Although unlabelled, this rare kneehole desk can be attributed to the firm of Coxed and Woster on stylistic grounds. Although Coxed and Woster were in production until 1736, the firm only made mulberry wood furniture from c.1690 to1720. Giving the appearance of exotic tortoiseshell, it is now known that the so called mulberry wood used on early case furniture is in reality is veneers of ash, elm, sycamore or maple stained with Aqua Fortis (nitric acid) with metal filings, which was then rubbed with lampblack (soot). This technique is described in Stalker and Parkers 1688, A Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing and is discussed in A. Bowett, Myths of English Furniture History: Mulberry Wood Furniture by Coxed and Woster, Antique Collecting, October 1998, pp. 32-35.
Adam Bowett and Laurie Lindey discuss in-depth Coxed and Wosters output in Labelled Furniture from the White Swan Workshop in St Pauls Churchyard (1711-35), Furniture History 2003. Figures 8, 9,15, 16, 17 illustrate bureau bookcases (desk-and bookcases), with stained burr maple veneers, with rosewood crossbanding and white metal stringing. They all lack a true surbase moulding, perhaps indicating that the desk could be made with or without a bookcase as an upper section. The above lot appears to be a rarity in that it is a kneehole bureau rather than having short and long drawers below the bureau mid-section.The unusual large moulding behind the well cover in the above lot appears to be another Coxed and Woster characteristic and can be seen in the interior of the desk-and-bookcase illustrated in figure 15 (ibid).
Previously sold Christies, London 9 April 1987, lot 132.