We are indebted to Mr. Peter Graham, by whose energy and good taste the firm of Jackson & Graham has mainly arrived at its present high reputation, for the following description of this cabinet. It is made of ebony, inlaid with ivory, the centre inclosed by doors, with oval medallions of hymeneal subjects in bronze, finely chased and gilt.
The ends are open and rounded, the plinth, columns, and frieze being enriched with very highly-chased ormolu ornaments, surmounted by a slab of the finest Algerian onyx. The style adopted by Mr. Graham is that of the best period of the Louis Seize *), the ormolu enrichments, in design and execution, rivaling those of the well-known Gouthier, who furnished the finest meubles d’art for the French court in the latter part of the 18th century.
Great advance has certainly been made by our furniture manufacturers within the last half-century, as regards the taste and style of their works. Up to that time, good plain mahogany furniture, as a rule, was the highest aim of each maker, and Mr. Hope’s classic designs were considered the ne plus ultra of art. But the Wizard of the North came, and there was a magic change: every tendency was now for the Mediæval and Elizabethan styles.
Pugin became the great exponent of the first, and for the last-named, so many old pieces were still extant that amateurs contented themselves with buying up the veritable antiques, without troubling any designer to furnish them with fresh devices. Both these tastes had, however, to contend with the predominant fashion of the day throughout Europe, and that received its dictates from Paris, which, comparatively uninfluenced by any Romantic school, has pertinaciously returned to the styles of the 17th and 18th centuries, and especially delighted in the revival of the styles practiced by its celebrated ébénistes, Buhl, Reisner, and Gouthier.
The revolutions of 1848 and 1851 caused many Parisian artists and artisans to come over to London; and it must be admitted that both the design and manipulation of much of our best furniture bear evident traces of their peculiar ability; and at this moment, owing to the troublous state of Europe generally, there are more workmen of every class in this country,— German, French, and Italian,— than at any other period. Nor do we complain of this. They can instruct our own workmen in many important branches of the trade, and we hope they will settle here, and render hereditary their special natural abilities.
The Flemings and the French have in former ages contributed largely towards the establishment of the woolen and silk manufactures in this country; and we have no doubt but that the numerous European skilled artisans who are now engaged in this particular business will materially assist our manufacturers in their efforts to produce the highest style of furniture, which day by day becomes in greater request with the educated and wealthy classes.
In Plate 11 we have given an illustration of the noble carved oak sideboard exhibited by this firm, and have only to add that the highest honor was awarded them that the Jury could bestow ; viz., a prize medal for great excellence of design and workmanship in decorative furniture.
*) Louis-seize (also: Louis XVI, pre-revolutionary classicism) is a style in French and French-influenced European art and architecture of the 18th century between 1760 and 1790. The style is named after the French king Louis XVI (reigned: 1774-1792).
Source: Masterpieces of industrial art & sculpture at the International exhibition, 1862 by John Burley Waring. London, Day & son, 1863.