Neoclassical Furniture and the Adam Style

Neoclassical Furniture and the Adam Style

Within our Summer 2023 Fine Interiors sale, we are pleased to present a wide range of examples of English neoclassical furniture.

9 June 2023

With examples of English neoclassical furniture aplenty, of particular interest is lot 582, a George III card table in the manner of Ince & Mayhew. The partnerships between William Ince (1737-1804) & John Mayhew (1736-1811) formed arguably one of the most exciting and creative furniture businesses of the Georgian era, their work like many of their contemporaries, started in the Rococo flavour, but their most coveted commissions were undertaken in the Neoclassical taste. This can be owed in part to their close relationship with Robert Adam, one of the most significant British architects working in the Neoclassical style – a movement in the decorative and visual arts that drew inspiration from the 'classical' art and culture of Ancient Greece and Rome. Ince & Mayhew helped realise many of the architect’s furniture designs, the success of which is illustrated by the impressive list of commissions they collaborated on.

A George III mahogany card table in the manner of Ince and Mayhew

A George III mahogany card table in the manner of Ince and Mayhew, £600-800

The first widely recognised example of English neoclassical furniture was that of a suite of seating delivered to Spencer House and designed by James ‘Anthenian’ Stuart (1713-1788). Despite this early commission, Stuart’s work did not instigate the revival of the classical, but rather this can be attributed to the work of the Adam brothers. Robert (1728-1792) the older had recently returned from a grand tour around Italy, offering him an insight into the architecture of antiquity when the brothers set up business together in London. Within a few years of this, the pair were dominating the scene, their style was refined offering a modern interpretation and a new approach to the classical. Instead of focusing on an individual piece, the brothers looked further, creating ‘movement’ by including every aspect of a room in the overall scheme. The details on an Adam ceiling influence everything from the furniture below to the intricately woven carpets on the floor. This level of integration between object and theme is what we now know as interior design. As the business continued to flurry, Adam’s designs evolved and moved closer to reproducing the ancient, with a catalogue of “new” decorative motifs and forms reimagined from the antiquity introduced.

A George III mahogany card table in the manner of Ince and Mayhew

A George III mahogany card table in the manner of Ince and Mayhew, £600-800

Despite the dominance of marquetry in the firms’ output, their carved work was still practiced into the latter part of the 18th century and was recognised for its quality and high level of execution. Lot 582 demonstrates this superior craftsmanship as well as echoing many of the techniques and decorations which have become known of the partnership. The card table stylistically relates closely to that of a pedestal, probably made for Sir James Lowther, 5Bt. (later 1st Earl of Lonsdale) (1736-1802) with comparable fluted frieze and carved in relief paetrae and anthemions (H. Roberts and C. Cator, Industry and Ingenuity, 2022, p.252 and fig.226). The serpentine form, cut veneers and fluted tapering legs are also characteristics often associated with the firms work.

A satinwood demilune pier table

A satinwood demilune pier table, £800-1,200

Alongside the George III card table, you will find  lot 526, a satinwood demilune pier table and 39 a George III-style satinwood side cabinet are also in the style of Ince & Mayhew, which will be offered in our Fine Interiors sale on the 13 and 14 June.

If you would like to view the full catalogue for our 13-14 June Fine Interiors sale, visit this link. 

For further information regarding our sale or to discuss a valuation, please contact | 01279 817778  




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