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A Tunbridge ware writing slope with mosaic inlay depicting flowers Circa 1850.

Please click on images to enlarge

Reference: wb103

Description:
A Tunbridge ware writing slope veneered with rosewood and decorated with micro mosaic depicting floral subjects. The framing band of the top has a flowing design and is expertly and beautifully executed. 
Unusually for Tunbridge ware the corner detail are very carefully designed so that there are no abrupt joins in the pattern the four corner squares of formal micro mosaic harmonize with the lively longer pattern but also provide strong punctuation to the piece. The careful design and execution and the use of rosewood veneer point to an early example of such work.
The box also features a pair of original inkwells with turned Tunbridge stick-ware tops.
There is a working lock and key.  

see also:

www.hygra.com/material.htm#tun 

www.hygra.com/tumtcl.htm 

A Tunbridge ware writing slope with grape border and Eastnor Castle Circa 1875.

www.hygra.com/tc2/tunnetley.htm 

 

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Origin: Tunbridge Wells UK

Circa: 1850

Materials:

Size: 35.7cm wide by 27cm the height  tapering from 5.5cm to 8.4cm: 12.8inches wide by 10.8inches the height  tapering from 2.2inches to 3.3inches:

Condition:  overall good, replacement leather. when carefully inspected there are a few small cracks and repairs.

 

 

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Unusually for Tunbridge ware the corner detail are very carefully designed so that there are no abrupt joins in the pattern. 

Please click on images to enlarge

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 The four corner squares of formal micro mosaic harmonize with the lively longer pattern but also provide strong punctuation to the piece. The square pattern is in fact the same design repeating 4 times. The different elements are framed with rosewood and a black white black purfeling line made up of separate pieces of ebony and maple.

 

 The instructions for the use of the correct woods were sometimes given in great detail depending on the experience of the craftsman and the complexity of the pattern. From about 1840-60, floral borders were very much in vogue, and for these Berlin wool work patterns were used causing the work to be referred to as "Berlin wool work design." 

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The designs were published in Berlin from about 1804, and imported into England by Ackermann. 

See page 94,  Antique Boxes, Tea Caddies, and Society -- 1700--1880, ISBN: 0764316885  Antigone Clarke & Joseph O'Kelly, A Schiffer Book for collectors..

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The main panels depict flowers: roses budding roses and hips. These are beautifully orchestrated into a controlled oval whilst retaining the natural movement of the plants.

Please click on images to enlarge

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Unusually for Tunbridge ware the corner detail are very carefully designed so that there are no abrupt joins in the pattern the four corner squares of formal micro mosaic harmonize with the lively longer pattern but also provide strong punctuation to the piece. 

 

 Side view: There is a working lock and key.  
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The wine colored gold embossed leather writing tablet is a replacement. The embossing is done with a wheel embossing tools from the period.

 

There is a compartment for paper under the flap.

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The upper compartment is fully fitted and has a curved pentray  flanked by  two original inkwells with their turned stickware tops.

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The wine colored leather writing tablet is a replacement.

 The designs on the two inkwells are just a little different. Both have been made up by carefully constructing a "log". The process is very wasteful of wood  which must be brought to exact dimension for the pattern to keep its geometric integrity. The pieces of wood are first sawn and then scraped to exact size. 

 

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 The central pattern is an 8 pointed star. Rosewood ebony maple are used, in both triangular and square elements. 

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 The designs on both inkwells are subtly different. 
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The main panels depict flowers: roses budding roses and hips. These are beautifully orchestrated into a controlled still life whilst retaining the natural movement of the plants.

 
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Please click on images to enlarge 

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Acanthus leaf and rose in mosaic

The framing band on the  top of this writing slope has a flowing  curling design and is expertly and beautifully executed. 

The pixilation is that the pixels are made up one by one in strips of wood. The colors are natural to the wood. Dyed wood can change color unpredictably. The Tunbridge workers were inclined to use wood for its natural qualities. There was something magickal about taking bits of Kentish (Kent) wood and interspersing them with some of these heavy woods which were coming back in the ships as ballast wood. 

Little boys would sell wood finds to craftsmen. One of the most prized has a blue green color caused by fungal attack  to various woods including apple and oak.

The pixels are separate strips of wood.

It is not possible to make a very long log of mosaic without wander. 

The classical motif of the acanthus (thistle) leaf is combined with the romantic rose.  This is a  design bridge between the Neoclassical tradition of the late 18th century and the naturalism of the mid 19th century.


Unusually for Tunbridge ware the corner details are very carefully designed. 

The mitering of these complicated and wide Berlin work bandings was wasteful of mosaic.

Sometimes with a few square inches of mosaic in the bin the join just did not work. I can imagine the craftsman despairing. This mosaic in wood was complicated, expensive in materials, and time consuming to produce. 

To overcome the design problem and avoid loss of mosaic material, corner pieces of mosaic using the same palate  of wood nave been made.

This also avoids abrupt and illogical joins in the pattern. Half a rose stuck into an acanthus leaf for example.. 

The four corner squares of formal micro mosaic harmonize with the lively longer pattern but also provide strong punctuation to the piece. 

This again points to the qualities of an earlier period.

From about 1840-60, floral borders were very much in vogue, and for these Berlin wool work patterns were used causing the work to be referred to as "Berlin wool work design." 

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All text and images and linked images are 1999-2005 Antigone Clarke and Joseph O'Kelly. If you require any further information on permitted use, or a licence to republish any material, email us at copyright@hygra.com