lion’s head terminals to the arms, carved acanthus leaves to the knees of the legs which terminate in fine claw and ball feet. The timber has acquired a marvellous depth of colour and patina over many years.

The great collectors of English furniture ranging from the likes of those advised by Symonds right
up to the more recent have also often been interested in fine period needlework. Our settee is upholstered in exceptionally fine, petit and gros point needlework which has also retained most of its glorious bright colouring. For anyone interested in antique needlework then Lanto Synge’s Art of Embroidery is highly recommended reading on that subject.

Until recently, the settee was known to have been part of the stock of the respected London dealer
Richard Courtney in 1995, and then spent time in a fine collection in the United States, but no other clues as to its past history had been discovered. We were delighted to discover that it was in fact published in an article in Country Life in 1938 as part of the collection of Mr and the Hon. Mrs Michael Buller. Mrs Buller was the daughter of the 1st, and only, Baron Cable. She, like her father, was born in India and two portraits of her are in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The Bullers used the settee as a feature piece on the landing in their home in Eaton Place. They
were major clients of the famous dealer Frank Partridge during that period and so it is quite likely
that the settee was part of that firm’s stock as well.

This settee really is a piece that ticks all the boxes when it comes to desirable pieces of English
furniture and is of such fine quality that it could easily be the feature piece of any collection or,
perhaps, inspire someone to begin collecting in the first place.

After what has been a very strange year for us all, it is perhaps comforting to think about antiques
and what they represent to those of us who love to live with them. They remind us that all our
current troubles will pass but also that there is such a thing as enduring good taste that never goes
out of fashion.

We wish all our friends and clients, old and new, a very happy New Year and please don’t hesitate to
get in touch if you would like further information about the settee or any other pieces in our collection.


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