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Chippendale 300

Chippendale 300 – a conversation with artist Geraldine Pilgrim

Thomas Chippendale at Harewood, LeedsOne of the most exciting aspects of the Chippendale exhibition this year was the contemporary response of the artist Geraldine Pilgrim who considered the relationship between a finished piece of Chippendale furniture and the original material from which is was constructed, wood and the trees from which this wood came.

She used the phrase ‘Their Most Obedient Servant’ from Chippendale’s Director, as an over-arching title for her exhibition. Her two intriguing and thought-provoking pieces Root and Branch on display in the Terrace Gallery and Family Tree in the Stables Courtyard, fascinated visitors over the summer months. I caught up with Geraldine Pilgrim recently and asked her about her experience working at Harewood:

Ann: How did you came to initially be inspired by Thomas Chippendale?
Geraldine: I was inspired – when I first heard the Harewood theme to be used for the Chippendale celebration “From a Tree to a Table …”- to create imagery that linked a tree with wood, and the intricate carving and gilding of Chippendale’s craftsmanship. I’ve always believed that it’s often the case when visiting stately homes and seeing beautiful ornate and decorative furniture by Master Craftsmen that the materials from which they are made can be forgotten or not realised what the source of these masterpieces actually is – very simply a tree. I fell in love with Thomas Chippendale – my research led me to perceive him as a man of great warmth, integrity, energy and generosity.

What do you most admire about his craftsmanship?
Geraldine: Chippendale was a Master Craftsman who genuinely loved what he did. He had an understanding of wood with a unique ability to realise the potential of this natural material. I think of him as a site – specific artist because he didn’t just design and make furniture, his designs responded to the rooms where his furniture would be placed, in the buildings where he was commissioned and – through his close collaboration with Robert Adam- the wallpaper, furnishings, carpets as well as the furniture, created total environments. His ideas although intricate and highly detailed were not just for decoration but were made to be practical. As the 7th Earl of Harewood said in 2000, ‘The great Diana and Minerva commode stood in my mother’s sitting room and I remember almost as soon as we came to live here, when I was only seven, watching my mother delve into it extracting writing paper and things of that sort. It was not opened daily and she handled it with great care but it was very much in use during the War when she stored wrapping paper and reconstituted envelopes in it’

Your piece Root and Branch seemed such a dramatic response and I know theatre has played a key role in the development of your practice. How did you approach this commission and the display?
Geraldine: As a site- specific artist I always respond in the first instance to the site itself using its history, atmosphere and memories that I feel are embedded in the walls of a building as initial inspiration. Root and Branch was a development in my work as it was very much a gallery piece- albeit a beautiful architectural gallery space- as I realised that I wanted to create a sculpture which would stand in its own right as a piece of work and could be placed anywhere. I loved the theatricality of a tree growing a piece of furniture and that a branch could appear to be almost giving birth to a Chippendale chair. Trees are a constant influence in my work – when appropriate – and the skeletal outlines of the structure of branches has always inspired me. I knew that the Gallery required a distinctive sculpture that could be placed within the four columns and wanted the simplicity of a mahogany box, Chippendale chair, a distinctive branch and a tree root would provide an artistic response as to where Chippendale’s furniture initially came from. An original Chippendale Chair was placed in the gallery, so the carved and gilded original chair could be seen through the branches central curve in Root and Branch.

The intriguing Family Tree was admired by visitors over the summer and as I gave lectures locally I met descendants of the Chippendale family. What inspired you to respond in this way to Chippendale’s story?
Geraldine: It was important to link the imagery within the Gardens to the House so that visitors to the Courtyard Café would be encouraged to enter Harewood House itself as well as visiting the Gardens. With Family Tree I wanted to create an outdoor installation that would not only be visually powerful enough to be noticeable within the stunning Stables Courtyard but would also inspire people to know more about the man himself. This commission gave me an opportunity to connect with Chippendale, his family and his craft by imagining Thomas Chippendale, inspired by his love of wood, dreaming of his own family tree.

Siting Family Tree in the centre of the Courtyard was a perfect setting as it meant that visitors would not only be able to view it by walking around the Installation but also sit with the bed/tree in their midst whilst drinking their teas and coffees enabling it to became a natural and accepted part of their environment. The tree -constructed from individual pieces of oak to my design- burst through the wire mattress base of the bespoke 4 poster bed and embedded in the tree trunk, branches and within the mattress wire base were small engraved brass plaques with all the names of his known family therefore creating a 3 dimensional Chippendale family tree. It was fascinating in my research to discover that he not only had two wives and so many children but that by looking at the names and dates on the plaques, a picture of a real man not just a fabled Master Craftsman began to emerge, with the losses, heartbreaks and history that every family has contained within the engravings.

Harewood House Geraldine Pilgrim 8

Geraldine Pilgrim’s Family Tree.

What for you was the highlight of your work at Harewood?
Geraldine: The moment when I walked alone to view both installations when they were finally in place and those initial ideas and scribbles from months before became a reality. Root and Branch in particular was challenging to install. My team carefully manoeuvred the sculpture through the doorways of the House, for as the chair was already positioned in the branch, it could not be separated and its angle meant the width of the sculpture caused major difficulties but my team were so skilful it all went seamlessly.

