A highly important and extremely rare pair of early 18th century scarlet japanned bureau bookcases by John Belchier, the upper section with a broken pediment centred by a later carved giltwood flaming urn finial, above two rectangular doors inset with shaped panels and later bevelled mirror plates, each door with a brass escutcheon, the scarlet japanned interior with three adjustable shelves above ten pigeon-holes and four short drawers, the fall front with two lozenge cartouches decorated with figures amongst exotic buildings and a scene of courtly figures playing music within a landscape, the fall opening to reveal a fitted interior with a range of drawers, and pigeon-holes centred around a central small cupboard, above two short and three graduated long drawers, with brass escutcheons and handles with engraved backplates, raised on sweeping ogee bracket feet. One bearing the trade label of John Belchier. One with later feet and finial and replacement handles.
Note: One bearing the trade label of John Belchier.
This outstanding surviving pair of signed scarlet japanned bureau bookcases is possibly unique in Britain. They are not only by a known maker, a great rarity in English furniture, but are associated with one of the most distinguished collections, that of the Pleydell Bouverie family, who as the Earls of Radnor were resident at Longford Castle, Wiltshire, and Coleshill, Berkshire.
John Belchier (d. 1753) was one of the most important cabinet-makers of the early 18th century, with a workshop on the south side of St. Paul’s Churchyard in London. His most distinguished firmly documented commission was for John Meller, Queen Anne’s Master of Chancery, to furnish his country seat of Erddig in Wales. Only one other large pair of ascribed scarlet japanned cabinets is known, and these still remain with the family of the Duke of Infantando, for whom they were supplied by Giles Grendy in the 1730s for the Duke’s castle at Lazcano in Spain.

Literature: Illustrated:
Frank Davis, A Picture History of Furniture, London, 1958, illus. 217.
One shown in Mallett & Son trade advertisement, ‘Connoisseur,’ 1958.
Geoffrey Wills, English Furniture 1550-1760, London, 1971, p. 135, fig 105.
Christopher Gilbert, Marked London Furniture, Leeds, 1996, p. 86, illus. 68.


  • Provenance

    Possibly commissioned by Sir Jacob de Bouverie, 1st Viscount Folkestone (1694-1761), and by descent to his son John, 1st Earl of Radnor, at Longford Castle, Wiltshire, or Coleshill, Berkshire;
    One in the collection of Hon. Mrs. Edward Pleydell Bouverie, d. 1951, until sold by her trustees at Christie’s, London, 1957, lot 288; and acquired by; Mallett & Son (Antiques) Ltd., London, by whom sold to; Private collection, England;
    The other bureau bookcase passing to a private collection in Spain until being sold, allowing the pair to be reunited.


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