About this artwork
This imposing bookcase is one of a set of four designed for Rokeby Park in County Durham, England. Rokeby was the home of Sir Thomas Robinson, an amateur architect, and the form of these bookcases relates directly to designs that he drew up himself.
Rokeby Park was built in 1725–30 and further decorated around the middle of the 18th century, but it literally rests on ancient history, as the land was once the site of a Roman encampment. The house is in the Palladian tradition: it was influenced by the work of the 16th-century Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, who was in turn inspired by Classical architecture, specifically the formal temple designs of the Greeks and Romans. This classicism carries over into the bookcase in the horizontal borders at the cornice and above the drawers; they are carved with egg-and-dart motifs, ultimately derived from ancient Greek architecture, and Vitruvian scroll borders, named for the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius.
Bookcases are, of course, designed to hold books, but they can also display precious objects: this bookcase may have shown off items made of porcelain, which had only recently begun to be made in Europe. The choice of mahogany is also an indication of the owner’s wealth and status—it was a luxurious material that was imported from the Americas. In 1769 Rokeby Park was purchased from Sir Thomas Robinson by John Sawrey Morritt. It was most likely at this time that the Robinson coat of arms on the bookcase was changed to the Morritt coat of arms, which were then engraved into the lock plates on the doors.
- Mahogany, brass, ivory, and glass
- 269.2 × 218.4 cm (106 × 86 in.)
- Richard T. Crane Jr. Memorial Fund