Watching the tree of Family Tree being hoisted by crane up and over the beautifully constructed bed so it would be placed accurately onto the waiting plate that would hold it safely in position; was an amazing sight and always in this type of work, the skills and patience of my creative team are always a highlight as I could never achieve my ideas without them.

The commissioning process is always fascinating. Can you tell us something about how you worked with the team at Harewood?
Geraldine: The support from the team at Harewood was amazing. It felt like a true collaboration as they always made sure that I felt that the commission was very much part of the fabric of the House and Gardens and that it was an integral part of the Chippendale celebrations. It was obvious to me at the outset that the team at Harewood had such respect for Chippendale and I valued so much all the assistance in making sure I had enough support and information from Harewood for my research.

You can read more on the Chippendale 300 blog.

With special thanks to Christie’s for their sponsorship of the Chippendale 300 blog series.

Thomas Chippendale’s centenary – a final reflection on 2018

The exhibition Designer, Maker, Decorator at Harewood House, 2018

The Chippendale tercentenary this year has successfully marked the birth of this famous influential Yorkshire cabinet maker and Harewood House Trust has played a key role in the celebrations. This series of blog posts has charted the success of the year and this is the final post and reflection as commemorations draw to a close.

Thomas Chippendale’s furniture was always original and distinctive yet practical, and his commissions often involved far more than simply supplying furniture – his firm provided upholstery, wall paper, draperies and soft furnishings, as the outstanding Harewood commission demonstrated.

His birth in Otley 300 years ago has been celebrated with a series of events, publications and quality exhibitions throughout the year, across the country, collectively known as Chippendale 300. A legacy of the year-long programme is that the different organisations have all undoubtedly enjoyed working together and plan to continue to do so. The Chippendale Society and Furniture History Society have played an important role in co-ordinating many of the activities, most especially the joint symposium in April in Leeds. Furniture History, the journal of the Furniture History Society, an extensively illustrated scholarly publication, has now been published for 2018. Volume LIV is entirely devoted to Chippendale with two articles cover Harewood’s important commission – one by Adam Bowett entitled Furniture for the Circular Dressing Room at Harewood House and the other by myself, The Chippendale Firm at Harewood: Early Visitors’ Experiences, both revealing new research and encouraging new approaches to the study of his most important lavish commission here at Harewood.

Thomas Chippendale may have been born in a small market town, but he found fame in London, setting up his famous workshop in St Martin’s Lane in 1753, where he attracted wealthy elite patrons who included aristocrats, politicians, merchants, actors and royalty. Some patrons such as Harewood’s Edwin Lascelles employed the Chippendale firm exclusively. Due to the success of his book of designs, the revolutionary Director, first published in 1754 with 160 engraved plates, his work has been copied, emulated, and collected across Europe and America – Catherine the Great owned a copy and an edition came out in French. His fame spread quickly and his name and brand resonate today across the world.

The tercentenary year saw Harewood House Trust acquire a very special second edition of the Director, which had belonged to the 1st Earl of Harewood. This exciting new acquisition was returned to England from America and displayed. A previous blog post on 24 August, was dedicated to the Director and the Trust’s important acquisition. There has always been great interest in the Director internationally and at present there is an excellent, highly informative exhibition, Chippendale’s Director: The Designs and Legacy of a Furniture Maker at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York until 27 January 2019, including a selection of more than 200 original Chippendale drawings drawn from their collection.

The Chippendale Director

The Gentleman and Cabinetmaker’s Director, 1755 Harewood House Trust

Chippendale has been described as the Shakespeare of furniture-making and the tercentenary programme of exhibitions and events has highlighted his life and work broadly and innovatively, raising his profile to new heights. Nowhere have the celebrations been greater than here in Yorkshire, the county of his birth, where the bunting came out in Otley throughout June to honour his Baptism Day. The 5 June was celebrated with free admission to Harewood for Otley residents and a special tour, with the annual Chippendale Society Dinner held that warm summer evening at Otley Golf Club.

The programme of celebrations was launched in early February 2018 when Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A, opened the impressive exhibition Thomas Chippendale: A Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design at Leeds City Museum. This explored the life, work and legacy of the furniture maker, with impressive loans of furniture and original drawings. Harewood House Trust lent generously to the exhibition, including the famous ornate wine cooler c1771, which is part of the Dining Room sideboard suite. There were key loans from Temple Newsam House, Nostell Priory, National Trust, the V&A and Fairfax House, York and from numerous private collections, as well as fine examples from The Chippendale Society’s own extensive collection. The key themes were Style, Customers and Legacy, the latter being a fascinating section which included not only the influence of the Director in spreading Chippendale’s style but also how his reputation has been seen in 20th century popular culture, including an explanation about how The Chippendales dance troupe acquired their name in 1979, meeting in the Destiny II nightclub in Los Angeles, and naming themselves after the club’s Chippendale-style furniture. The exhibition was seen by 35,000 visitors and curated jointly by Adam Bowett and James Lomax of The Chippendale Society. A full lavish accompanying publication was launched in April.

