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Unknown, Maker
Sheraton, Thomas (British, b.1751, d.1806), In the style of
Serpentine mahogany sideboard with ebony and satinwood inlays and porcelain medallions
Circa 1780
Mahogany veneer, ebony and satinwood inlays, oak
1507 x 2270 x 686 mm
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Purchased 1963 with funds from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society.
Dr Samuel Johnson, in his 1755 Dictionary of the English Language, defined the sideboard as ‘The side table on which conveniences are placed for those that eat at the other table’. Found only in grand interiors, these early side tables, without cupboards and adorned with pedestals and urns, were more suitable for state occasions than for comfortable dining. They were often designed by Robert Adam as part of a larger architectural commission.
In the houses of the less wealthy pedestals and urns disappeared, their functions of storing the cutlery and wine instead accomplished by drawers and cupboards. Add an extra supporting leg at each end, and the classic Georgian six-legged sideboard, like this example, had arrived. The design endures to this day. The 21st-century observer may find it difficult to reconcile the sideboard’s supremely elegant serpentine shape with the knowledge that whereas one of the cupboards, the cellarette, contains a fitted interior for the storage of wine, the other was intended to house the chamber pot. The brass rails at the back, supported on cast columns with urn finials, were meant to carry a curtain to prevent the wall covering being splashed during the serving of food.
The 18th-century English enamel plaques inset on the cupboard doors featuring fashionable Georgian ladies are an unusual feature of this sideboard. They are similar to those found on the covers of Bilston and Battersea enamel snuff boxes.

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