Every so often I have wondered about going to the Metropolitan Museum in New York in order to see the Tapestry Room from Croome Court, with the chairs and sofa, and the pier mirror made by Ince & Mayhew. Looking it up on the website recently I discovered it is no longer on display. However, there is a cabinet in the museum made by the firm, which has the most amazing marquetry depicting a violin and some music. The cabinet is made of pine and veenered with satinwood, mahogany, burl, yew and purplewood. It was once in the Sir George Donaldson collection. The intricacy of this piece is just incredible. How did they do the strings on the bow? And the notes of the music? It must have taken hours of painstaking work to produce. Alas, this piece is not on display either.
I then found an article in the 2016 Mallets catalogue which listed this cabinet along with 7 others all with very similar shape and style, one of which is nearly identical to the one in the Metropolitan Museum. The top of this one depicts a sheet of music draped over what is probably a recorder or a flute. Sheer delight! What artistry! This piece was offered by Christie’s in the 1994 Sir Michael Sobell collection auction but withdrawn from sale. It had also been owned by Lilian S Whitmarsh, Sir Anthony de Rothschild Bt, Aston Clinton and Lord Leverhulme.
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/202256?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=john+mayhew&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=12 (Accessed: 28 Mar 2019)
https://issuu.com/mallett/docs/mallett_2016_catalogue_new_version pages 116-119 (Accessed: 28 Mar 2019)
The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, County Durham currently has an interesting exhibition called SOLD! looking at the role of antique dealers over the last 200 years. It is apparently the first time the history of objects and dealers has been the subject of an exhibition staged in a public museum.
It features 25 internationally important objects, and tells the stories of what happened to them before they became museum pieces. Items on show include a 9cms high Fabergé miniature table on loan from the Royal Collection, a Ming bowl bought for just £55 in 1934, now at the British Museum, and a gilded warrior from the V&A Museum.
The Bowes Museum also holds a cabinet attributed to Ince & Mayhew, which was made to display a still life marquetry panel made by André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732), described by The Art Fund as his finest known work.
In an article in the Burlington Magazine, written in 1992 for the hundredth anniversary of the Bowes Museum, the cabinet is described as veneered in ebony and ebonised wood on a carcase of oak with some use of brass. The cabinet is dated c.1780 and was recorded at Warwick Castle by 1811. The article says: It has been postulated that the carcase was made by Mayhew and Ince. In the photos there are two locks in the bottom panel of the cabinet, indicating two drawers.
According to the The Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, 1660-1840 (1986) there are payments to Ince & Mayhew totalling £180 from 1774-1777 in Hoare’s Bank Ledgers for the 2nd Earl of Warwick. No work of theirs has been identified in relation to this but the cabinet in Bowes Museum is possibly attributable.
On the Our Warwickshire website there is a photo of the cabinet, which is referred to as The Warwick Cabinet. It is reported that in the 1970s following its sale to the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the export licence was deferred to allow a museum in Britain the chance to purchase this piece, described as of ‘unrivalled quality’. With generous funds from the Victoria and Albert Museum and Art Fund, the Warwick Cabinet was saved for the nation and acquired by the Bowes Museum. According to The Art Fund their grant was for £5700 of the total of £63,350.
Reference: The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle: Acquisitions 1979-92. (1992). The Burlington Magazine, 134(1071), 411-414. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/885114
Sarah Ingle is the great great great great grand-daughter of William Ince and has been researching her family history for a number of years. She thoroughly enjoyed the detective work involved in tracing William’s lineage.