Chippendale wine cooler at Harewood House near Harrogate

Ornate Wine cooler c 1771 lent by Harewood House Trust to the Leeds exhibition

On 22 March, Harewood House Trust opened our long-planned exhibition Thomas Chippendale: Designer, Maker, Decorator exploring Chippendale’s craftsmanship, talent as a designer and furniture maker, as well as his wider role as decorator and the response of early visitors to the interiors. One of the highlights of the exhibition was a new mirrored display of the famous Diana and Minerva Commode, the subject of the first blog post on 25 April. It is the finest of a distinguished group of marquetry furniture that was supplied to Edwin Lascelles in the 1770s. The main feature is the central concave recess, superbly executed enabling a lady to sit in front of is and use the drawers. There was an emphasis in this display on the craftsmanship of the Chippendale firm and the materials used to construct this iconic piece of furniture, from the main mahogany carcass to the thin veneer ground of golden satinwood which has been so carefully hand-cut and inlaid with dyed exotic tropical hardwoods such as rosewood and tulip wood. There was a great response from visitors to this particular display which enabled audiences to look in much more detail at the decorative motifs of swags of husks, repeated garlands of flowering acanthus leaves and radiating fans.

The Diana and Minerva commode, 1773, displayed with mirrored stand as part of the exhibition Designer, Maker, Decorator.

The exhibition sought to reflect how an overall commission of this size and complexity was realised and what was involved from a practical point of view. Chippendale’s surviving bills were displayed including the House Steward Samuel Popplewell’s detailed record in his Day Book from 1769 – 1776, which charts the evolving commission and the practicalities of the wider decorator role. The Day Book describes cabinet maker Samuel James arriving from London in October 1769 and remaining until just before Christmas, busying himself ‘Comeing and going to Leeds prepareing for the Work’, ‘Unpacking and Fixing Furniture’, hanging wallpaper and mirrors, for instance on 2 December spending 10 hours ‘At the Glasses in the Dineing Room’.

He was replaced in March 1770 by the ‘upholder’ William Reid, who made many visits to Harewood from 1771 (the year the Lascelles family moved into their new home) to 1776 spending 856 days altogether working here. For the majority of the time Reid was kept busy, unpacking cases, ‘Fixing Furniture’ which included upholstery and ‘Stuffing the Chaires for the Coffe & Billiard room’, laying carpets, hanging wallpaper, curtains and blinds and applying gold wall borders. It was he who was responsible for making up the State Bed, draping the dome in damask working on the State Bedchamber during the winter of 1773 – 4. He also made protective covers for furniture and the carpets and was sometimes, assisted by two tailors with the upholstery and by John Walker the local Harewood joiner. Our visitors also showed great interest in the fact that the house was opened to the public by appointment and on specified days and the quotes from early visitors ranged from Rev John Wesley, founder of Methodism to the abolitionist William Wilberforce and the pastel painter John Russell, all of whom recorded their initial responses to the lavish Chippendale interiors. Ironically some of the greatest pieces of furniture might well have been protected by the serge covers which the Chippendale firm provided, so none mention the great Diana and Minerva commode, which so fascinates audiences today.

The feedback reflected how engaged visitors became in the displays and enjoyed this behind the scene glimpse of how the interiors were originally created and the early visitors comments on them. They were guided around the State Floor and Below Stairs by a handy guide From Tree to Table, which also took them beyond into the grounds to explore the Tree Trail. This continued the trend over the last few years at Harewood of thematically curating the house and landscape together, which was first developed for the Capability Brown celebrations. Not only did Harewood celebrate Chippendale on his Baptism Day on 5 June but also again on 1 August, Yorkshire Day, with a lecture on his Harewood commission.

An illustration from the Chippendale Director

Our colleagues from the National Trust at Nostell Priory visited Harewood House in the run up to the centenary programme and we shared our ideas and thoughts on how we planned to celebrate his legacy, both agreeing the importance of contemporary legacy. Their Chippendale, the Man and the Brand opened at Nostell in May, followed in July by their collaboration with Hepworth Wakefield and the artist/designer Giles Round which explored Chippendale’s legacy and the importance of the domestic setting, examining how artists have influenced interior design. Installations created by Round were seen at both locations examining how homes have become important staging grounds for dialogues between art and design.

Meanwhile, further afield at Paxton House in the Scottish Borders another major exhibition opened – The Paxton Style: Thomas Chippendale’s Scottish Achievement, curated by David Jones and Fiona Salveson Murrell, which explored the taste of two Scottish patrons Patrick Home and Ninian Home for their homes Wedderburn Castle and Paxton House and showcased new research. The furniture at Paxton has been described as ‘an exercise in under-stated well-tempered neo-classicism but quietly experimental. The exhibition ran until the end of August and examined the influences on the Chippendale firm and the legacy in Scotland. It included some key loans from Arniston House, Blair Castle, Dumfries House, National Museums of Scotland and the V&A, benefiting from the Weston Loan Scheme for funding. I much enjoyed a tour of the exhibition with Fiona in July, especially taking in some of the drawings from the V&A. If you missed the exhibition, there is an informative catalogue available for sale from Paxton directly. At the end of September a symposium was planned at Paxton, jointly organised, to compare the commissions at Harewood and at Paxton – ‘Neat and Plain’ vs ‘Sumptuous and Ornate’ and we had a key speakers lined up to deliver some fascinating papers but unfortunately, due to the illness of two of the speakers, and rally major train issues planned for that Saturday 29 September, we regrettably had to cancel the event, as those who had tickets would simply not have been able to reach Paxton that day and return. I’d hoped to write up this event as my final blog post but instead, I’ve now had the opportunity to look back over the entire year and reflect on all that has been achieved. It has been a truly memorable year for Chippendale enthusiasts and the general public alike who have warmed to his story and embraced his legacy.

