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Uncovering the secrets of our furniture collection Part II Knole & Ham House

Guest - Wednesday June 29, 2016 9:35

By, Dr. Gabriella de la Rosa

Thanks to the generous support of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the Royal Oak Foundation, we are embarking upon a research project to catalogue approximately 57,000 pieces of furniture in our collections. We’ve made some exciting discoveries whilst adding to the existing wealth of knowledge about our most treasured items. Here’s just a small selection of what we’ve encountered thus far. This post features furniture from Knole and Ham House 

This post is a continuation of this previous post.




The ‘Knole Sofa’

The so-called 'Knole Sofa', c.1635-c.1640 / NT 129442 © National Trust

The so-called ‘Knole Sofa’, c.1635-c.1640 / NT 129442 © National Trust

Perhaps more accurately described as a state couch or double throne chair, the so-called ‘Knole Sofa’ is the single most celebrated piece of furniture in our collections. This prototype went on to inspire countless reproductions from the late 19th century onwards.


Ham House

Ham House

Ham House

The ‘Ivory’ cabinet

Oak and cedar cabinet with ivory veneer, Ham House National Trust Images/John Hammond

Oak and cedar cabinet with ivory veneer, Ham House National Trust Images/John Hammond

One of the most extraordinary pieces at Ham House, this oak and cedar cabinet is veneered with strips of geometrically arranged ivory. It encloses a pristine interior fully-fitted with drawers. This ivory cabinet is a unique treasure; as far as we know this is the only example in the world.

Japanese lacquer cabinet

lacquer cabinet

Japanese lacquer ‘namban’ cabinet, c.1630 / NT 1139897 ©National Trust Images / John Hammond

This ‘namban’ cabinet is lacquered with gold and red and inlaid with mother of pearl. Made in Kyoto, Japan, this cabinet is exceptionally rare and an early example of the kind of imported luxury goods that became fashionable in Europe in the late 17th century.

Elizabeth Dysart’s side table

elizabeth dysart's side table

Silver-mounted side table of carved, gilded and ebonised wood, c.1670 / NT 1139895 ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

This silver-mounted side table was commissioned around 1670, after Elizabeth Murray became 2nd Countess of Dysart and before her marriage to the Duke of Lauderdale in 1672. Before her wedding, she embellished the exotically decorated Green Closet at Ham House. This table – made of carved, gilded and ebonised wood – was undoubtedly designed to be placed within the closet.