This elegantly serpentined sofa reflects the George II 'Modern' manner popularised by Thomas Chippendale's, Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director (3 eds. 1754-1762). Its pattern appears to have been derived from a 'pattern chair' invented in 1756 by the celebrated Soho cabinet-makers and upholsterers Messrs Saunders and Bradshaw for Holkham Hall, Norfolk; and where the executant architect Matthew Brettingham (d. 1769) had introduced chimneypieces with 'Roman' trussed and reeded pilasters, as derived from an invention by the 17th century court architect Inigo Jones (d. 1652) and introduced in 1728 by the Rome-trained artist architect William Kent (d. 1748) for the Great Parlour of neighbouring Houghton (J. Cornforth, Early Georgian Interiors, London, 2004, p. 324, fig. 458).
The pattern chosen for Holkham's 'India-back' vase-splat and acanthus-flowered parlour chairs echoed that of the chimneypieces, whose tablets revealed pastoral scenes inspired by Aesop's Fables. Like some of Holkham's drawing-room chairs, the present sofa legs are further enriched, in 'Director' fashion, with Roman foliage issuing from reeded and water-bubbled cartouches; while its arms relate to those of Holkham's leather-upholstered Gallery sofas, which were invoiced by Saunders and Bradshaw in 1757 (ibid., fig. 453; and A. Coleridge, Chippendale Furniture, London, 1968, fig. 379). The same pattern of leg is found on seat-furniture that was almost certainly supplied to Thomas, 3rd Viscount Weymouth and later 1st Marquess of Bath, who had come into Longleat in 1754. Coincidentally, he corresponded around this time with the cabinet-making firm of Paul Saunders and his partner George Smith Bradshaw. Bradshaw's relative, William Bradshaw (d. 1775) had been a subscriber to Chippendale's Director. Unspecified payments from Viscount Weymouth to Paul Saunders totalled £556 15s in November 1757 and £300 in November 1759. The Longleat suite comprised at least two 'scroll sofas' and 'Eight Elbow Chairs to correspond', as recorded in the 1837 inventory of Longleat. A pair of armchairs from the suite was sold by The Trustees of the Longleat Chattels Settlement; Christie's, London, 13 June 2002, lot 338 (£81,260).