Harewood _House_Sunflowers

Sunflowers in the Yellow Room as part of Christmas at Harewood: Dreams of the 1920s

It is especially good to see the Chippendale project reflected as we approach the festive season in the Christmas curation of Harewood, with the State Rooms dressed by Artistic Director Simon Costin this year. Visitors can enter a Christmas dreamscape that extends from the House into the surrounding grounds. In two rooms Chippendale themes are particularly reflected – in the Yellow Drawing Room which is a riot of sunflowers referencing the sunflower motif on the suite of Chippendale furniture there and in the Gallery a large 4.5 m tall Pan created in willow by Dragon Willow is inspired by the god of nature and companion to the nymphs. The figure of Pan is often found as a motif on Chippendale furniture in the house and this willow Pan wends its way through the gallery scattering presents as he goes.

As this is my final blog post on Chippendale, I would like to thank my colleagues in the Harewood Collections and wider teams.  I am especially grateful to Christie’s for their support of this blog and the Chippendale Society, specifically Adam Bowett and James Lomax, who have given so much to support to us all but have been particularly helpful to me in thinking through new ideas about the reception of Chippendale’s commission at Harewood.

It has been an exciting year, taking me to lecture across the country and perhaps most memorably at Dumfries House and here at Harewood on Yorkshire Day, both on very hot days and of course contributing my paper to the symposium day in Leeds. It’s been a privilege to serve on the Chippendale 300 Steering Group, meeting regularly with colleagues and I am sure we will get back together to share experiences of this remarkable year. I hope you have enjoyed this tercentenary journey with updates on the blog about key works in Harewood’s collection, new research, events and interviews with key scholars and that with Geraldine here today, hearing how a contemporary artist has responded to this master craftsman, his story and his work.

Thank you for taking the time to read these blogs and share knowledge of and interest in Chippendale.

With special thanks to Christie’s for their sponsorship of the Chippendale 300 blog series.

Harewood House Trust acquires an important copy of Thomas Chippendale’s famous Director in his tercentenary year

Harewood House Trust has marked the tercentenary of Thomas Chippendale with the acquisition of a copy of his famous catalogue of furniture designs, The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director.  Read the latest instalment of the Chippendale300 journey from Professor Ann Sumner, Historic Collections Advisor.

This copy is a 2nd edition dated 1755 and was owned by the 1st Earl of Harewood. In excellent condition it was acquired from a New York dealer by Simon Phillips at Ronald Phillips Ltd, who generously donated the volume back to the Harewood House Trust permanent collection.

The fine, engraved armorial bookplate is of Edward Lascelles, 1st Earl of Harewood (1740 – 1820), cousin of Edwin Lascelles who commissioned the Chippendale firm at Harewood and who succeeded him. It has a fine 19th century, brown morocco and gilt binding, by Riviere and Sons of Bath, with a spine in seven compartments and the crest of the Earl of Harewood, decorated with fine gilt tools, with gilt edges. It is in overall excellent condition.

Chippendale Director

The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director by Thomas Chippendale, 2nd edition 1755, with 19th century brown Morocco leather and gilt binding, Harewood House Trust.

Chippendale produced the first edition of The Gentleman and Cabinetmaker’s Director in 1754 as a commercial enterprise to improve his professional reputation and attract new business. He could not have envisaged its wider success, the impact it would have on 18th century furniture styles and his own legacy. It is the very reason that so many people today still know the name ‘Thomas Chippendale’ while some of his talented rival cabinetmakers are not as renowned today. Chippendale explained the title in the preface, ‘as being calculated to assist the one in the choice, and the other in the execution of the designs, which are so contrived that if no one drawing should singly answer the Gentleman’s taste, there will yet be found a variety of hints sufficient to construct a new one’. The planning of the publication throughout 1753, was no doubt organised to coincide with his significant move in 1754 to St Martin’s Lane and to a new workshop, with the formation of a relationship with financing partner the Scot, James Rannie of Leith, so his firm would be ready and prepared for any new custom it generated. He worked closely with the talented engraver Matthias Darly who produced the illustrations from Chippendale’s drawings, many of these original designs for the Director survive in the MMA New York and in the V&A.


While some furniture designs had occasionally been published before 1754, Thomas Chippendale’s Director was the first ambitious publication on such a large scale. It included designs for ‘Household Furniture’ in the ‘Gothic’, ‘Chinese’ and ‘Modern Taste’, the latter referring to what would today be termed the French Rococo style. The Director was initially launched in April 1754, with 308 supporters signing up, many of these were tradesmen with some architects and sculptors as well as potential patrons from the nobility and gentry. The majority of those who subscribed however, were craftsmen engaged in the furniture trade.


