About this artwork
Badminton House in Gloucestershire, England, is perhaps best known as the site where the first game of badminton was played (on a rainy day in 1863), but as the principal country residence of the Dukes of Beaufort its historical importance long predates that event. Several of the dukes enriched the beauty of the house. For example, the 4th Duke commissioned a suite of chinoiserie furniture from the fashionable London cabinet makers John and William Linnell in 1754, which became famous enough to influence future projects. Similarly, the 4th Duke’s son, who became the 5th Duke of Beaufort in 1756 when he was only twelve years old, wasted no time in making additions of his own to Badminton when he reached his majority. In his account books for 1782 appears the following entry: “February 23 to Wm France Library Ladder 16 Pounds 11s.” The reference is to the London cabinetmaker William France, Jr., whose father had set up a significant cabinetmaking shop next door to Thomas Chippendale’s in St. Martin’s Lane in the 1760s.
As a graduate of Oxford with a doctorate in civil law, the 5th Duke lavished much attention on the library at Badminton, including this library ladder. The Chinese-style bed at Badminton must have impressed him, because its Chinese-style open-fretwork headboard seems to have inspired the library ladder.
- William France
- Library Ladder
- Mahogany and brass
- 248.9 × 158.8 × 78.7 cm (98 × 62 1/2 × 31 in.)
- The Antiquarian Society; Fred and Kay Krehbiel; purchased with funds provided by Neville and John H. Bryan; European Decorative Arts Purchase Account Fund; through prior purchase of the Estate of Reid Martin; Mr. Henry Hawley; through prior bequest of Francis S. McCormick; through prior gift of Robert Allerton; through prior purchases of Mrs. Wolfgang Shoenborn, Mrs. John Graham Jr., Mrs. C. Morse Ely through the Antiquarian Society, Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong, Mrs. Samuel G. Rautbord, Mrs. Marilyn H. Karsten, and Mr. Barry Friedman