This set of parcel gilt ‘French’ chairs can be confidently attributed to John Linnell (d. 1796) on the basis of the virtually identical set comprising eight armchairs and two sofas, supplied by Linnell in 1768 to William Drake of Shardeloes, Buckinghamshire, and now in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen (H. Hayward, P. Kirkham, William and John Linnell, vol. II, New York, 1980, pp. 34, 127, figs. 61, 250). Drake was a long-standing client of both William and John Linnell, the relationship persisting for some 25 years from 1749. The seat furniture, intended for the drawing-room at Shardeloes, was originally covered in crimson silk damask 'nailed with the best gilt nails' to match the wall hangings and curtains. A related design of circa 1765 - 70 in pen and ink and watercolour shows the chair with a yellow (gilt?) frame and green upholstery is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum (59 1929).
Other comparable chairs include a set illustrated in the Drawing Room at Hagley Hall, Worcestershire, seat of George, 1st Lord Lyttelton, almost certainly also a patron of Linnell who supplied furniture to Lyttelton’s brother and mistress, and another set of four with virtually identical carving on the arm terminals, legs, and identical in the manner that the arm joins the seat frame, in the collection of the National Trust and now at Uppark House, West Sussex (J. Cornforth, ‘Hagley Hall, Worcestershire’, Country Life, CLXXXIII, 4 May 1989, figs. 1, 6; C. Hussey, English Country Homes: Early Georgian 1715-1760, London, 1955, p. 199, fig. 355; NT 137691.1-4).
The present chairs were evidently retailed in the latter part of the 19th century by Isaac and James Ashford, antique dealers and furniture-makers, who were established in Saxmundham, Suffolk from at least 1865; recorded in the Post Office Directory at this date as ‘Ashford Issac & James, cabinet makers .’. The brothers had married two of Jerome Bright’s daughters, the latter a jeweller and clockmaker, and later took over his premises, J.D. Bright & Co. at Ashford House, Saxmundham, to run their business.