It was a relatively expensive publication compared to the slim volumes of furniture designs gathered together previously. Subscribers pre-publication, would have paid £1 14 s 0d for bound copies or, after publication £2 2s 0d. Chippendale recognised the advantages commercially of gaining orders from booksellers and attracted four London dealers as subscribers too but the only regional bookseller was Stabler and Barstow of York. The quick publication of a second edition the following year, which was basically a reprint of the original with corrections indicates the popular success of the Director. It was clearly a central tool in generating new commissions for his firm and it is a copy of the 2nd edition which Harewood House Trust has recently acquired. Undoubtedly the publishing of the Director was a success. All major known commissions by the Chippendale firm date from after its publication. The first two volumes contained 161 engraved plates showing a rich range of fashionable household furniture. The first two editions were dedicated to the Earl of Northumberland, a distinguished patron of the arts. Many aristocrats ordered copies of the Director but the majority of subscribers were practicing tradesmen.


Ribband Back Chairs, an engraving from Chippendale’s Director, 1755 Harewood House Trust.

The finest example of a commission closely related to the Director designs is at Dumfries House in Ayreshire, Scotland, which is where I went recently to lecture and to see the magnificently preserved early furniture. The fact that a copy of the 2nd edition was in the Lascelles family possession suggests that this book potentially belonged to Edwin Lascelles and was inherited by his cousin the 1st Earl of Harewood and that it influenced Edwin’s decision making a decade later when he decided to employ Thomas Chippendale at Harewood, although we cannot prove this book actually belonged to him. The only fully documented Chippendale furniture dating from the period when the Director was published and illustrating his fully Roccoco period is that at Dumfries House, making it a unique survival of the Chippendale firm’s activities in the 1750s.


By contrast, Edwin Lascelles at Harewood was not commissioning Chippendale until the late 1760s. Thomas Chippendale first came to Harewood in 1767 and his first furniture arrived here in 1769, so over 15 years after the first publication of Director. Harewood therefore is an example of his later mature Neo-Classical furniture, rather than his early Rococo style. Nevertheless there are still illustrated plates in the book which closely relate to furniture at Harewood today. The acquisition of this copy of the Director, returning it to Harewood in Chippendale’s tercentenary year, was extremely important to us in piecing together the influences there may have been on Edwin Lascelles when he made the decision to employ Chippendale for the firm’s most lavish and expensive commission, which would late over 30 years and be completed by Thomas Chippendale Junior.


The publication of the Director also inspired other workshops to emulate this success and create their own furniture pattern books. Chippendale responded to a weekly publication by William Ince and John Mayhew with the publication of his own 3rd revised edition of the Director in 1762 and rose to £3 for a bound copy. The third edition was a significant expansion, reflecting the changing taste of the period with a significant shift towards Neo-Classicism and Chippendale’s response to what other rivals were doing too. It contained 200 engraved illustrations and was dedicated to HRH Prince William Henry. Ten original plates were discarded and 50 new engravings were included. This third edition was published five years before Chippendale set foot in Edwin Lascelle’s new house at Harewood, reflecting how established the workshop was by the time he was commissioned to furnish the Adam interiors at Harewood.


We might have assumed that the Lascelles family would have owned a third edition of the Director, but this was not the case, it was an earlier second edition that passed down in the family. The three editions of the Director have played a significant part in Thomas Chippendale’s legacy not only in Britain but it ensured his international reputation, influencing design in France, Spain, Scandinavia and crucially in America. We are not alone in celebrating the acquisition of a copy of the Director – the Chippendale Society announced in January 2018 that they had acquired a copy of the Director in French, a very rare edition which was actually owned by a German Friedrich Otto von Munchhausen (d 1797) who was the model for the fictional Baron Munchausen. This Director has its original leather binding Germany was one of the most receptive markets for the book, as well as France and we even know that Catherine the Great of Russia owned a copy.


Visiting Dumfries House last month in the middle of the heatwave, I was shown around by head guide John Morrison who pointed out a wealth of Chippendale’s fine mahogany furniture, extravagant Rococo mirrors and a unique moment in the Earl of Dumfries’ study where the fine mahogany library table, with rich ormolu handles, supplied in 1759 is on view. Resting on the desk is a copy of Chippendale’s Director, the later edition of 1762 open on a plate illustrating a very similar desk. That copy of the Director is on loan to Dumfries House from another famous Yorkshireman Alan Titchmarch. The Earl had visited London in early 1759 and Chippendale’s workshop in St Martin’s Lane. It proved to be an expensive shopping expedition as he was so taken by Chippendale’s designs. By May 1759, 39 crates of furniture arrived safely in Scotland, despite Chippendale’s concerns about damage en route from London.


At Harewood today there is one particular pair of commodes which relates to the Director designs. For decades now we have referred to two fine mahagony commodes as the ‘Goldsborough Commodes’ and one of the pair was lent to the excellent exhibition in Leeds Thomas Chippendale 1718 – 1779: A Celebration of British Craftsmanship and Design which closed in June this year. They probably date from earlier in Chippendale’s career than the main Harewood commission, perhaps stylistically to c 1765 We’ve always thought that they were supplied by Chippendale to Daniel Lascelles of Goldsborough Hall, the bachelor brother of Edwin Lascelles, who commissioned him at Harewood. Chippendale’s men worked at Goldsborough on various dates between 1771 and 1776 and there is a considerable group of furniture, later transferred to Harewood and elsewhere, which can be securely shown to have been designed for Goldsborough, notably from the dining room. However, Adam Bowett who was co-curator of the Leeds exhibition has clearly demonstrated that these two rococo commodes are not mentioned in the 1801 inventory of Goldsborough, nor in the Princess Royal’s list of furniture transferred from there to Harewood in 1930. He therefore, proposes that they were made for Harewood all along and were among the numerous mahogany chests of drawers recorded in the 1795 inventory. Could it be that they were early purchases which encouraged Edwin Lascelles to return to Chippendale when he required major pieces for his newly built Harewood House?


