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An early 19th century Gothic oak bookcase, the rectangular crenellated top with octafoil panels filled with carved roses, fleur de lis, and a portcullis on a tudor rose back panel above a cavetto frieze mounted with carved oak leaves above two doors, each with two Gothic arched apertures filled with unique metal grilles, enclosing three adjustable shelves to each side, the base section with two blind arcaded doors enclosing an adjustable shelf, on a double plinth base, the lower plinth later, the interior stamped twice 'CLAREMONT', the reverse inscribed in ink 'Mr Young 18.5'.
Provenance: Supplied for the Palace of Westminster but by 1866 recorded at Claremont House, Esher.
This robust Gothic bookcase, enriched with Elizabethan cusped tracery and heraldically-charged castellations, is conceived in the William IV romantic English manner introduced as the ‘New Palace of Westminster’ style, with the collaboration in the mid-1830s of the architects Charles Barry (d. 1860) and A.W.N. Pugin (d. 1852). Westminster Palace’s ‘fort portcullis’ badge is displayed in cusped tablets within embattled parapets, which are flowered with the English cinquefoile rose. This bookcase appears to be a precursor for the more florid bookcases designed for the New Palace by Pugin in the mid-1840s. It may possibly have been intended for the King’s Tower (now called the Victoria Tower).
Pugin established a furniture manufactory in Convent Garden circa 1830, and amongst his early publications were Gothic Furniture, 1827, Examples of Gothic Architecture, 1828-1834, Gothic Ornaments from Ancient Buildings in England and France, 1828-31, and Floriated Ornament, 1849. This bookcase bears the 1866 inventory brand of Claremont, Surrey, where A.W.N. Pugin’s father had been employed following its acquisition in 1816 by the Prince Regent’s Commissioners of Woods and Forests for Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg (d. 1865). The following year he and J.B. Papworth remodeled the gothic summerhouse to serve as a mausoleum for William IV’s daughter, Princess Charlotte. Although Leopold was elected King of the Belgians in 1831, he retained Claremont. In 1847-1848 it was fitted up for a visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Shortly afterwards it provided a refuge for Louis-Philippe (d. 1850), the exiled King of France, and Queen Marie-Amelie (d. 1866). It is a mystery when this bookcase was moved from the Palace of Westminster to Claremont, although the house must have needed additions from Royal stores at several times before 1866, particularly in 1848. The presence of this bookcase at Claremont provides rare evidence of Westminster’s status as a royal palace, with some of the furniture at least being considered to belong to the crown and therefore able to be removed to other residences.
- circa 1830
- Oak, brass
Good. Lower plinth later (easily removed to restore to original height). One fleur de lis and several leaves later.
Height 103 inches
Width 54 inches
Depth 19 inches