A stunning pair of George III mahogany knife urns with satinwood and ebony inlay.
With silver hallmarked lock escutcheons dating to 1810, these superbly executed urns are of the highest quality reminiscent of the neo-classical design work of architect and designer Robert Adam of around the late eighteenth century. Constructed from the finest mahogany with vertical strands of satinwood and ebony inlay, the lids open to reveal their original interiors which have receptacles for knives, forks and spoons. A rare feature as they were regularly converted for use as desk tidies by the Victorians.
Pictured in Hepplewhite’s, “The Cabinet Makers & Upholsterer’s Guide” of 1788 (see images), knife cases were at the height of their popularity during the last quarter of the eighteenth century although there are records of their use dating back to the seventeenth century. Both Hepplewhite and Sheraton included designs for them in their work although the cases in question are more closely related to Hepplewhite’s work. He (or his wife) remarked that,
“The universal utility of this piece of furniture renders a particular description not necessary. They may be made of mahogany inlaid, or of satin, or other wood at pleasure.”
A few years later, Sheraton remarks that,
“As these cases are not made in regular cabinet shops, it may be of service to mention where they are executed in the best taste by one who makes it his main business; ie. John Lane, No44 St Martins Le Grand, London”
The fact that Hepplewhite feels little need to explain the concept and that by Sheraton’s time, the item was so universal that one man could make it his sole business is testament to their popularity.
They are further evidenced in Gillow’s cost books of 1796 where they are described as “vause knife cases”.
Sadly, they are fewer in number today but they provide wonderful examples of eighteenth and early nineteenth century cabinet work. The hallmarks would suggest that these are either a late example of the classical Adam’s style before the somewhat heavier Regency style gained popularity or the silver mounts were a later addition to a late eighteenth century set. Either way, their manufacture can be reliably dated to between 1770 & 1810.
Visually stunning, these superb vases would have been situated at either side of a sideboard or on separate pedestals, and remain a perfectly useable piece of furniture.