Stationery box

  • Designer / Maker

    Designed by Ernest Gimson (1864-1919)

  • Detail

    Macassar ebony, inlaid with mother of pearl and abalone shell, and mounted with pearl blisters; the interior lined with cedar, and the base with leather

    17.8 × 30.5 × 19 cm

    English (Sapperton), probably 1904

  • Provenance

    Lord Bathurst (1864-1943), Cirencester Park, Gloucestershire

  • Collection

    English private collection

  • In 1894, the year after Gimson and the Barnsley brothers, moved from London, they were offered economical accommodation on the edge of Lord Bathurst’s Pinbury Park estate. The three remained there until 1902, when Gimson moved to Daneway House, which also belonged to Bathurst.

    In addition to being Gimson’s landlord, Bathurst was also an important patron. The present box, which comes from a group of furniture sold recently by a descendant, was not known to exist. A drawing initialled by Gimson and dated 23 August 1904, and inscribed ‘Stationery Box/in Macassar Ebony inlaid Mother of Pearl/lined with Cedar of Lebanon’, is probably for the present object (see Mary Greensted and Sophia Wilson, eds, Originality and Initiative: The Arts and Crafts archives at Cheltenham, Cheltenham, 2003, fig. 92). The design varies in the position of the inlays and the addition of spherical lapis lazuli feet. A drawing for the top, also in the collection of the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, is signed ‘Ernest W. Gimson – Daneway House / 1904 –’ (see below).

    A box of closely-related design is illustrated in Ernest Gimson His Life & Work, Stratford-upon-Avon, 1924, 2006 ed’n, pl. 39. This plate shows a total of six boxes, two of which are in the collection of the Leicestershire Museums (see Annette Carruthers, Ernest Gimson and the Cotswold Group of Craftsmen, ex’n cat., Leicester, 1978, nos F1 & F2). Gimson’s inspiration for boxes of this type may have been Indian boxes, such as one he owned at Daneway House (see Mary Greensted, The Arts and Crafts Movement in the Cotswolds, Stroud, 1993, pl. 3.5).

    Another grand example of furniture designed by Gimson for Lord Bathurst is the walnut cabinet with gilt-gesso decoration, on an ebony stand, now in the collection of the V&A (see Mary Comino, Gimson and the Barnsleys: ‘Wonderful furniture of a commonplace kind’, London, 1980, fig. 65).