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Lock, Matthias (1710-1765)

Lock, Matthias

London; carver (b.c.1710–d.1765)

Matthias Lock was the first Englishman to publish designs in the fully-developed Rococo style and one of a number of joiners or carvers (spanning three or more generations) of the same name. He may be the Matthias Lock born in Portsmouth, Hampshire on 15 November 1710, to Matthias and his wife Margaret, and christened on 27 November 1710 [TNA, Class Number: RG 4; Piece Number: 405]. 

There is confusion surrounding his apprenticeship. An indenture in the Joiners' Company, dated 21 April 1724, records a Mathias Lack apprenticed to his father Mathias Lack [Guildhall Library, MS 8052/4, f. 155]. This is unlikely to have been the infamous carver; Matthias Lock was probably apprenticed to Richard Goldsaddle, a carver in the parish of St Martin in the Fields on 1 June 1724.

apprenticeship binding
Click on image to enlarge

Monday 1 June 1724: 'Richard Goldsaddle of St Martin in the Fields, Carver, Matthias Lock, son of Matthias Lock of St Pauls Shadwell, Joyner' [Copy of UK Register of duties paid for apprentices, TNA;  Board of Stamps: Apprenticeship Books: Series IR 1; Class: IR 1; Piece: 10].

There is no record of him becoming a freeman but assuming he served a seven-year apprenticeship, he would have become a journeyman carver about 1731. In 28 July 1734 he married Mary Lee at St Paul's, Covent Garden [City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: STP/PR/1/3].

We know nothing of Lock's professional life during this decade, but in the 1740s he emerged as a masterful designer and carver of the French Rococo. The first indication of his activities are some memoranda of charges for minor carving commissions between 1742–44, included in the collection of drawings that descended in the Lock family until acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum. In the same collection are seven small sheets with rough sketches of carved furniture. Next to each sketch are recorded the names of the artisans (Messrs Lock, Lomar, Mill, Wood, and Loo) who made the piece and the number of days spent on it. In each case Lock's name leads the list. These pieces were made for the 2nd Earl Poulett of Hinton House, Hinton St George, Somerset, probably shortly after he succeeded to the title in 1734. A pier glass and pier table, now in the V&A (click here for detail of side), and two stands, all furnishings for the Hinton House ‘Tapestry Room’, survive; they are of superlative quality and stylistically combine Rococo decoration with Baroque scale. 

At about the same time Lock undertook an ambitious programme to publish carvers’ ornament in the new French taste. The first dated suite of plates, 'Six Sconces', appeared in 1744. It was followed two years later by 'Six Tables', a large cartouche on a single sheet, and Lock's own trade card. On the latter two pieces his address is given as ‘Nottingham Court, Castle Street, near Long Acre’.

Trade card
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Trade card of Matthias Lock at Tottenham Court Road, London, 1746 [Heal,32.36] © The Trustees of the British Museum

A Book of Ornaments (later reissued as A Book of Shields) appeared in 1747. Although the illustrations of 1744 have a certain massive quality not found in the later ones, all the designs exhibit a consistent and fully developed Rococo style. Even more distinctive is the style of engraving. Lock, who did his own, used etching almost exclusively, enabling him to produce informal, sketch-like prints. Two other suites, A New Drawing Book of Ornaments, Shields, Compartments, Masks, &c., and The Principles of Ornament, or the Youth's Guide to Drawing of Foliage, although undated, are stylistically similar to his work of 1746/47.

In 1752, in collaboration with H. Copland, Lock published A New Book of Ornaments with his address given as ‘near ye Swan Tottenham Court Road’. Comprising twelve leaves, each with multiple motifs, it was the most ambitious book of Rococo ornament prior to Chippendale's Director. Of a similar style is Lock's A New Book of Ornaments for Looking Glass Frames, Chimney Pieces &c in the Chinese Taste.

Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Plate from 'A New Book of Ornaments with Twelve Leaves Consisting of Chimneys, Sconces, Tables, Spandle Panels, Spring Clock Cases, Stands, a Chandelier and Girandole, etc.', 13 November 1752 [MET 28.88.7]. Made available by a Creative Commons CCO .1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Meanwhile, Lock continued to work with wood. The second state of his trade card, bearing his later address, described him as ‘Carver’. And in the Lock Collection at the V&A, on sheets of paper from a 1752 diary, are his notations about furniture carved for Lord Holderness, Lord (presumably the 2nd Earl, and later 1st Duke of) Northumberland, and a Mr Bradshaw. Also in that collection is the drawing for an armchair c.1755 which is now in the V&A.

The chair was acquired by the painter Richard Cosway for use in his studio. The existence of drawings by Chippendale in the Lock Collection suggests a working relationship: Lock probably did piece-work carving for him. Lock is conspicuously absent from the list of master craftsmen in Mortimer's Universal Directory, 1763. By that time, presumably, he had left the trade.

Lock died in 1765 and was buried at St Paul's, Covent Garden on 22 December [City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: STP/PR/4/4].

Almost all of Lock's engravings were re-issued posthumously in 1768 by the publisher Roger Sayer, at which time he was described as ‘the famous Mr Matt Lock recently deceased who was reputed the best Draftsman in that way that had ever been in England’. In 1769, a Matthias Lock executed A New Book of Foliage for the Instruction of Young Artists and A New Book of Pier Frame's, Oval's, Gerandole's, Table's &c, two suites of Neo-classic carvers ornament; and between 1788–97 a carver of the same name is recorded at Clerkenwell Green. This Matthias Lock was probably a son; and it would be his descendent George Lock from whom the V&A purchased the Lock collection in 1862–63, which include 78 loose sheets of drawings (Nos 2547–2624), and 168 drawings in a folio scrapbook entitled Original Designs by Matts. Lock Carver 1740–1765 (Nos 2848/1–168).

Sources: DEFM F. Kimball and E. Donnell, ‘The Creators of the Chippendale Style’, Met. Museum Studies, 1, Pt 11, 1929, 115–54; P. Ward-Jackson, English Furniture Designs of the 18th century, 1958, pp. 38–40; J. F. Hayward, ‘Furniture designed and carved by Matthias Lock for Hinton House, Somerset’, Connoisseur, January 1961, pp. 284–86; G. Wills, English Furniture 1550–1760, pp. 241–53; H. Hayward, ‘A Unique Rococo Chair by Matthias Lock’, Apollo, October 1973, pp. 268–71; M. Heckscher, ‘Lock and Copland: A Catalogue of the Engraved Ornament’, Furniture History, 1979, pp. 1–23; pls 1–67; Rococo: Art and Design in Hogarth's England, V&A Exhibition catalogue, 1984, nos L4, 10–14, 17].

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