Chippendale Revealed: online exhibition highlights
We look after an outstanding collection of objects by Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779), many at Nostell in West Yorkshire where he provided a range of household furnishings, from the utilitarian to bespoke, luxury goods.
On 5 June 2018 we launched 'Chippendale Revealed', our first-ever online exhibition on the National Trust Collections website in celebration of the 300th anniversary of the great furniture maker.
The online exhibition presents the latest research from our furniture experts as well as specially commissioned photography, enabling you to explore never-before-seen aspects of Chippendale's furniture. Here is a small selection of some of the key works examined in the exhibition.
Chippendale and the Winns
In 1766, not long after inheriting Nostell, Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet (1739–1785) and his wife, Sabine d’Hervart (1734–1798), began commissioning furnishings from Thomas Chippendale.
During what would become a 20-year association, Chippendale supplied to the Winns a wide range of goods and services including furniture and picture frames, textiles and wallpapers. The furniture is amongst the finest he ever made, encompassing a variety of techniques including marquetry and japanned furniture, as well as plainer, more sober examples.
Lady Winn's 'secretary'
Surviving bills and correspondence show that Chippendale was commissioned to supply Lady Winn a combined writing desk and bookcase. Described as 'a Lady's Secretary of fine Mahogany', it was supplied in two phases in 1766 and 1767, not for Nostell Priory, but for the Winns' London house at 11 St James’s Square.
The handles of the 'secretary' are Chippendale’s finest pattern, the drawers are elegantly crossbanded and the pediment is beautifully carved.
Chippendale had a dedicated chair ‘shop’ or ‘room’ which was part of his workshop in St Martin’s Lane, London. At Nostell, there are at least 57 chairs that were made in Chippendale's workshop.
The Winns ordered sets of mahogany chairs for Nostell's dressing rooms and for the library. As was customary, they chose to cover their chairs in opulent fabrics in colours which matched or complemented wall-hangings, floor coverings and curtains.
Over time, the original appearance of most of the upholstered chairs at Nostell was obscured by later alterations. It is therefore interesting to learn that the chairs made for Sabine Winn’s dressing room were originally covered in ‘blue morine’ (now covered in red leather), while the chairs for the library were covered in ‘green hair cloth’ (today upholstered in dark red horsehair).
Green and gold seat furniture
In 1771, Chippendale supplied a remarkable set of seat furniture for the bedrooms at Nostell. The set comprises 14 armchairs, a wing armcahir, a sofa and a pair of dressing stools; all were designed and decorated in the fashionable 'Chinese Chippendale' style. The chairs are painted green with gilt highlights and have Chinese paling beneath the arms.
During the 18th century, the piece of furniture in which clothes were kept was known as a press. Chippendale supplied three surviving presses to the Winns: Sabine’s made in 1766-7, Sir Rowland’s made in 1767 and the japanned press cupboard made in 1771
Mahogany clothes press
In 1766 or 1767, Chippendale made an exquisite clothes press for Sabine Winn. Described by Chippendale as ‘of exceeding fine wood’ and by commentators 200 years later as ‘ravishing’, it is set apart by its shape, its beautiful proportions and its wonderfully-figured veneers.
Each of the presses is fitted with sliding trays still covered in the marbled paper with which they were supplied, and which Chippendale mentions in his accounts.
The japanned clothes press
The green serpentine clothes press supplied by Chippendale in 1771 represents an exceedingly fine surviving example of the use of japanning, a European form of decoration in imitation of Oriental lacquer. The clothes press is part of a larger set of japanned furniture made for the best bedchamber and dressing room at Nostell.
A green and gold-japanned dressing table
Chippendale supplied a dressing table with a serpentine top to Nostell in 1771. The surface is japanned with a Chinoiserie landscape with figures and buildings while the legs are decorated with Chinoiserie flowers.
It is fitted with green-japanned mahogany lidded boxes, a clothes brush and a pin cushion around an easel mirror.
An artist's table
There is a mahogany 'artist’s' table from circa 1765-70, which is possibly by Chippendale and which shares similar methods of construction to a clerk's desk also at Nostell. The artist's table was made for drawing or writing and one end is fitted with both a drawer and a beautifully-made swinging ‘compartment’ fitted with ivory palettes for mixing paints.
One of the most intriguing objects supplied by Chippendale is a set of mahogany and upholstered metamorphic library steps. When closed, it forms a stool with a padded seat covered in horsehair. The seat is hinged at one end and expands to form a set of steps of five treads.
Uncovering hidden aspects
There is so much more to discover and explore in the online exhibition, from never-before-photographed interiors, backs and undersides of Chippendale pieces, as well as dazzling details of Chippendale's finest fittings, finishes and construction methods.