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Thomas Chippendale, ca. 1709–1779, British

Design for a Writing Table

Graphite, gray wash, pen and black ink and brown ink on medium, moderately textured, beige laid paper
Sheet: 8 5/8 x 12 7/8 inches (21.9 x 32.7 cm)

Inscribed in pen and brown ink over graphite, upper left: "No: 51;" crossed out in pen and brown ink upper center: "No. 53"; in pen and brown ink upper center: "Writing Table"; inscribed in pen and brown ink over graphite, throughout drawing labeling parts of the table: "A - F" in upper case and also "f"; in pen and brown ink over graphite lower left: "Chippendale: invert del"; lower center: "Published According to Act of Parliment"; lower right: "M [...] sculp"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
furniture | still life | writing tables
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IIIF Manifest:

Thomas Chippendale worked with architects to execute their designs for interior fittings, and he also produced designs for interiors, sometimes conferring with the architect of the exterior. As an interior decorator, he conceived decorative schemes as well as designing wallpaper, chimney pieces, carpets, and even silverware fro an array or aristocratic and fashionable clients such as cabinet maker and draftsman, he put both talents to use, although it is thought that he stopped personally executing his furniture designs after the 1750s This design for a writing table appeared as Plate LI in Chippendale's important 1754 publication The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, consisting of "most elegant and useful designs of household furniture in the most fashionable taste." This influential publication was the first patter-book to consider a wide array of household furnishings, and it was unique in that it united the patron (the Gentleman of the title) with craftsman (the Cabinet-Maker) in a sense of shared endeavor: "to assist the one [the patron] in Choice, and the other [the craftsman] in the execution of the Designs." Echoing the accepted mode of architectural drawing, Chippendale provides the viewer with elevation, plan, and section of the writing table.

The popularity of this volume made the name Chippendale into an adjective describing English rococo furniture. Characterized by the influence of the curvilinear French ornament with continuous curves and foliage, the rococo style is evident in the elaborate drawer-pull and acanthus-topped legs of the table.

Morna O'Neill

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 145 cat. no. 123

Kathryn James, English Paleography and Manuscript Culture, 1500-1800, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven, p. 77, fig. 92, Z115.E5 J36 2020+ (YCBA)

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