These magnificent hall chairs are originally from a suite of four armchairs and a settee first categorically recorded in the collection of the 6th Earl of Harewood and HRH the Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood at Chesterfield House, London circa 1920. They appear in photographs, both published and unpublished, taken for H. Avray Tipping's articles on Chesterfield House for Country Life in 1922 and 1931.
Chesterfield House - sadly now lost - was built by the 4th Earl of Chesterfield and remained - until it was tragically demolished in 1932 - one of the greatest private palaces of London. Lord Chesterfield wrote in December 1747 'My court, my Hall and my staircase will be really magnificent. The expense will ruin me but the enjoyment will please me'. Ultimately, the expense did indeed ruin the Chesterfield family and the house passed through several hands until it was bought in the 1920s by the 6th Earl and Countess of Harewood - presumably on the back of his large inheritance from the 2nd Marquess of Clanricarde (d.1916). Traditionally, as with much architectural hall furniture, this suite was thought to have been part of the original furnishings supplied for Chesterfield House. Indeed the 6th Earl is known to have purchased some of the Chesterfield House furniture in the Bretby Heirlooms sale, Christie's London, 29-30 May 1918. However, photographs of Chesterfield House during the tenure of Baroness Burton, the previous incumbent, reveal no signs of the suite - whilst other pieces known to have originally been acquired for Harewood House, Yorkshire or Harewood House, Hanover Square are clearly visible in the interiors taken in 1920. The suite must therefore have emanated from an earlier Lascelles commission.
Edwin, Viscount Lascelles' principal seats were Harewood and his house in Portman Street, London. The Inventory undertaken following his death in 1795 records possible candidates- although the oblique wording prevents categoric identification. Thus the 1795 inventory of the Sub Hall at Harewood records '4 Mahogany Hall Chairs' and '6 Mahogany Chairs'. However, Gilbert has tentatively identified the former set of four mahogany chairs with a set with painted crests, supplied by Chippendale in 1773 which remain in the basement of Harewood (F.H.S.J., 1973, pl. 10b and C. Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978, vol. II, pp. 199 and 208). The suite could equally well be identifiable with the '4 Mahogany Hall Chairs' listed in the Porter's Hall at Harewood House, Portman Street in 1795. In both instances no specific mention of the settee is made - although they could conceivably have been employed in an outside loggia - as at Boughton House, Northamptonshiure and Rousham, Oxfordshire.
Hall furniture was almost always left un-upholstered so that visiting messengers and coachmen, often with dusty clothes- could use them freely and footmen awaiting returning employers would not fall asleep in the early hours. The chair forms were often highly sophisticated as the design relied on its shape, proportion and quality of carving to project the status of the house, rather than applied decoration, gilding or upholstery. The very nature of the formal character of the chair lent successfully to the interpretation of classical designs and the timber used was often of the highest quality richly polished to set off the carving. The severity of the furniture remained a foil to the grandeur and richness of the reception rooms that led off the hall.
These antique-fluted and temple-pedimented chairs evolved from the Roman fashion promoted by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and his protégé William Kent, as Master Carpenter to George II's Architectural Board of Works. Their influential designs were subsequently popularised by J. Vardy's, Some Designs of Mr. Inigo Jones and Mr. William Kent, 1744 and the settee en suite has a tablet back crowned by Ionic wave-scrolled and acanthus-wrapped volutes, which also evolved from Kent's settee patterns dating from around 1730 (Vardy, ibid., plate 42).
Such 'Kentian' hall benches appear to have been executed in two distinct periods - the earliest displaying a more experimental, Baroque character - dating from around 1725 to the 1740s. Apart from those designed by Kent for Chiswick, a set of four settees designed by Henry Flitcroft (d. 1769) and executed by George Nix was supplied in 1728 for John Montagu, 2nd Duke of Montagu for the Banqueting Hall of Montagu House, Whitehall (see T. Murdoch (ed.), Boughton House: The English Versailles, London, 1992, pp. 134-135, pl. 133). A further suite of six settees based on the same pattern was provided for Sir Robert Walpole's Norfolk mansion, Houghton Hall (see J. Cornforth, 'Houghton Hall, Norfolk', Country Life, 28 March 1996, pp. 52-59 and fig. 2) and have been attributed to the workshops of James Richards, who executed numerous architectural carvings as well as furniture for Royal commissions designed by Kent (A. Moore, Houghton Hall, London, 1996, p. 116). In 1731 James Moore the Younger (d.1734) supplied '2 Mahogany Settees' that Kent had designed for the Lodge at Sherborne Park, Gloucestershire (C. Gilbert, Furniture at Temple Newsam House and Lotherton Hall, II, London, 1998, p.72 8). These were invoiced as: 'To Mr Moore for 2 Mahogany Settees for ye Dining Room at ye Lodge Carved 30- 0-0'. Finally, a further variant of the model designed by William Kent in around 1725 is at Raynham Hall, Norfolk, and is illustrated in H. Cescinsky, The Old-World House: its Furniture and Decoration, vol.II, New York, 1924, p. 119.
