The French cabriolet-patterned library chairs have antique-fluted rails and palm-flowered columnar legs, while the heraldically charged backs display the Mytton family armorials on medallioned escutcheons, that are ribbon-tied in sunbursts and flowered with triumphal palms and laurels. They would have formed part of the refurbishment of Halston Hall, Shropshire carried out in the late 1770s by the connoisseur John Mytton II (d. 1783) following the aggrandisement of the Palladian mansion by the architect Robert Mylne (d. 1811). Mytton was typical of cultured 18th century gentlemen: he undertook a Grand Tour, was painted by Nathaniel Dance in Rome in 1760 and by 1764 had been elected to the Society of Dilettanti (A. Woodward, 'Halston Hall, Shropshire', Country Life, 21 March 1996, pp. 74-75). Parlour chairs with related palm-flowered splats and antique-fluted columnar legs were designed in the 1770s for Sheffield Park, Sussex by the architect James Wyatt (d. 1813) and sold anonymously, in these Rooms, 11 November 1999, lot 50 (J. Cornforth, 'In Search of Distinction', Country Life, 23 May 1996, p. 60, fig. 8). Wyatt's elegant Roman style was popularised in the following decade by Messrs A. Hepplewhite & Co., Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Guide, 1788, which includes related ornament of seats.
THE ATTRIBUTION TO MAYHEW & INCE
This pair of drawing-room chairs, with their medallion backs and antique fluted rails and legs can be attributed to the Golden Square firm of John Mayhew and William Ince who were in partnership from 1758 59 until 1804. Closely related chairs with attributions to Mayhew and Ince include the seat furniture supplied to Richard Myddleton for Chirk Castle, Denbighshire, Wales, who was in correspondence with Ince between October 1782 and September 1783. A pair was sold by The Myddleton Family, Chirk Castle, Wrexham, Wales; Christie's house sale, 21 June 2004, lot 50 and a single chair en suite, lot 51. Other comparable suites of seat-furniture by Mayhew and Ince include at least two suites of similar inspiration supplied for the 3rd Earl of Darnley, for Cobham Hall, Kent. Lord Darnley was the most enduring of the firm's clients with payments totalling just under £4,000 from 1760 until his death in 1781. His son, the 4th Earl continued this association and spent just over £3,600 before 1803. Another, closely related suite of seat-furniture, comprising eight armchairs and a pair of sofas, was sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 12 November 1999, lots 84-88 (sold as four pairs of armchairs and a pair of sofas). The latter's attribution was based on the strong stylistic idiosyncrasies shared with other chairs from this workshop. Among such characteristics are the scrolled arms descending directly into the tops of the legs, the profile of the fluted legs with ring-turned and or reeded collars.
This pattern of chair is the prototype for one of the most reproduced of chairs. Numerous sets of this exact pattern have appeared at auction, most dating from the late 19th and mid-20th century. Following the chairs appearance in The Dictionary of English Furniture in 1924, it was probably widely copied by firms specialising in antique reproductions such as Lenygon & Morant and Gill & Reigate.
JACK MYTTON OF HALSTON HALL
The chairs bear the armorial of the Mytton family of Halston Hall, Shropshire, whose notoriety rests on the person of 'Mad Jack' Mytton (1796-1834). Expelled from both Westminster and Harrow, his profligacy was legendary, leading to the sale of his effects from Halston in 1832. He was known more affectionately as a dashing and perfectly fearless horseman: he is said to have galloped at full speed over a rabbit warren just to see if his horse would fall, which it did. He was fond of drinking and consumed four to six bottles of port a day, beginning whilst shaving in the morning. His son inherited many of his father's traits and had sold the family’s landed estates at Habborley in 1846 and then Halston in 1847.