One of a pair of commodes (c. 1765-70) at Harewood House, previously thought to have been made for Daniel Lascelles at Goldsborough Hall.

The commodes are typically Rococo in style and demonstrate Chippendale’s typical design elements with their serpentine profile and the double ogee at the front and side aprons. Again there are scrolled foliate cartouches at each corner, carved volute feet, S-shaped keyholes and distinctively designed brass handles.Both are now united and displayed in the same room in Lord Harewood’s Sitting Room on the State Floor. Chippendale illustrated six ‘French Commode Tables’ (that is the ‘Modern’ or what we would call Roccoco style today) in the 1754 and 55 editions of the Director and altogether ten in the expanded 1762 edition. It was clearly a genre and style endured with his patrons and where he felt comfortable but Adam Bowett points out in the luxurious new catalogue for the exhibition that this commode ‘has hints of a nascent neo-Classicism seen in the oval paterae at the sides of the angle brackets in addition to the use of acanthus leaves, beading and husk flowers’ and he draws attention to the top drawer which ‘opens to reveal a baize-lined sliding shelf, bordered in mahogany, either for brushing clothes or for writing’. Recently taking students form the Attingham Summer School around Harewood we were able to open these draws and illustrate this to their gasps of amazement.


French Commode Table, a preparatory drawing for Chippendale’s Director and published in the 1754 and 1755 editions. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Today we open the Director on a page which illustrates one of Chippendale’s designs for ‘French Commode Tables’ which is very similar indeed to our ‘Goldsborough’ commodes, for while they may no longer be felt to have been made for Goldsborough and have in fact most likely been here at Harewood over the centuries, old habits die hard and we shall have now to remind ourselves that they are better described as the Harewood Rococo commodes!

Ann Sumner, Historic Collections Advisor for Harewood House Trust, and guide John Morrisson at Dumfries House

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Dumfries and the opportunity to see a Collection which relates so closely to the designs in the Director and on 1 August, Yorkshire Day, I lectured here at Harewood for our members celebrating the legacy of one of Yorkshire’s most famous sons. We hope to welcome you to Harewood to see our new Director on display this summer and our exhibition Designer, Maker, Decorator which runs until 2 September 2018.

Otley residents visit Harewood House to honour Thomas Chippendale.

Chippendale 300

The statue of Thomas Chippendale in Otley by Graham Ibeson

Over 500 residents from the market town of Otley in West Yorkshire visited Harewood House on 5 June, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Master Carpenter, Thomas Chippendale’s baptism. Residents were invited from Chippendale’s birthplace to visit the House and Estate for free, as part of a celebration of the wider exhibition currently running across the Estate.

Happy Baptism Day Mr Chippendale – Celebrating the Tercentenary of the Baptism of Thomas Chippendale on 5 June in Otley and at Harewood.

In this third Blog from Ann Sumner, Historic Collections Adviser, we hear about Otley Day at Harewood House and the Chippendale Society Annual Dinner on 5th June.

Over the last few weeks, driving through the Yorkshire town of Otley on the River Wharfe, the Chippendale 300 bunting and banners strewn across the streets have proclaimed the tercentenary of Thomas Chippendale, one of the market town’s most famous sons. The celebrations really started on 5th June 2018, which marked the tercentenary of the cabinetmaker’s baptism at All Saints Parish Church 300 years ago. I set off early to Otley en route to Harewood, that morning in glorious summer sunshine and found an atmosphere of real excitement on market day.

I headed for All Saints Church, which is little changed since the 18th century, to see the new exhibition The Life of Thomas Chippendale, 2018, which runs throughout the month of June. There I found informative storyboards and visitors to the town, eagerly embracing the new Visit Otley Chippendale Trail walking map. And I met enthusiastic Otley resident Meg Morton, who was busy putting up posters for the Baptism Concert that evening, Musick for a Summer Evening with soprano Joanne Dexter and the Chippendale Singers. We considered together the current font with the announcement about his baptism, but sadly admitted that this was not the original font used for his actual baptism!

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Otley resident Meg Morten enjoying the exhibition The life of Thomas Chippendale with Ann Sumner at All Saints Church on 5 June

Thomas Chippendale was the son of John Chippendale, a carpenter and joiner in Otley and Mary Drake the daughter of a local stonemason, who married in July 1715. It is thought that Thomas was born in a cottage where the Skipton Building Society is now on Boroughgate. In actuality, we know frustratingly little about his early childhood. I moved on to The Old Grammar School, where it is probable that the young Thomas received an early education. Outside is the statue of Chippendale by Graham Ibeson, the Barnsley sculptor. The building, originally Prince Henry’s Grammar School, is now the Stew and Oyster pub and upstairs there is a special splendid display of photographs of some of Chippendale’s most famous pieces of sculpture including Harewood’s famous wine cooler from the Dining Room suite. The pub hosted a light-hearted birthday party for Chippendale with a quiz and period folk music on the previous Saturday and guests dressed in 18th century costume.

