The moulded rectangular top with rounded corners over a pair of frieze drawers above a pair of cupboard doors, all decorated with formal ornament of stylised mythical beasts and foliage with a central urn to each door with a basket of fruit, the doors fitted with sunflower cast brass handles, stamped with maker’s mark monogram ‘JCS’ (for James Cartland & Sons), the number 5439 and registration number 58608 for 1886-7, survives from late nineteenth century England and the height of the aesthetic movement period.
The cabinet has not been restored in any way aside from some concealed castors being added later to blocks just inside the feet, which would not have been there originally which allows the piece to move a little more freely. The handles are all original which does help date the piece to c.1885/6 with some considerable certainty. The top has some marks and some light painting in here and there. There are some minor losses to the paintwork and some pitting. The piece is lived in but pleasingly so with some bitumen to the doors in particular which proves almost like the piece is scumbled as a finish.
James Cartland & Sons were a very good brass foundry which were founded before c1823 as Dyer and Cartland in Loveday St. and made hardware, trivets and the like in Birmingham from around c1823 to c1955. John Cartland, brassfounder, lived at ‘The Priory’ in Kings Heath, Birmingham in the early part of the 19th century. It was founded and owned and run by the Cartland family until shortly before closure, around 1955. They would have made the brass for this piece at the time of its creation at the cabinetmakers in 1886-1887.
The aesthetic movement can be seen as the bridge to the arts and crafts style. It often had formalised, restrained ornamentation, and was heavily influenced by Japanese decoration, knowledge of which flowed to the West in the nineteenth century through oriental imports. It rebelled against the lavish ornamentation and over-embellishment of the high Victorian period, and sought a purer, more precise level of expression. Generally cabinets or cupboards like this were decorated with inset panels with songbirds or flowers, and we cannot find any other decoration like this on any other piece of furniture of this period. The mythical element is particularly interesting.
This versatile piece simply resides in the top echelon of aesthetic movement furniture; you won’t be seeing another.