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Blake, Robert & Co. (1826-1880)

Blake, Robert & Co.

8 Stephen St, Tottenham Ct. Rd. & 130 Mount St., London; cabinet maker and marqueteur (fl.1826–1880)

Blake was first recorded at 8 Stephen Street in 1826 and described as ‘cabinet inlayer’ and ‘Buhl manufacturer’. In 1840 the firm was known as R. Blake & Sons and the following year became ‘Blake, Geo. & Brothers, inlayers &c.’. In 1844, while keeping the Stephen Street premises, the business expanded to 130 Mount Street. By 1846 George Blake (perhaps a son or brother of Robert) had moved to 53 Mount Street, then in 1851 to 53 Mortimer Street until absent by 1853. Meanwhile, the other members of the firm remained at Stephen Street, where they were recorded as ‘Blake J & H’ in 1850 and Blake, Chas. & H’ in 1855. Charles Blake remained at Stephen Street until 1880.

A number of pieces by Blake’s firm are known, including: a tray with floral marquetry labelled ‘Manufactured by R. Blake, 8 Stephen Street, Tottenham Court Road’ Road’ (illus. Gilbert (1996), figs 131-132); a table formerly at Corsham Court, now in the V&A (W.20-1995), is labelled ‘Manufactured by Messrs Blake’s 130 Mount Street Berkeley Square’.

Marquetry table
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Walnut and ebony table with floral marquetry, c.1845 [W.20-1995] © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

An Erard piano with marquetry case by George Henry Blake in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (Museum no. 59.76).

Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Piano with marquetry satinwood case designed by George Henry Blake, c.1840 [Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Accession number 59.76]. Made available by a Creative Commons CCO .1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Also a table at Alnwick, with a related note in the archives that it is by ‘the Blakes, the great Makers of Marquetrie’. A magnificent commode, (c.1830-55), one of a pair, with brass and tortoiseshell boulle work, after a model at Versailles made for Louis XIV in 1708 is illustrated in Gilbert (1996), figs 133-135, sold Sotheby’s, 2 Nov. 1990, lot 231.The handles and several mounts are incised ‘Blake’. Other pairs are in the Frick Collection and a fifth example was sold Sotheby’s, 29 October 1993, lot 7. All are incised ‘Blake’ after casting on the back of various mounts. There is a strong case to suggest a link between Blake and Edward Holmes Baldock. A labelled table at Goodwood House is identical to one supplied by Baldock to the Duke of Buccleuch, probably in 1841. Since much of Baldock’s furniture was decorated with floral marquetry and/or ‘boulle’ work, it is likely that this was performed by the Blake marqueteurs.

Sources: DEFM; Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840 (1996); Levy, ‘E H Baldock and the Blake Family: Further Evidence’, FHS Newsletter (May 2005).