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image XF261
Pedestal desk, XF261, English, unknown maker, c.1700-1710 with early nineteenth century alterations, walnut veneered on oak with leather inlaid into the top and brass escutcheons and handles. ©Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Photograph: Hugh Kelly.

Pedestal desk, English, unknown maker, c.1700-1710 with early nineteenth century alterations, walnut veneered on oak with leather inlaid into the top and brass escutcheons and handles

Height: 77cm
Width: 130.5cm
Depth: 70cm

Museum number: XF261

Curatorial note

With three drawers in the top and three drawers in each pedestal; the desk top, which has re-entrant corners, is inlaid with worn green leather stamped with an anthemion border, set within a cross-banded walnut border and a narrower border of feather banding; drawer fronts with cross-banded borders and feather banding; the shallow drawers in the top have sides made of plain, straight-grained oak; the drawers in the pedestals have sides of figured wainscot oak; the drawers retain their original key escutcheons engraved with flowers; the brass drop-ring handles are early nineteenth century replacements; the flanks of the knee-hole have feather banding with cross-banded borders; the back is also veneered in walnut but without the feather banded borders; the desk may originally have had a cross-banded moulding at the base with turned feet below; if so, the original feet have been replaced with bracket feet and the moulding with a plain band. The drawers are inset with ivory discs numbered 95 – 83 (starting bottom left), those to the three drawers in the top much smaller than the rest; the letters ABCD on ivory discs are inset onto one side of the desk and EFGH on the other

The desk is not mentioned by Soane in the 1830 or the 1835 Description of his house and so the earliest information we have about its provenance comes from George Bailey’s 1840 General Description,1 in which it is described as ‘a small Pedestal table of walnut … [which] formerly belonged to Sir Robert Walpole’. Bailey had been Soane’s chief clerk since 1807 and this information ought therefore to be accurate: he was in the office at the time when the Walpole items were acquired by Soane in 1810-11. ‘A Walnut Tree Desk’ was listed among the household furniture at Orford House in 1745.

This desk is first recorded in Soane’s collection in 1818 shown in a north-south section through the Dome and Breakfast Room, 1818 by Francis Copeland (Vol. 83, 1). By 1822 it had been moved to Soane’s first Picture Room behind No. 12, where it is shown in the window in a view by Joseph Michael Gandy (P113, detail). It is also shown there in the engraving of Soane’s first Picture Room in J Britton and A Pugin, The Public Buildings of London, 1824, plate 2. By 1825 it was in the Monk’s Parlour where it is shown in J M Gandy’s view of 1825 (Vol. 82, 67) with the marble table top, L100, resting on it.

The inset green leather top may have been added by Soane; it is visible in a view by J M Gandy of 1825 (Vol 82, 68); the ivory discs to the drawers and in the sides are typical of his storage arrangements. The desk is an unusual example of Soane adapting a historic piece of furniture for his own use.

1 George Bailey, General Description of Sir John Soane’s Museum, 1840, p. 14.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Walpole (later Yarborough) House, Chelsea; in Soane’s collection by 1818.

Literature

R.W. Symonds, ‘Furniture in the Soane Museum’, Country Life, January 27 1950, p. 221, Figure 6.
P. Thornton ‘Soane’s Kent Tables’ Furniture History XXIX 1993, pp. 59-63


If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk