Advanced notice that the new edition of William Ince Cabinet Maker is nearing completion. The manuscript is finished and I am just waiting for a few copyright permissions for images. All going well there will be an official book launch in a couple of months and I hope to be able to make some preview copies available at a special discount price for anyone willing to write a review.
This book will be about twice the size of the original with a greater emphasis on celebrating the work of William Ince. It will also include new information on his father and sisters in Worcestershire, his wife’s family in London and his son Frederick’s remarkable adventure in America taken from the letters he wrote to his family back in England between 1824 and 1836. There will be a chapter on John Mayhew and his family, including new research on John’s baptism and his siblings, and information about his children and grandchildren, including royal dentists and the State Trials for High Treason. There will also be information on some of William’s more notable descendants, including the colourful actress Annette Ince, who played Juliet to John Wilkes Booth’s Romeo and the artists Joseph Murray Ince, Charles Percy Ince and Charlotte Grace Cowell.
I will keep you posted.
I was pleased to read that the Metropolitan Museum in New York will be opening its new British Galleries early in 2020 and that the Croome Court Tapestry Room will be included. This includes the Ince & Mayhew furniture made for the Earl of Coventry in 1769-1771: two settees and six armchairs covered with tapestry from Gobelins in Paris with oval medallions which are reflected in the chair backs. Apparently Chippendale provided the dust covers for this furniture, including chamois stockings for the gilt legs. Ince & Mayhew also supplied the carved and gilt-framed mirror with a shell at the top. This was made in the very best double burnished gold, which means it would have had two coats of water gilding over the gesso and parts of the gold would have been heightened by burnishing.
1stDibs is an online gallery where professional dealers can advertise their items for sale in a great many different categories. It is New York based though the dealers are from all over the world. I initially searched the site on Mayhew and enjoyed the mixture of antique furniture and Star Wars memorabilia which resulted. (Peter Mayhew played Chewbacca in Star Wars for the uninitiated.) When I then filtered by Ince & Mayhew 42 items came up for sale; some are attributed to the firm, some ascribed, some are in the manner of and some are by somebody else but Ince and Mayhew are mentioned in the description. I found seven items that were definitely made by them.
Prices range from £14,750 for a Sheraton style dressing table, one of the wonderful metamorphic tables that unfolds, but which has no provenance, to £485,000 for a serpentine commode, which is exquisitely executed. I am particularly taken with the brushing slide with ivy decoration that lies above the two doors on the front. One of the commodes at Croome Court has a similar slide which would have been used as a flat surface for brushing clothes.
There is also a dumb waiter for sale at £17,000, probably from Clytha Castle in Monmouthshire. The purchaser, William Jones, kept a detailed ledger which records payments of £1,000 to Mayhew & Ince between 1791-1792. Other items that came from Clytha Castle are the pair of card tables that were sold in 2013 at Sotheby’s New York for £77,000. See 18th May 2016 blog entry.
Finally there is an extremely fine copy of the Universal System of Household Furniture for sale at £25,000. This copy has notes and drawings made by the cabinet maker who originally bought it.
Nine direct descendants of William Ince were amongst the party that were given a superb private tour of Sherborne Castle in July. The archivist, Ann Smith, shared the information she had gathered from the accounts, showed us round the rooms and then turned the pages of the 1762 copy of the Universal System of Household Furniture which resides in the Library. William Ince drew at least 75 of the 95 designs, so it was a great delight to enjoy his work,
We saw twenty-one pieces made by Ince & Mayhew, including lovely bedroom furniture, two wonderful marquetry inlaid mahogany commodes, and a metamorphic dressing-table made from yew. As there are no bills to indicate exactly which pieces of furniture came from the firm, it was possible to suggest that a delightful marquetry box was also made by them.
A number of the party intend returning to the Castle, as it is so well laid out and pleasant and we realised we had not had time to pay attention to the rest of the contents. Nor did we spend enough time fully enjoying the gardens, one of the first commissions of Capability Brown, who was working on it at the same time as working at Croome Court, where Ince & Mayhew also contributed a lot of furniture and work including hanging tapestries and dealing with the damp!
As may have become apparent, it is the beautiful marquetry that Ince & Mayhew produced that has had the most impact on me. I am amazed at how an image of a flower or a violin can be transformed into a flat wooden surface, using many different woods. They would have originally been painted bright colours which would have made the impact even greater.
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
Two hundred and sixty years ago on this day, 25th December 1758, John Mayhew and William Ince officially entered into their partnership in the trade or Business of an Upholder and Cabinet Maker. It lasted well beyond the twenty-one years written into their agreement, as acknowledged in the agreement of 21st December 1799 which was all about how they would end the partnership. Sadly, it was not until around 1824 that a financial settlement was reached as recorded in my book William Ince, Cabinet Maker. This date is confirmed by the fact that William’s son Frederick, my great great great grand-father set off for America in October 1824, almost certainly because he finally had enough money to pay for his passage.
I am hoping to add an extra chapter to the book soon, detailing Frederick’s adventures in Virginia, with the young woman he travelled out with, and the story of the family he left behind and how they eventually brought Frederick to account. A story found in the wonderful letters written by Frederick to his family, owned by a distant cousin, Nigel Ince.
Happy Christmas to all the Ince cousins – all around the globe!
A 1775 commode attributed to Ince & Mayhew is being offered for sale by Frank Partridge. The commode is made from padouk, sycamore and holly, a trademark of Ince & Mayhew. A striking attraction is the painted oval panel of the central door which depicts Diana in her chariot. There are three doors, each enclosing three blue paper-lined drawers. The marquetry on the top and the frieze are beautiful, with the typical swags and bows of the firm.
The top is in excellent condition as it lifts up so would not have had objects placed on it, ruining the surface. The commode would have been kept in a lady's boudoir. As it is semi-elliptical, it really needs to be placed in front of a mirror to fully appreciate the design, which shows half a sunflower.
The description on the dealer's website gives full information and photographs.
I was interested to see that Nicholas Wells Antiques has a tripod table for sale which is attributed to Ince and Mayhew, though it could equally be by James Allen of Fredericksburg. This has led me to read up about tripod tables, in particular the publication by Ronald Phillips entitled 18th Century Tripod Tables, which tells you everything you could possibly want to know.
The table for sale is made of mahogany, which was the best wood to use as it grows wide enough for the table top to be made from one piece, with no joins. The table top of the piece for sale is solid, ie no veneer, dished and scalloped. It has a birdcage support which enables the table top to be rotated round the column. Tripod tables became popular in the eighteenth century partly because of the rise in popularity of drinking tea. You can imagine the value of being able to spin the table! A number of family portraits of the time feature a tripod table.
Some tripod tables were made for gaming, especially for playing hombre, a three player game. Plate LIII of the Universal System of Household Furniture shows a drawing by William Ince of a three sided card table with three money wells. Plate XIII shows three Claw Tables and Plate XIV shows Tea Kettle stands, some of which would also have had three legs. At Burghley there are a number of examples of Ince & Mayhew's three-legged work, including candlestands, torcheres and pole-screens.
Peter Holmes of Arlington Conservation, writing in the Tripod Tables publication, says 'Even the simplest tripod can have a breath-taking line of beauty..... Look for line and proportion - these are as important to the success of a tripod as the relationship between the top and base. ..In a good example the drawing of the legs often achieves the poise of an alert animal, giving the tripod elegance and tension.'
18th Century Tripod Tables, Ronald Phillips, 7 July 2014 https://issuu.com/artsolution/docs/84191_rp_for_web-edited (accessed 11/8/2018)
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.