Makers and Designers - Part 1

The majority of English cabinet-makers are known to us only by their names; only rarely is it possible to say who made a particular piece. When this can be done it is for one of two reasons: either because the original bill has been preserved, or because the name of the maker was inlaid, stamped or printed on a paper label inside the article. The following are some brief notes on a very few of the more important designers and makers who worked in the eighteenth century.

Samuel Bennett

A London maker who was working at the beginning of the eighteenth century. A cabinet is known with his printed label in one of the drawers. Also, there are three cabinets in existence which have his name inlaid on the inside of a door.

William Kent (1686 to 1748)

An architect, and about the first in England who not only designed a mansion but also some of its contents. His furniture is heavy in appearance and bears much carving, and as his tables and chairs were usually gilt the effect is very rich.

Thomas Chippendale (1718 to 1779)

The best known of all English cabinet-makers and designers. Born at Otley, Yorkshire, he came to London and eventually opened a workshop in St Martin's Lane. His book of designs, The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director, was published first in 1752, enlarged in 1762, and is the most famous of its kind in any country. Chippendale's own firm made pieces for many of the biggest mansions in England, and some of it remains in the rooms in which it was first placed, and for which it was designed. On his death, his business was carried on by his son, also named Thomas.

John Cobb (died in 1778) and William Vile (died in 1767)

Cobb is recorded as being notorious for a very haughty manner, and stories are told of the difficulties into which this led him. Some of his furniture has been identified, but his partnership with William Vile is equally responsible for his importance. Together they were cabinet-makers to George III, and pieces they are known to have made are among the finest of the eighteenth century. Some of their work for the Royal Family is still at Buckingham Palace. William Vile died in 1767, but his partner seems not to have been in favour for no further goods were supplied to the King and Queen after that year.



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