An Important Pair of Mid 18th Century Mahogany Bookcases, by John Belchier
The broken pediment above moulded and segmental cornice, carved with repeating egg and dart and foliate mouldings, each bookcase with exceptionally executed and original bevelled float glass doors, enclosing adjustable shelves. The upper cabinet sections are lined in oak, further indicating and supplementing their original use as bookcases (rather than to display China or objects); notably, storing and displaying books behind glass has precedents, the finest example being the important and superbly executed desk and bookcases made by Sympson the joiner, for Samuel Pepys in the late 17th Century. The lower breakfront sections with three long drawers, all lined in an early and dense West Indian mahogany, with brass escutcheons and swan neck handles, above central and flanking cupboard sections with adjustable shelves. John Belchier’s pasted label can be found on the inner central door of the lower cupboard section on one of the bookcases, photographed here and beautifully scripted; ‘Made by John Belchier / at the Sun / in St. Paul’s Church / Yard’.
Formerly in the prestigious collection of Phillips of Hitchin, with archival images and their inclusion of the pair at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair (1970), included.
Also catalogued at Christie’s, Thursday May 21, 1970, in their ‘Important English Furniture, Rugs and Carpets’ sale, with reference images also included.
Belchier, whose name is thought to reflect Huguenot origins, was possibly the son of another important craftsman (also John Belchier) who may well be the tradesman who worked extensively for Ralph, 1st Duke of Montagu, at Boughton House, Northamptonshire, during the latter part of the 17th Century. John Belchier – the younger – received his most significant commission from John Meller at Erddig, Wales, for whom he produced a celebrated suite of gilt and silver gilt gesso furniture during the 1720’s (further reading in Martin Drury, ‘Early Eighteenth-Century Furniture at Erddig,’ Apollo, July 1978, pp.46-55). In the 1730’s he also carried out important work for the Purefoy family at Shalston, Buckinghamshire. In addition to his work as a cabinetmaker, and poignant for these bookcases in question, Belchier also produced both clear and mirrored glass. Records reveal that he supplied a quantity of glass for St. Paul’s Cathedral in the 1720’s, and in all likelihood he rather unusually and exhibiting great scale within his workshops and heightened skill, manufactured the glass for his own furniture.
Height: 253 cm, 99 5/8″
Width at top (cornice): 187 cm, 73 5/8″
Width at waist: 170 cm, 66 7/8″
Width at base (plinth): 180 cm, 70 7/8″
Depth (deepest, at break): 63.5 cm, 25″