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Preliminary design for a cabinet, June 1771, executed with alterations (1)

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Elizabeth, Duchess of Manchester (1730-1832) owned a collection of eleven Florentine pietra dura landscape panels by Baccio Cappelli, datable to 1709. In order to display these panels in her bedchamber the Duchess commissioned Adam to design a cabinet on which they could be mounted. The executed cabinet is to a slightly different design to Adam volume 17/218, without the arcaded lower register, with less ornamental motifs, and without the frieze dividing the top most panels into an attic register. It was constructed in mahogany and oak, with satinwood and rosewood marquetry, in 1771-76, by the cabinetmakers William Ince (d.1804) and John Mayhew (1736-1811), and with ormolu mounts by Matthew Boulton (1728-1809). Despite its appearance, the cabinet does not contain drawers, but rather has large doors on either side. It appears that it was intended as a means of displaying the pietra dura panels rather than as a cabinet for storage. In 1949 the Kimbolton cabinet was sold by the 10th Duke of Manchester and is now in the possession of the V&A Museum.

According to Harris this cabinet, with its pietra dura panels, is comparable to the executed design for the chimneypiece in the Chinese room at Kenwood, with its inlaid painted Chinoiserie tiles (SM Adam volume 23/243), c1773.

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Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.

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