This magnificent golden shell-decked chair almost certainly originally formed part of the suite of seat-furnitute commissioned around 1710 for the tapestried State Bedroom apartment created at Castle Howard, Yorkshire by Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle (d.1738). Probably dispersed about the house by the 4th Earl between 1743 and 1751 when the Principal Bedroom Apartments were refurnished under Daniel Garrett's guidance, a side chair and wing armchair from the suite are photographed in situ in The High Saloon at Castle Howard circa 1924 (G. Worsley, England's Lost Houses, London, 2002, p. 94). Of the suite, only three side chairs and the pair of great easy chairs with wave-scrolled wings remain at Castle Howard.
While the seat-rail displays the shell badge of Venus and is raised on legs that are ribbon-fretted, truss-scrolled and wave-voluted; the chair's whorled cresting evokes Jupiter's vivifying fulcrum and would have harmonised with the theatric embellishment of the Earl's banqueting hall ceiling. Here the Venetian artist Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini had portrayed the heroic Phaeton checked by Jupiter's thunderbolt in his attempt to drive the sun-chariot of his father Apollo.
Queen Anne's 'upholsterer' Thomas Phill (d.1728), who established his Strand workshops at the sign of 'The Three Golden Chairs' in 1700, executed chairs with an almost identical stretcher and scroll form legs corresponding to what Phill considered 'ye newest fashion' - when supplying frames for needlework upholstery for Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire in 1714 (A. Bowett, 'The Queen Anne Chair', Antique Collecting, June 2000, pp. 10-14, fig.3). Cornforth considers these to be the earliest documented cabriole legged chairs.
The Castle Howard suite, with its remarkable line and pierced legs, reflects an altogether more sophisticated creation. Such sculptural masterpieces may conceivably be the work of James Moore (d. 1726), cabinet-maker to King George I, who is convincingly considered to be the author of the celebrated Cannons suite supplied to James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos (1673/4-1744) for Cannons, Edgware, Middlesex. In the distinctive cusped shape of the back and scrolled toprail, the Cannons suite represents something of a bridge between this and a further suite of Queen Anne gilt-gesso seat-furniture still at Castle Howard and undoubtedly executed by the same chairmaker. Recorded by Lady Oxford in 1745 as being upholstered in Yellow Damask - although most of the suite was recovered in crimson velvet from one of the two State Beds in 1868 - the suite is discussed in J. Cornforth, 'Castle Howard, Yorkshire', Country Life, 4 June 1992, pp.76-7, fig.8.
The French cut-velvet upholstery on this chair was painstakingly copied from threads of the original upholstery found upon the chair when Simon Sainsbury acquired it.