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    Sale 5444

    Town & Country Perspectives - The Charles Plante Collection

    4 June 2008, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 368



    Price Realised  


    Mid-19th century
    Each with a panelled back centred by a roundel, scrolled arms and solid seat, on X-frame legs joined by a stretcher (2)

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    The most famous of Glastonbury chairs is in the Bishop's Palace, Wells Cathedral. The confusion surrounding the history of the chair stemmed from its religious association and presumed rarity. In fact, rather than being used in a religious context, it appears that they were entirely secular in function and were probably associated with high office. The Wells chair bears an inscription linking it to 'John Arthur, Monk of Glastonbury' presumed to be John Arthur Thorne, last Treasurer of Glastonbury Abbey. It was this chair that provided the prototype for the Victorian copies that were so popular (C. Graham, Ceremonial and Commemorative Chairs in Great Britain, Stroud, 1994, fig. 32). The chair itself was presented in 1824 to the Bishop by John Bowen, vicar of Wells Cathedral. Pugin, as the high-priest of the mid-Victorian Gothic revival had almost certainly seen the chair at Wells. As an example of 16th Century furniture and its likely catholic associations, it would have provided him with a powerful model. It had also been published in Shaw's Specimens of Ancient Furniture, 1835. Pugin designed chairs of this type for Oscott seminary, circa 1838 (E.T. Joy, English Furniture 1800-1851, London, 1977, p. 137).

    Another, earlier promoter of the taste for Gothic furniture and decoration, Horace Walpole, owned a similar chair and, writing to Chute in 1759 he said 'I am deeper than ever in Gothic antiquities, I have bought a monk of Glastonbury's chair, full of scraps of the psalms' (W.S. Lewis, Correspondence, Yale, 1915, vol. XXXV, p. 106). It is not known how Walpole knew of the Glastonbury connection. Walpole's chair was sold in the Strawberry Hill sale of 1842 and its present whereabouts is unknown.

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