THE LINNELL CONNECTION
This more refined, neo-Classical model of 'Kentian' hall bench - with its sphere-capped pillars, columnar legs, and torus-moulded seats enriched by flowered ribbon-guilloches - belongs to the second group which dates from around 1760. Significantly a sketch for a related hall settee pattern features in the surviving sketch-books of William and John Linnell of circa 1758-60 at the Victoria and Albert Museum (H. Hayward and P. Kirkham, William and John Linnell, vol. II, London, 1980, fig. 229). It is interesting to note, therefore, that the name 'Lascells' is inscribed on a Linnell drawing in the same album - and that a suite of seat-furniture executed by Linnell in the 1770s is also now at Harewood; this latter suite was also photographed n situ at Chesterfield House in 1920.
Apart from the Harewood suite, 'Kentian'-inspired Hall benches attributed to Linnell include the set of six settees commissioned by Burlington's London neighbour the 3rd Duke of Devonshire for Devonshire House, Piccadilly; now at Chatsworth, the settees are first recorded in an inventory of Devonshire House in 1892. An identical pair of benches to those at Chatsworth, presumably commisioned by Peregrine Bertie, 3rd Duke of Ancaster (d. 1788) is now at Grimsthorpe Castle; whilst a further pair was commissioned by the 1st Earl of Clarendon for The Grove, Hertfordshire (sold at Christie's, 11 April 1985, lot 130). The Duke and Duchess of Ancaster were debtors of William Linnell on his death in 1763 (Hayward & Kirkham, op. cit., p. 86, n. 30). Hayward and Kirkham suggested that both William and John Linnell were employed by William Kent as cabinet-makers, having executed a table to Kent's design for James West at Alscot Park, Warwickshire in 1750 (ibid., p. 79). This slightly later dating is underlined by a pair of double-seat settees supplied for the Hall at Holkham Hall; although designed by Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester (d. 1748) and William Kent and built in the 1740s under the direction of the architect Matthew Brettingham Senior (d. 1769), the hall formed part of the 'Grand Apartment', which though roofed in 1749, only had its furnishing completed around 1760 by the Countess of Leicester.
Finally, it would appear that a suite of settees of this, or closely related pattern, furnished the hall at Audley End, Essex in the early 19th century (RIBA Library).
The remaining pair of hall chairs from this suite, now in a Private Collection, was advertised by Mallett in Country Life, 11 October 2001, p.57. At that time, this suite was considered to comprise eight armchairs and two benches; this was presumably a duplication as the same 1976 set of four chairs and single bench had previously been offered by the Earl of Harewood at Christie's London, 28 June 1951, lot 64.
GOLDSBOROUGH OR HAREWOOD
The Lascelles family's connection with Harewood - that great Treasure house of the North - began in 1738 when Henry Lascelles bought the Gawthorpe Hall estate near Leeds. An old-fashioned, medieval manor house, Gawthorpe was razed to the ground in 1754 by his son and heir, Edwin, who embarked on an ambitious building programme to erect a new Harewood, commensurate with his vast inheritance acquired from the family's sugar plantations in Barbados. Initially turning to the local architect John Carr of York (d.1807), the latter was subsequently succeeded by Robert Adam. Their great Palladian collusion was largely complete on the outside by 1765, when it was depicted on an ice-pail made by Wedgwood for the service of Catherine the Great of Russia. Whether this suite of hall furniture may originally have been commissioned for Carr's Harewood is conjecture; however it would seem at odds with Adam's palatial interiors, embellished with plasterwork by Joseph Rose and decorative paintings by Antonio Zucchi and Angelica Kauffmann, which took more than three decades to reach their zenith - but provided the perfect backdrop for Chippendale's most important commission.
Contrastingly, Daniel Lascelles had purchased Goldsborough, a large Jacobean country house less than ten miles from Harewood, in 1760. The two brothers were close and Daniel, who was divorced and childless, had his own rooms at Harewood. Like his brother Edwin, Daniel employed the York architect John Carr to aggrandise Goldsborough around 1762, moving in shortly after. Sadly, no invoices or accounts relating to the furnishing of Goldsborough have been traced and the 1801 Goldsborough inventory is not enlightening: the only similar reference being in the Little Drawing Room, where 6 Mahogany Armd Chairs 2 Sofas to match and 2 Mahogany Window Stools to match are listed, but these are preumablu upholstered chairs. However, the 1801 inventory of Goldsborough records no gilded chairs, sofas or stools, in direct contrast to the 1795 inventory at Harewood and the restrained, sobre balance of this suite of Hall furniture would certainly concur with his taste. Significantly, on Daniel's death in 1784 his elder brother inherited everything and Goldsborough remained in the Lascelles family until it was finally vacated by the 6th Earl of Harewood when he succeeded in 1929. It was the 6th Earl who had acquired Chesterfield House - and consolidated some of the collections in London.