The French-style 'cabriolet' chairs, with their Roman medallioned-shield backs fretted with sacred urns, relate to the Etruscan 'columbarium' vase-chamber fashion adopted in the 1770s by the architect James Wyatt (d. 1813), and later popularised by Messrs A. Hepplewhite & Co., Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide, 1788.
James Wyatt had a close working relationship with the London and Lancaster cabinet-makers Messrs. Gillows, who featured one such reed-framed back with Palmyreen-sunflowered patera, in their late 1780s Sketch-Book (L. Boynton, Gillow Furniture Designs 1760-1800, Royston, 1995, fig. 271). In the 1770s Wyatt designed related chairs, with palm-flowered paterae and antique-fluted and palm-wreathed columnar legs for John, 1st Earl of Sheffield, Sheffield Park, Sussex (sold anonymously, in these Rooms, 11 November 1999, lot 50); and related medallion back and urn-enriched chairs for Heveningham, Suffolk (J. Cornforth, 'In Search of Distinction', Country Life, 23 May 1996, p.60, figs. 9 and 8). Some of Wyatt's 1770s sketches for similar shield-back cabriolet chairs appeared on the Paris art market in 1947 (F. D. Fergusson, 'Wyatt Chairs: Rethinking the Adam heritage', Burlington Magazine, July 1977 p. 495, fig. 35). In the late 1770s Wyatt was also responsible for some related patterns for ornamenting cabriolet chairs sent to the Marquis de Marigny et de Menars (d. 1781), when he had retired from service as Louis XVI's Directeur des Bâtiments du Roi and was furnishing his Paris Hôtel in the English manner. The name 'Wyatt' was associated with his order for forty-eight armchairs, and sixty side chairs that were custom-made for the Marquis. The patterns for his chairs that were noted as 'tres commode et d’une belle forme', and were accompanied by the various prices for 'Neat Maehog Parlor chairs stuffed and covered with Brown linen with the very best [horse] hair'. There is also a possibility that these chairs, the first of which was ready for despatch to Paris by June 1778, were executed in the Oxford Street workshops of James Wyatt's cousin, the carver and gilder Edward Wyatt (d. 1833) (A. Gordon, 'The Marquis de Marigny's Purchase of English Furniture and Objects', Furniture History, 1989, pp. 86-108). A pair of chairs of this present pattern, with the journeyman maker's stamps of 'AB' and 'WS', were with Stair and Company, New York and sold by Dorothy and Robert C. Hill, Sotheby's, New York, 19-20 April 2001, lot 531. A single chair of similar neo-classical design, the settee from the suite illustrated in The Dictionary of English Furniture, rev. ed., 1954, p. 99, fig. 68), was sold anonymously, in these Rooms, 24 November 2005, lot 76 (£16,800).