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    Sale 7592

    Four British Collections Including Important Furniture

    5 June 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 182


    CIRCA 1755

    Price Realised  


    CIRCA 1755
    Each with a pierced arched drapery-carved back, the central splat with interlaced fretwork, the outscrolled arms with trellis reserves and foliate-clasp terminals, above a padded shaped seat covered in close-nailed patterned silk and a frieze carved with blind fretwork, on conformingly-carved square chamfered legs with pierced angle brackets and terminating in guttae feet, two armchairs covered in floral-patterned beige silk, the other two covered in floral-embroidered cream silk, minor restorations to feet and angle-brackets, three chairs with blue-bordered paper label inscribed '6'
    36¾ in. (93.5 cm.) high; 23 in. (58.5 cm.) wide; 19¾ in. (50 cm.) deep (4)

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    These romantic George II parlour chairs reflect their conception as companions for the china-table in the reception dressing-room of a bedroom apartment, whose novel embellishment was intended to contrast with the Roman styled state apartments of a country villa. 'Variety' was considered an important element of 'beauty', as noted by the artist William Hogarth, when quoting William Shakespeare in his 1753 Analysis of Beauty. And this view was shared by Hogarth's St. Martin's Lane neighbour Thomas Chippendale. The latter, while claiming Roman architecture as the 'soul' of his cabinet-making art, illustrated variety's importance in his 'Modern' styled furniture in his, Gentleman and Cabinet-maker's Director, 1754.
    The present chair pattern evolved from the exotic George I 'India back' parlour chair, but in place of a Chinese 'vase' splat, it displays a Roman sacrificial veil-draped Bacchic basket, with a central lozenged compartment woven in entwined ribbons; while its triumphal pointed-arch crest is fretted in the mediaeval manner associated with the British 'patriot' taste encouraged by the bibliophile and historiographer Horace Walpole. The suite, with their fret-traceried and quatrefoiled lily-flowered frames, evolved from Walpole's tracery-backed parlour chairs, which were introduced at Strawberry Hill, Middlesex in the 1750s alongside gothic-traceried papers (A. Chalcraft and J. Viscardi, Strawberry Hill, 2007). Roman acanthus flowers their armrests, which are supported on truss-scrolled pilasters that terminate in Doric guttae, like the pilaster legs. They can be translated as a patriotic version of the contemporary French-fashioned parlours, which were hung in Chinese floral papers to evoke the Roman concept of 'perpetual spring' (Ver perpetuum), and furnished with railed-back chairs recalling Chinese-railed gardens.
    Alongside Chippendale, the Haymarket cabinet-maker Robert Manwaring (d.1766), had been a contributor to 'Genteel Household Furniture' issued in 1760 by a London Society of Upholsterers and Cabinet-Makers. Manwaring likewise featured the 'Five Orders of Columns in [Roman] Architecture' as an introduction to his own chair pattern-book entitled, The Cabinet and Chair-maker's Real friend and Companion (1765), which included related 'Gothick' patterns for 'Parlour Chairs'. As Manwaring contributed Doric/Dorick guttae as lambrequined seat-rail ornament to Household Furniture (pl. 18); and boasted in 1765 that he had advanced very few designs that he had not 'either executed himself, or seen completely finished by others', it seems possible that he invented the present pattern.

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    With Symons Galleries Inc., New York, 1959.
    Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, New York, 12 April 1997, lot 742.
    Bought from Devenish & Co., 929 Madison Avenue, New York, 1998.

    Pre-Lot Text

    (LOTS 130-209)