These banqueting hall chairs are embellished with the arms of Francis Basset (d. 1769), M.P for Penryn and were commissioned in celebration of his marriage to Elizabeth St. Aubyn in 1756, the year he took up residence at Tehidy Park, near Camborne in Cornwall. The Bassett family, one of the most powerful families in Cornwall, made their fortune mining local tin and copper and came into the manor of Tehidy in the 12th Century. The principal house, however, was built by John Pendarves Basset in 1734.
Such whimsical 'Venus' shell backed chairs, appropriate for use in halls or garden grottos, are associated with the early 17th Century Roman architecture of the court architect Inigo Jones (d. 1652). Their design evolves from the type of hall chair introduced in the 1620's at Holland House, London (R. Edwards, Shorter Dictionary of English Furniture, 1962, p.118, fig. 12), whilst a related 'Garden Seat' pattern of 1761 features in the third edition of Thomas Chippendale's Director, 1763, pl. XXIV.
In terms of design, the closest parallels lie with the celebrated set of eight hall chairs supplied to St Giles's House, Dorset (illustrated in A. Coleridge, Chippendale Furniture, London, 1968, fig. 366). Another suite of related chairs from Tythrop, Oxfordshire was exhibited at the Art Treasures Exhibition, Bath, 1958 (with Christy's of Kent Ltd.). Further related chairs with antique-fluted armorial backs and bearing the arms of Nassau, Earl of Rochford were sold at Sotheby's London, 31 May 1968, lot 142.
These chairs originally formed part of an extensive suite apparently comprising two settees and ten chairs. A pair of settees and four chairs of this model were sold anonymously at Sotheby's London, 2 April 1971, lot 42. These are almost certainly those in Partridge's Summer Exhibition of 1983. Another pair was sold from the Estate of Bertha B. Hilas, Christie's New York, 30 January 1982, lot 139 and another pair sold anonymously, Christie's London, 5 December 1991, lot 217. One of the latter chairs bore an old catalogue label whose footnote reads 'The arms are those of Basset quartering Pendarves and impaling St. Aubyn, for Francis Basset of Tehidy, M.P. for Penryn, second son of Francis Basset and his second wife Mary daughter and heiress of John Pendarves Rector of Dunsteighton (sic.), Devon, who married in 1756 Margaret daughter of Sir John St. Aubyn, Bart, of Clowance'.
Tehidy was inherited by Francis Basset, who was created Baron de Dunstanville in 1796 and Baron Basset of Stratton in the following year. An active politician who served as M.P. for Penrhyn and was a prolific writer, the title became extinct upon his death in 1835. The house, which was enlarged and altered in 1861, descended in the family until Arthur Francis Basset disposed of it in 1915. The contents was sold locally by Knight, Frank and Rutley on 19 July 1918, although the chairs do not appear to have been included - in spite of the apparent earlier descriptive catalogue label noted above.The pictures were sold at Christie's by A.F. Basset, Esq., 9 January 1920 and a quantity of porcelain by R.L. Basset, Esq., 1 January 1954. However, no trace of any furniture sold in these Rooms has been found - and old 18th and 19th Century inventories preserved at the Cornwall Record Office are also tantalisingly brief and do not list individual items. It has therefore not been possible to trace their line of descent through the family at Tehidy. The house itself was tragically demolished after being destroyed by a fire in 1919.