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Fuhrlohg, Christopher (1740–1792)

Fuhrlohg, Christopher

24 Tottenham Court Road, between Percy Street and Hanaway Yard, 22 Gerard Street and 12 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London; cabinet maker, inlayer and upholder (b. c.1740–d. 1792)

Christopher Fuhrlohg came from a Swiss family which emigrated to Sweden. He was born in Stockholm about 1740 as the 4th child of the master cabinet maker Johan Hugo Fürloh (1724–47). It is not known to whom he was apprenticed but he set off on his travels as a journeyman with his friend Georg Haupt, who in 1762 became his brother-in-law. They worked in Amsterdam and by 1764 were both in Paris, probably employed in the workshop of Simon Oeben.

There are no signed or otherwise documented works by Christopher Fuhrlohg undertaken during his employment in France. However, a piece signed by Georg Haupt and made in 1767 for the Duc de Choiseul's country seat, the Château de Chanteloup represents the newly developing Neoclassical taste to which the two Swedish cabinet makers were exposed in Paris.

Fuhrlohg arrived in London, either late in 1766, or very early in 1767. He was joined by Haupt in 1768, and it is thought that both were given employment by John Linnell at his workshop in Berkeley Square.

Fuhrlohg's connection with John Linnell is firmly established by the presence in the album of John Linnell's furniture drawings of a design for a marquetry commode. The commode itself, executed after this design, is signed and dated in ink on the carcase ‘Christopher Fuhrlohg fecit 1767’. It was supplied to the 5th Earl of Carlisle, a client of John Linnell, probably for Castle Howard, where it still survives.

1769 was a year of change for the small group of Swedish cabinet makers, all friends and inter-related, who were to spend time in London. Georg Haupt was recalled to Sweden as Royal cabinet maker. Another cabinet maker, Carl Gustav Martin arrived and set up in Dean Street, Soho with a member of his family, David Martin, described in London directories as a ‘Furniture designer’ who had come to London in 1765. Yet another relation, the painter Elias Martin, who had come to London with Haupt, also lived in the same house in Dean Street.

More important to Fuhrlohg was the arrival in 1769 of his half-brother Johann Christian Linning with whom he was to set up his own workshop at 24 Tottenham Court Road. The rate books for that address do not survive before 1773 but they record Fuhrlohg's presence in that year and until 1784. It is, therefore, not possible to establish exactly in which year Fuhrlohg left the Linnell workshop to make his own way with Linning. It seems probable that it was in 1769. Fuhrlohg's first trade card, however, makes no mention of his half-brother.

Trade card
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
© The Trustees of the British Museum
The trade card of Christopher Fuhrlohg at No. 5 between Percy Street & Hannaway Yard, Tottenham Court Road (D,2.613), c. 1769-70. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The trade card (illustrated above) is engraved with a picturesque scene of a ruined tomb inscribed ‘Fuhrlohg Cabinet Maker in the Modern, Grecian and Chinese Taste ... at the most reasonable prices’. The wording is couched to describe the transitional stylistic phase between the ‘modern’ or outgoing Rococo taste and the newly developing severity of the Parisian Grecian or ‘à la Greque’ manner, contrasted with the interest in Chinoiserie still prevalent in England. The reference to ‘reasonable prices’ also suggests that this trade card was designed for a cabinet maker anxious to establish himself and was probably printed in about 1769 or 70.

Fuhrlohg was clearly an accomplished inlayer as well as being a cabinet maker with experience of the latest Parisian fashions. A pair of elaborately inlaid commodes in the transitional style survive. One, formerly in the Knapp Collection (Sotheby's, 11 April 1975, lot 140), is signed ‘C. Fuhrlohg Fecit MDCCLXXII’. The pair to this piece is in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight. Both introduce marquetry roundels after Angelica Kauffmann whose name is inscribed upon one representing Classical nymphs and also parquetry decoration.

On the basis of the pair, a number of other pieces, including a commode in the MET, NY.

Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
Commode decorated in marquetry of various wood and bronze and gilt-bronze mounts, c. 1772 [66.64.2]. From the Marion E. and Leonard A. Cohn Collection, Bequest of Marion E. Cohn, 1966. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Made available by a Creative Commons CCO .1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Two smaller commodes from the group are also in the MET (66.64.3 66.64.4) and two square piano cases and a writing-table are at Alnwick Castle, Northumberland. These pieces probably date between 1772 and 1777. The pianos were both made by Frederick Beck, one dated 1775 and the other 1777.

Fuhrlohg was well-informed concerning the sources from which he could draw ideas for the marquetry roundels with Classical figures used to ornament his pieces. They included Philippe de Stosch's Gemmae Antiquae Caelatae, Amsterdam, 1724, Le Pitture Antiche d'Ercolano, Naples, 1760 and Pierre François d'Hancarville's publication of Sir William Hamilton's collection of vases, Naples 1766–67. Such marquetry roundels could also be sold individually.

Fuhrlohg's compatriot, Carl Gustav Martin was the first of the group of Swedish inlayers to exhibit his work at the Free Society of Artists in 1771. He was followed by Christopher Fuhrlohg who exhibited ‘A Bacchante in Inlay’ in 1773 from his address at ‘24, Tottenham Court Road, between Percy Street and Hanaway Yard’. In 1774 he showed ‘A Venus attired by the Graces’ and ‘A Flora in Inlay’, while Linning exhibited ‘The Muse Erato’, and ‘Diana, a circle’ in 1774 and 1775, his address being given as ‘Inlayer at Mr. Fuhrlogh's, 24 Tottenham Court Rd’. It was Linning's last year in London for he returned to Sweden in 1776.

It is clear that 24 Tottenham Court Road (between Percy Street and Hanaway Yard) was the same address as that quoted on Fuhrlohg's first trade card where ‘No. 5’ is mentioned but this is, nevertheless, also between Percy Street and Hanaway Yard. There may have been changes in the street numbering system to account for this apparent inconsistency. His address was again given as 24 Tottenham Court Road in 1778 when he advertised in Morning Post, 13 February ‘that during the summer months he has compleated [sic] several curious and elegant pieces of furniture, inlayed after the designs of the most eminent artists, and will think himself honoured by the visits of amateurs of this kind of work; and he flatters himself that his ‘customers will have every reason to be satisfied with their purchases, as he is able to answer for the goodness of the work which he continues to sell at the most reasonable terms’.

In The Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser of 26 March 1783, he advertised for auction the following week a wide variety of cabinet furniture ‘composed of the choicest, and most esteemed materials, richly inlaid in the most exquisite manner, and… finished in a stile which would reflect honour on the first artists in Europe’. The advertisements revealed for the first time that Fuhrlohg had been appointed ‘Inlayer and Ebeniste to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales’, an appointment which is also mentioned on the second version of his trade card. It is a dignified design, headed by the Prince of Wales’ feathers and inscribed ‘Fuhrlohg Ebeniste to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales 24 Tottenham Court Road’. The date of his appointment is unknown, but it was before 1783.

Fuhrlohg's work for the Prince is not recorded in detail. The Windsor Castle archives contain only ledger entries listing payments of £8 9s 6d in 1784 and £19 9s in 1785 for work at Carlton House undertaken under William Gaubert. Further payments are listed of £10 16s on 5 January 1786 and 5 July 1787. He must, however, have delivered commodes and tables to his royal patron at an earlier date as the ledgers show payments to the bronze founder, Dominique Jean, as follows: By Mr. Gaubert's orders. Work done for His royal Highness the Prince of Wales. 1783 Nov. 3: Cleaning the ornaments of two commodes gilt in ormolu and 3 tables gilt'd & Gilding, several pieces deld. to Mr. furlogh £18 Dec. 28: Gilding the ornaments of an inlaid commode delivered to furlohg £3 2 plain Branches, 1 square iron, springs and 1 branch for three Candles silvered, delivered to Mr Furlogh.

Dominique Jean evidently had a close relationship with Furhlohg for whom he provided gilt cabinet mounts for furniture delivered to Lord Howard at Audley End, Essex on 9 June 1786. Until 1785, Fuhrlohg remained at 24 Tottenham Court Road. From this address he provided Sir John Griffin Griffin of Audley End with ‘an inlaid commode’ on 15 February 1779. In 1783 the Duke of Portland was supplied with a secretaire and had his travelling case repaired. Fuhrlohg was also employed by the Dilettanti Society between 1780–83. He is regularly recorded in Kent's London Directory (1776–83), and again (1785–87) as a cabinet maker and inlayer.

