One of the Leinster House cabinets.
A pair of corner cabinets designed for Leinster House have surfaced with leading London dealers Apter-Fredericks with a price tag of £250,000 plus. The exceptionally fine c1775 cabinets, known as encoigneurs, were made for William FitzGerald, 2nd Duke of Leinster.
Apter-Fredericks say they have only recently come to light, having been in the possession of the FitzGerald family since the late 18th century. They are listed in the firm’s latest catalogue.
Following the sale of Leinster House to the RDS in 1815 the cabinets were removed to Carton House, home to the Dukes of Leinster until 1949. They are recorded in the ante-room at Carton circa 1887. After Carton they went to Kilkea Castle in Co. Kildare and finally to Ramsden in Oxfordshire.
Leinster House – home to the Irish Parliament or Houses of the Oireachtas since 1922 – was built in 1745. By the 1770’s, when it was owned by the 2nd Duke, only the great first floor gallery remained to be completed. So William FitzGerald commissioned renowned neo-classical architect and designer James Wyatt – who had previously worked with his uncle the 3rd Duke of Richmond – to design the gallery. Wyatt’s designs for the entire room do not exist. The Penrose Album in the National Library of Ireland contains a watercolour showing an end wall in the gallery.
A detail of the cabinet.
Almost all the decorative elements in the room – winged sphinxes, scrolled acanthus and urns – are echoed in the decoration of the corner commodes. The furniture would have worked together with the door cases and chimney pieces to create a sophisticated neo-classical space. This reflected the 2nd Duke of Leinster’s interest in the antique art and decoration he had seen while on his Grand Tour in Italy between 1766 and 1768.
Apter-Fredericks describe the commodes as: A magnificent, museum quality pair of corner cabinets or encoigneurs in satinwood, with purple heart and tulip wood bandings, and inlaid neo-classical designs to the most exceptionally high standard. Furniture of this quality could only have been made by one of a small handful of cabinet makers from this period, namely Mayhew and Ince and Thomas Chippendale. Apter-Fredericks, Important English Furniture, is at Fulham Road, London SW3.
A view of the top.