Luxury Design, Past & Present
This Gothic Revival parcel gilt oak centre table was designed by A.W.N. Pugin for Morel & Seddon as part of their commission to refurbish Windsor Castle. The table is recorded in the firm’s account books as follows: No. 1071. ‘To a large Gothic circular table of very fine dark oak highly polished with a richly inlaid border of various woods on a frame ornamented with string course carved bosses, perforated tracery and pendants, supported by a sexagon pillar, and triangular plinths with feet and improved castors, ornamented with tracery, the whole of the tracery, bosses &c gilt in the best manner in mat and burnished gold.’ The frieze ornament is replaced after the original and the underside has fanned ribs in imitation of a Gothic vaulted ceiling. Inscribed ‘No. 240’ and stamped ‘617’. Together with a protective tablecloth embroidered with the Royal coat of arms. English, 1828.
Provenance: Delivered to Windsor Castle by Morel & Seddon, July 1828.
Manuscript Account Book of Morel & Seddon, n.d. , Royal Collection, Stable Yard House, St James’s Palace, London (RCIN 1114843).
Windsor Castle Interiors, Illustrated Manuscript, State Apartments and Private Apartments, vols I & II, n.d. [c. 1880], Royal Collection, Stable Yard House, St James’s Palace, London.
Cooper, Jeremy. Victorian and Edwardian Furniture and Interiors: From the Gothic Revival to Art Nouveau. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2007, p. 48 (illus. fig. 91).
Roberts, Hugh. For the King’s Pleasure: The Furnishing and Decoration of George IV’s Apartments at Windsor Castle. London: Royal Collection, 2001, pp. 339-343, 345, 347, 349 (illus. fig. 426, 432-433).
De Bellaigue, Geoffrey, and Pat Kirkham. George IV And The Furnishing Of Windsor Castle. Furniture History 8 (1972): 1-34, esp. 19-20.
Atterbury, Paul, and Clive Wainwright. Pugin: A Gothic Passion. New Haven [etc.]: Yale University Press, 1994.
Seddon and Morel and the Windsor Castle Commission. The partnership of Nicholas Morel and George Seddon was noted as the largest furnishing company in London in the eighteenth century, thus having the capacity to process large orders. Morel had already worked for the Prince of Wales, later George IV, on his residences at Carlton House and the Brighton Pavilion, but the refurbishment of Windsor Castle was an enormous undertaking which included the furnishing of 59 rooms with a budget of £203,963 6s 8d. This was the largest sum ever devoted to a single furnishing scheme in this country, equivalent to nearly £250 million in today’s currency, and, maybe inevitably, Seddon had great difficulty in extracting the £200,000 from the Crown – which led to a near bankruptcy in 1840. Morel & Seddon collaborated with some of the finest craftsmen and designers of the day including the Parisian cabinetmaker F.H.G. Jacob-Desmalter and A.W.N. Pugin who designed the present table. The designs for The Drawing Room (Room 240), then called ‘The Coffee Room’, were endorsed and initialled by the King and A.W.N. Pugin was responsible for the Gothic forms of the furniture. All of these pieces were delivered in July 1828, according to Morel & Seddon’s account books. The bill supplied to George IV for the decorations of Room 240 alone amounted to £3,071.15s, equivalent to roughly £3.7 million today.
Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) was an architect, artist and designer, who, in his short but eventful life, is principally remembered for his Gothic Revival style of architecture. He learnt drawing from his father, Auguste Pugin, a French draughtsman, forced to flee France as a result of the French Revolution. His first commissions were for the goldsmiths Rundell and Bridge, and for Seddon and Morel for the furniture for Windsor Castle, having designed this table, amongst other pieces at the age of 14 or 15. He is best known for the interior of the Palace of Westminster (the British Houses of Parliament) and its iconic clock tower, which houses the bell known as Big Ben. He attended to all the fixtures and fittings from the enormous stained glass windows to desks and sofas and from the doorknobs to the encaustic tiles. Pugin believed in his “True Principles” of architecture and design (see illustrations previous page), that everything should suit the setting it was designed for and that items should be honest in their construction and avoid any frivolousness which served no function. A prodigious worker, having designed multiple parish churches with all their decorations, furniture and accoutrements, written several books and created over 20 different types of desk and over 100 different types of table for Westminster alone, Pugin died in 1852 aged just 40.
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