Tunbridgeware, with its extraordinary micro-mosaic patterning often in the form of Berlin wool work, was an intricate and very special form of decorating quality Tunbridge items. When combined with cube and Van Dyke marquetry, the effect is most stylish. This lap desk is a super example of this work. The top is decorated with a wide border of floral micro-mosaics, a band of tumbling block decoration and a feature panel of a large castle. Such decoration was favoured by this company. There are also bands of treen stringing. The front, sides and back also have floral bands. The base of the box is covered with green felt and a there is a label presumably for a previous owner. There is a keyhole for the lock on the right hand side. When opened, the box reveals Van Dyke-type pattern on the smaller flap. The larger flap would have originally been covered with a gold-tooled velvet surface which is currently absent. The inner section of this covers a compartment beneath. At the front of the base are a variety of fitted spaces, one of them includes a narrow long compartment covered with a decorative lid which could possibly have been used as a ruler. In the centre is a long, scooped out piece of timber which pivots for removal with space below for storage. On either side are original inkwells with their Tunbridge lids. The condition of the exterior is very good for age with some scratches and loss of the veneer. The writing surface, as mentioned, would need re-covering with velvet or leather and there are sections of the veneer which need to be re-attached. One of the inkwell lids has a section that has cracked away but the missing piece is inside the bottle and could be glued back into position. The felt on the base would need to be re-glued in part or replaced. Despite these problems, this is an exceptional desk and with the loving care of a talented restorer, it could be returned to absolute former glory. These desks, with remaining inkwells and internal features, are hard to find and with care this could be the jewel in a collection of smaller writing desks.
Box measures 15.4 ins (39cm) x 11.5 ins (29.2cm) x 3.5 ins (8.8cm). Weight 3000 grams. This item appears in my book, “Antique Boxes, Inside & Out” on page 371. Air Mail Post with tracking to the USA would be $56.00 USD – with no tracking is cheaper. This item is covered by own insurance policy. For shipping cost to other countries, please contact us.
Desirable Tunbridge Portable Lap Desk, mid-19th century
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