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silla was born out of a passion for beautiful objects: special pieces with aesthetic and historical significance. In 2009, after years of collecting, Andrew Silla and his wife Grace began to work privately with clients from their residence in Southern Maryland. Quickly outgrowing the space, the business was moved from Maryland to Pennsylvania in 2012 and after several warehouse location changes it was firmly settled in the present brick-and-mortar location in downtown Shippensburg.

The 9000 square foot brick-and-mortar gallery is home to a large collection of works of art and estate jewelry. We specialize in sculpture circa 1860 through 1930 with a particular emphasis on the Animaliers and as such the gallery always has a very large collection of exceptional European and American sculpture available on display.

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George III Mahogany Architect's Desk | Gillows of Lancaster circa 1790


Regular Price: $19,500.00
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catalog text

England, circa 1790 | with alphabetized rent drawers interior | unmarked
Item # 405KYH28Z 

This remarkable architect's pedestal desk was almost certainly crafted by Gillows of Lancaster, London circa 1790. It features a rectangular top inlaid with maroon gilt-tooled leather bordered by a molded edge. Below this is situated a full-width frieze drawer which is decorated to appear as two false drawers over pedestals containing three graduated drawers on either side of an open kneehole. The desk stands on a molded plinth base fitted with casters.

The top drawer reveals a sliding gilt-tooled leather writing surface with a central panel that can be lifted on ratchet supports to hold and display documents. This surface slides back to uncover a lower compartment with an open storage area, flanked by three lidded compartments labeled alphabetically within oval reserves. The back of the desk is designed for a tidy appearance, making it suitable for placement in the center of a room, featuring two full-width faux drawers above faux cabinet doors in the pedestals.

While the present example is not marked by Gillows, it is almost without question a product of their workshops and is firmly attributed to their design books. The alphabet inlaid drawers were inspired by designs popularized by Thomas Shearer’s The Cabinet Maker’s London Book of Prices (1788-1803). These were employed in designs published by Gillows, such as the 'bureau writing-table' with a double-ratcheted top made for the Earl of Shrewsbury in 1789 and a writing-table from 1794 (see Gillow Furniture Designs 1760-1800, L. Boynton, ed., 1995, pl. 24 and 41). A similar design appears in the firm’s 1798 Estimate Sketch Book (p.1481), preserved in the Westminster City Library. The drawer design is further seen on pedestal desks stamped by Gillows, including the library table provided by the firm in 1778 to Denton Hall (see C. Gilbert, The Life and Works of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978, vol.II, p.246, pl.449).

Gillows produced many variations of this desk style, including those with ratcheting tops for standing use, enclosed kneehole designs, various types of pulls, and subtle dimensional adjustments. Examples can be seen well into the George IV period and the influence of this form on later desks by Gillows can be seen as the tastes changed into the second half of the nineteenth century.

Sir Walter Scott acquired a similar desk from Gillows for his Edinburgh house in Castle Street in 1810, later moving it to his study at Abbotsford in 1826. In a letter to J.B. Morritt of Rokeby Hall, Yorkshire, dated May 1810, Scott wrote: ‘You know I fell in love with your Library table and now the The Lady [The Lady of the Lake] has put crowns into my purse I would willingly treat myself unto the like...’ On 9 August, Scott wrote again to Morritt: 'I must not omit to tell you that Gillows table has arrived and gives great satisfaction. Everyone that sees it likes it so much I dare say I shall have some commissions to send him. His bill did not much exceed yours being about £30 ready money’. The Gillow archives from 1810 record: ‘pack for W.Scott Esq., Castle Street, Edinburgh, case containing mahogany bureau writing table Double Elevating tops cupboard in center complete writing drawers’. (See C. Wainwright, The Romantic Interior, Fig 162 & 163).

A few open-market examples of nearly identical desks include the example offered by Sotheby's, New York on April 11, 1999 with the identical oval pulls and alphebetized drawer stamped GILLOWS LANCASTER. This achieved $ 20,700 USD at the time of sale including premium. Bonham's, Los Angeles offered another nearly identical desk also stamped GILLOWS LANCASTER to the top drawer, which achieved $ 10,625 including premium. A desk of this model was sold at Christie's, London on 14 November 1996, lot 17 where it achieved GBP 11,500) and a nearly identical example attributed to Gillows but not marked was sold at Christie's, London, on 14 September 2000, lot 202 where it achieved GBP 24,675.

Founded by Robert Gillow in 1727, Gillows of Lancaster emerged as one of England’s most renowned furniture-making firms, celebrated for their exceptional craftsmanship and innovative designs. Operating primarily in Lancaster, with a significant presence in London’s Oxford Street by 1769, the firm specialized in late Georgian and Regency style furniture. Gillows' reputation was built on their meticulous attention to detail, high-quality materials, and ability to adapt and innovate within the evolving tastes of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Their designs ranged from elegant pedestal desks to sophisticated cabinet pieces, many of which featured intricate inlays and unique mechanical elements. The firm’s detailed records and pattern books, including the 1798 Estimate Sketch Book, provide valuable insights into their creative processes and extensive catalog.

Gillows’ influence extended beyond mere furniture production; they contributed significantly to the era's design trends and manufacturing standards. Their legacy persists through surviving pieces, many of which are highly valued by collectors and historians, symbolizing the pinnacle of excellence in British furniture making during their time.

Measurements: 37" H x 49 3/8" W x 26 5/8" D; knee clearance is 26 3/8" H; writing area is 23 5/8" D x 43 3/4"

Provenance: Formerly with M.S. Rau, New Orleans where it was offered for $ 28,500 before it was acquired by a Maryland collector in 2018 (tag inside the desk notes $ 24,500)

Condition Report:
Vibrant surface with wonderful color throughout that has been lightly refreshed and repolished over the years. There are blemishes throughout, particularly to the plinth molding around the pedestals where corners and edges have been filled, patched and inpainted over the years; a few areas of shrinkage cracks, including the lower faux-drawer in the frieze at the reverse of the desk; various dings, abrasions and scars throughout; some old cracks and repairs to the molded edge around the top. A few veneer patches including top drawer (right side) and bottom left drawer (where keyhole was filled). Scuffs and abrasions to the leather both on top and inside with color loss and scars, overall remaining a vibrant and beautifully patinated surface. No keys and locks are untested.