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A paper label to this handsome George II padouk, brass strung and parcel gilt cabinet bookcase indicated an interesting provenance.

Deacon Brodie was a highly respected citizen of Edinburgh, the son of the cabinetmaker Francis Brodie, and an accomplished cabinetmaker in his own right, deacon of his guild, and a town councillor. But by night he drank, gambled and led a second life with two mistresses and five illegitimate children.

As bankruptcy loomed, he turned to burglary, taking wax impressions of the keys to houses in which he was working as a cabinetmaker and perpetrating some spectacular thefts.

In 1788, he was hanged near the Tolbooth, Edinburgh, a gallows with a drop platform he himself had designed and made. As he drew near the scaffold, he examined the halter destined for his neck and cried out, "What is hanging? A leap in the dark."

Brodie is reputed to be the model for Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Cambridgeshire-based Rowley's offered this bureau cabinet at a contents sale at Boughton Grange of Boughton, Northampton on April 29. It was probably from the same workshops as another in padouk offered (but unsold) at Christie's, King Street in November 1999 with an estimate of £10,000-15,000.

It shares the inverted key escutcheons to the upper section and the internal configuration, but its pediment complete with gilded plaster bust of a classical philosopher is much more developed. The macabre story was key to its final price. Both object of death and objet d'art, it made £42,000 (estimate £8000-12,000).
By Roland Arkell