Conservation in action

The in-house Conservation team at Harewood working on the Chippendale Wall borders during the Conservation in Action demonstration on Otley Day held at Harewood 5 June 2018

After chatting to some fascinated visitors, who had come especially to pay homage to the great man, I drove on to Harewood, just 7 miles from Chippendale’s home town, along with many other Otley residents. To mark the Baptism Day at Harewood House, where the Chippendale firm secured their largest commission, free entry was offered to the people of his home town. And they came in their droves to see the exhibition Thomas Chippendale: Designer, Maker, Decorator, Decorator. Visitors looked at the exhibition which explores the remarkable achievements of Chippendale at Harewood including the innovative mirrored display of the superb the Diana and Minerva commode. They particularly enjoyed the conservation in action demonstration by our in-house conservation team who were working on sections of wall borders which were used to cover the edges of both paper and cloth wall coverings by the Chippendale firm where they met dado rails, architraves and door cases. These borders were extremely expensive. At Harewood each room had a different elaborate border which cost 20 – 25 shillings for 4 feet (1.2 m) which was the equivalent for one week’s wages for a cabinetmaker at the time.

During the afternoon, I was fortunate enough to lead a tour of the exhibitions for Otley residents who were enormously enthusiastic about Thomas and his workshop’s activity furnishing the rooms here at Harewood and the range of skills they observed in the superb furniture on display. There was a real sense of pride amongst those on my tour, during which we considered how early tourists and visitors from the preacher John Wesley to the pastel portrait painter John Russell had reacted to the lavish new interiors. At the end I asked some residents what they thought of the interiors and furniture by Chippendale today, 300 years after his birth? Originally some tourists loved the interiors while others were not so enamoured and that was just the same today!

Here is some of the feedback:
‘I loved all the glitz and glamour – all the gold’

‘We are here to support the old man from Otley’

‘I really admired the craftsmanship but overall it’s a bit fussy and over the top for me!’

‘I think it is more for looking at than reclining on’ (reference to the State Bed)

There was just time to dash home to change and then it was off to Otley again – passing All Saints Church where people were arriving for the concert, we were heading on for the Otley Golf Club where the Annual Chippendale Dinner was being held.

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Beckie Burton, Collections Assistant at Harewood House Trust, with Ann Sumner at the Chippendale Society Annual Dinner 2018.

Always a lovely venue, that evening the weather was beautiful and the views were stunning, so guests enjoyed drinks on the terrace outside and admired the Baptism Cake, chatting to Adam Bowett the Chairman and Peggy Pullen, the in-coming Membership Secretary of the Chippendale Society. We awaited the arrival of our speaker, the Chippendale scholar Antony Coleridge, renowned since writing his book Chippendale Furniture: The Works of Thomas Chippendale and his Contemporaries in the Rococo Style. We enjoyed a good meal before his after dinner speech.

Anthony reminded us that his great great uncle was Samuel Taylor Coleridge who also had the same kind of love affair with Yorkshire that Anthony himself enjoyed, as he praised the great Chippendale commissions at Nostell Priory and Harewood House. After a fascinating survey of his experiences of Chippendale throughout his career he was thanked by Lord St Oswald, President of the Chippendale Society, who praised his passion for his subject and the eloquent way in which pieces of furniture were described, reminding us that Thomas Chippendale’s name was associated with exquisite furniture and perfection and that all of us, gathered together on such a beautiful evening in Otley for a very special occasion, were passionate about Chippendale’s achievements.

While coffee was served, I was fortunate enough to catch up with James Lomax, Honorary Curator of the Chippendale Society and co-curator of the brilliant exhibition in Leeds Thomas Chippendale 1718 – 1779: A Celebration of British Craftsmanship and Design. We chatted about the Society and achievements of the Chippendale 300 programme this year so far, over a piece of the Baptism cake, which was baked in Otley by the Patisserie Viennoise.

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Ann Sumner enjoys an after-dinner conversation with James Lomax at the Chippendale Society Annual Dinner at Otley Golf Club

Ann: James, you have recently researched the history of The Chippendale Society which was founded in 1965 and I wonder have these annual dinners been held on his Baptism Day since the 1960s and has this for you been one of the most memorable occasions?

James: You could almost say that the Chippendale Society began life as a dining club! In 1963 a well-known Otley figure, Thomas Pickles, announced in the local paper that he was organising a dinner on 5th June to commemorate Chippendale’s birthday and invited anyone interested to apply for tickets. It was so successful, not least with the numerous people in the area named ‘Chippendale’, that it was repeated the following year. When the Society was formed in 1965 the dinner became an annual event and one of the main events on the calendar. We’ve always had a well-known personality to speak as our guest of honour and we were particularly keen to ask Anthony Coleridge this tercentenary year as he is without doubt the most distinguished scholar on everything to do with Chippendale whose magnificent study first appeared in 1968.

Ann: The Society aims to promote the appreciation and study of the work of Thomas Chippendale and the tercentenary year has been a busy one for you all. Tell us how the Society have specifically promoted the achievements of Thomas Chippendale senior and about some of the highlights for the Chippendale Society thus far in 2018.

