The pair, catalogued as 19th century but probably made by the Giles Grendey (1693-1780) workshop c.1740, raced past a €20,000-30,000 estimate to sell at €320,000 (£278,500) as part of a sale at Auktionshaus Rotherbaum in Hamburg on September 23-24.
Dealers recognised this pair as those sold by Sotheby’s as part of the 1044-lot house sale at Dropmore in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, in March 1969. Dropmore was built for Lord Grenville, prime minister to George III, with the estate later owned by press baron James Gomer Berry, 1st Viscount Kemsley (1883-1968).
The cabinets – remarkable as a pair and for the survival of the original giltwood crestings – are thought to have been illustrated in situ at Dropmore in an article in Country Life magazine in 1956.
Variously described as ‘a great Dealer in the Cabinet way’ and an ‘eminent Timber Merchant’, Grendey ran a substantial business in London at Aylesbury House, Clerkenwell, from the 1720s until at least the late 1760s. His name is well known as he occasionally labelled his furniture.
Though relatively little is known about his English clientele, he was heavily involved in the export of both timber and japanned furniture. The lavish design suggests this particular pair may have been made for a customer in the Iberian Peninsula.
Around 1740, Grendey is known to have supplied a vast set of about 80 pieces of red japanned furniture, including chairs, mirrors, candlestands, daybeds and secretaries to Castle Lazcano in northern Spain for the Duke of Infantado.
More recently, the discovery of Grendey-labelled mirrors in Norway indicate he also traded goods to Scandinavia.
Two of the richest works attributed to the Grendey workshop were sold as part of the Ann Getty collection in New York last year. Christie’s October 2022 sale included a black and green japanned gilt bureau cabinet and matching chest of drawers thought to have been made for Italian clientele.
They were unknown for centuries until they surfaced for sale at Christie’s Rome in 1979 as part of the contents from two villas owned by the Genoese Pallavicini family - perhaps Grendey’s original customer. The chest of drawers (bought by Getty from Colnaghi in 1981) sold at $450,000 (£398,000), while the bureau cabinet, bought from Mallett in 1980 for something close to £1m, took $360,000 (£310,000).
With 26% premium added, the pair of Hamburg cabinets here sold for €403,200 (£351,000). The purchaser was understood to be from the UK. There were about a dozen dealers from the UK bidding.
The cabinets had apparently stood in a near-derelict mansion in Hamburg since the 1970s with the new owners of the house selling the contents to help finance renovation work.
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