In 1784 he appears in Bailey's British Directory as an upholder’ In 1785 he moved to 22 Gerard Street North where he appears in the rate books as ‘Christopher Fuhrlohg & Co.’. This property consisted of a dwelling house, coach house and stable, with loft above, which he insured with contents and stock, with the Sun Co. on 14 January 1786 for a total of £900, and on 1 February 1787 for £2,000. By this time, as Bailey's British Directory indicates, the range of his activity was wide.

Between June 1786 and February 1787 the bills he rendered to Lord Howard at Audley End totalled £60 3s 4d for items as varied as an inlaid commode and a large dressing table, to 53 feet of mahogany, 19 ft of mahogany veneer, castors and gilt screws, lacquered brass joints and a painted flower stand on castors. Just at this time he must have been extremely short of ready money for Christie's auctioned his household furniture and stock-in-trade at his Gerard Street house on 21 February 1787. In the sale catalogue his stock is described as consisting of a ‘Great Variety of Elegant Mahogany and Sattin-Wood articles, curiously Inlaid, several of which are on new Constructions, such as Book-Cases, Commodes, Dining Tables, Secretaires, Pembroke, Card and Pier Tables, Two Eight Day Clocks, sundry Prints and Drawings, Six pieces of Irish Linen etc. etc.’

After this sale, Fuhrlohg moved to 12 Great Russell Street from which his last trade card was issued. Again headed by the Prince of Wales’ feathers, it is inscribed ‘C. Fuhrlohg Cabinet-maker, Inlayer and Ebeniste to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales No. 12 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, Makes and sells all kinds of Inlaid work, executes all Orders in the Upholstery Cabinet-branches in the most modern taste with punctuality and dispatch on the lowest terms.’

His name does not appear in the rate books for this last address and no reference to his name or work after 1787 has come to light. His influence as a cabinet maker in the introduction and development of the Neo-classical style and in the use of subtle marquetry decoration was vital. Only two apprenticeships to him have hitherto been noticed, that of Benjamin Gooden (25 November 1771) for the fee of £21 and of John Pleasance (29 July 1778) for the nominal fee of 5s. The lack of apprentices may, perhaps, be explained by Fuhrlohg's having preferred to engage his own compatriots of whom, as yet, too little is known.

The painter, Elias Martin has left us a water-colour portrait of Christopher Fuhrlohg, inscribed ‘Fourlow Ebenist i London’, probably painted on Martin's second visit to London between 1788 and 1791.

Source: DEFM; A. Graves, Society of Artists of Great Britain, 1761–91, London, 1907; C. Harcourt-Smith, The Regalia and Pictures of the Society of Dilettanti, 1932, pl. vi; Arts Council Exhib. Cat., Elias Martin (1737–1818), 1963; H. Hayward, ‘The Drawings of John Linnell’, Furn. Hist., 1969; J. Hayward, ‘Christopher Fuhrlohg, an Anglo-Swedish Cabinet-Maker’, Burlington, CXI, 1969. pp. 648–55; C. Streeter, ‘Marquetry furniture by a brilliant London Master’, Met. Museum Bulletin, June 1971, Part 1, pp. 418–29; J. Hayward, ‘A newly discovered commode signed by Christopher Fuhrlohg’, Burlington, CXIV, 1972, pp. 704–12; J. Hayward, ‘A further note on Christopher Fuhrlohg’, Burlington, CXIX, 1977, pp. 486–93; H. Hayward and P. Kirkham, William and John Linnell, 1980; H. Hayward, ‘A Taste of Quality’, C. Life, June 1981, pp. 551–52; Wood, ‘Georg Haupt and his Compatriots in London’, Furniture History (2014); M. Debenham & M. Cole, 'Marquetry Cabinets Containing Newly Fashionable Pianofortes Made in Eighteenth-Century London: The Cabinet Maker’s Pianoforte — or the Pianoforte Maker’s Cabinet?' in The London Journal, vol. 43, issue 3, Jan. 2018.

The original entry from Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, 1660-1840 can be found at British History Online.