James: The Society was well aware that the tercentenary was approaching and lobbied hard for a major exhibition! Fortunately Leeds Museums and Galleries were also keen to promote one of the area’s local heroes so we began a fruitful partnership which has resulted in the present exhibition. To date it has attracted nearly 40,000 visitors and has been a great success.

At the same time the Society took the lead in initiating a wider project intending to promote Chippendale. Thus the Chippendale300 project was born – a partnership of 14 different historic houses and organisations who all have their own programmes focussing on the great man. A Steering Group set up an excellent website which included a message of welcome from Prince Charles. Our events, exhibitions, lectures, workshops and publications are promoted on it and news stories. The programme continues to grow every day!

Ann: Today has been a great day in Otley, culminating in the dinner here. Tell us something about what we know about Chippendale’s family in Otley three hundred years ago, who were they and what do we know of his early life here?

James: We don’t know an awful lot about Chippendale’s life in Otley before he left for York and London, although a certain amount can be surmised. His family had been joiners, carpenters, builders and surveyors in Wharfedale for several generations and this was his essential background. He had no immediate siblings until his father married again and produced a new family who continued to live and work in Otley in this line of business until the 1960s. I did once see a white van inscribed with the words ‘Chippendale – Builders, Joiners, Shopfitters’.

Ann: We are here in Otley tonight and I’ve really enjoyed my day in the town and at Harewood. What would you recommend a Chippendale enthusiast see in Otley.

James: Your first port of call should be Graham Ibbeson’s statue of Chippendale in Manor Square beside the Old Manor once Prince Henry’s Grammar School where Chippendale might have gone to school. Then to the Parish Church where he was baptised, with some good early Georgian vernacular furnishings which were the sort of thing Chippendale’s family might have supplied. Then there is the site of his father’s premises in Boroughgate marked with a blue plaque where Chippendale might have been born, and in Bondgate there are the Chippendale Tea Rooms in the house owned by Chippendale’s uncle, a schoolmaster. And one can wander round the narrow streets of the old part of the town to soak up the atmosphere of an early Georgian market town which gave birth to a genius.

Ann: Today at Harewood we have opened our doors to Otley residents and I had the privilege to take a group on a tour of the exhibition Designer, Maker, Decorator this afternoon. Everyone seemed very proud of the Chippendale heritage and I wonder do you think this awareness has increased in the town over the last few months? Driving through I’ve noticed all the bunting!

James: It’s really very exciting to see how the people of Otley have pulled out all the stops to mark the tercentenary of one of its famous sons. It is great to hear of the birthday party thrown on Saturday, the sell-out concert and especially how many of them came to Harewood today and enjoyed your exhibitions. Throughout June there’s an ongoing festival, Celebrating Chippendale, in Otley with a host of different events and there is a concert going on even as we speak.

Ann: The Chippendale Society has done so much to raise awareness of Thomas Chippendale and his son Thomas over the past 50 years and particularly this year. What more can we look forward to in the second half of the tercentenary year?

James: The exhibition at Leeds Museum which ends on 9th June was a ‘warm up’ for the different events taking place over the rest of the summer around the country. At Harewood there’s a new display of one of Chippendale’s greatest masterpieces, the Diana and Minerva Commode and a long lost mirror from the White Drawing Room; at Nostell, Paxton and Burton Constable there are exhibitions exploring his work at these houses; an exhibition at Paxton House opened today and there are lecture series and study days at Dumfries House, Weston Park and Firle Place. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the V&A Museum have arranged new displays and the former are publishing (for the first time) all Chippendale’s brilliant drawings for the first edition of his great book, The Director. We are so pleased to hear that funding has been secured for the symposium comparing the Harewood and Paxton commissions on 29 September at Paxton which will be fascinating.

Ann: Thank you James so much for your time tonight which I really appreciate. It’s been a wonderful day with so much enthusiasm for Thomas Chippendale’s work 300 years after his birth.

With special thanks to Christie’s for their sponsorship of the Chippendale 300 blog series.

Listen to Professor Ann Sumner’s “Decorating Harewood: Experiencing Chippendale’s largest commission”

The State Bedroom at Harewood House, furnished with a number of original Chippendale pieces.

To mark the Baptism Day of Thomas Chippendale on 5th June 2018, we are publishing a recording of the paper delivered by Ann Sumner at the 42nd Annual Symposium of the Furniture History Society which was held on Saturday 14th April 2018 in Leeds in conjunction with the Chippendale Society. The commission to furnish Harewood House, Yorkshire from 1769 to 1797 by Thomas Chippendale senior and Thomas Chippendale junior and their workforce was the largest, most lavish and significant by the firm. Ann has been researching the early reception of the interiors by contemporaries, studying the letters and diaries of those who stayed with the family, as well as the artists, antiquaries, travel writers, social reformers and surprisingly numerous clergy who came as interested tourists.

In Professor Sumner’s presentation, she outlines the key significance of the commission and highlights some of the significant comments visitors made from the Rev John Wesley, founder of Methodism to the talented pastel portrait painter John Russell. We hope you enjoy these recording. Look out for Ann’s next post which will cover the Baptism Day here at Harewood and in Otley and include an interview with James Lomax of the Chippendale Society.

With special thanks to Christie’s for their sponsorship of the Chippendale 300 blog series.