Spotlight on: Dressing Tables

For this ‘spotlight’ post I decided to focus upon two items that are included in Nostell’s ‘open cabinet’ plan. A lot of the most interesting cabinets and cupboards at Nostell Priory can’t be open all of the time for visitors to see as they are too fragile, and would be at risk of damage if left open constantly (from such agents of deterioration as dust, wear and tear, light, humidity, and sadly theft). The ‘open cabinet’ system involves a set number of these really unusual pices of furniture which are opened on rotation for visitors to see.

I thought we’d have one spotlight item for the ladies, and another spotlight item for the gents – and both happen to be similar items! They are both dressing tables, the first is a lady’s dressing table and the second a distinctively masculine one. Both pieces were created by the famous furniture maker Thomas Chippendale.

Lady’s Dressing Table, in the State Dressing Room

It’s a George III green and gold lacquer lady’s dressing table, with a serpentine hinged and divided top. If the conservation team are in the room when visitors are in the State Dressing Room we often open the top to show them the inside…

…which looks like this! It’s a mahogany divided interior, resting on cabriole legs. As the cabinet would not be left open on a regular basis, the inside wasn’t painted and decorated like the outside of the table. There is a pin cushion in one of the compartments, and you can see Julie holding one of the original glass bottles, which may have contained perfume.

The mirror comes out to rest at an angle, so that hairstyles can be seen, jewellery admired, and general preening occur! This dressing table matches a set of chinoiserie furniture which is in the State Bedroom.

Gent’s Dressing Table, in the Crimson Bedroom

The gent’s table is a more sedate affair. It too is a George III mahogany dressing table, this time on reeded (not cabriole) legs. There is a concave-fronted cupboard below the top drawer. When the top drawer is opened we see…

…this! A fitted drawer with compartments and a green baize-lined shelf (possibly for writing). When the baize shelf is pushed back and the drawer compartments opened, the contents are revealed…

…and here they are! There are cut-throat razors, a shaving brush, two spherical pomade pots, two dainty glass bottles with silver covers, and (believe it or not), a tongue scraper!

A close up of the drawer, complete with an array of contents considered necessary to make a gentleman groomed and presentable to his peers.

As ever, if you have a wish to see a particular object/room/painting/style/thing to do with Nostell Priory on the spotlight blog posts (or indeed any of our Nostell Priory Conservation Blog posts) then send us an email or leave us a comment – we’d love to hear from you!

Ellie

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