The chairs are branded with VR below a crown, indicating that they formed part of the Royal Collection during the reign of Queen Victoria. The French-fashioned cabriolet chairs with medallioned seats and caned tablet backs relate to a Drawing Room Chair pattern in Thomas Sheraton's, The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book, 1793. The maker of this set of chairs is not known, but a pair of painted chairs with decorated tablet toprail by John Gee was sold by the Saidye Bronfman Foundation, Sotheby's, New York, 27 January 1996, lot 142. For an analysis of the painted decoration, please see the catalogue entry at christies.com.
The decoration on the chairs has been restored in some areas, but what you see is largely the original decoration. This includes the little figurative scenes in the tops of the chair backs, and all the floral scrollwork on the legs and backs.
A white ground based on pure lead white was applied first, then the stems floral decoration was 'drawn' with thin brush lines of reddish brown, and finally the petals and leaves were painted on. The rectangular panels on the tops of the chair backs were blocked in with a light brown paint and the figurative details painted on top. The same set of pigments was used throughout: lead white, carbon black, vermilion, red lake, iron oxide red, Prussian blue and chrome yellow. In some of the brighter greens there were globules of a very bright green mixed from Prussian blue and chrome yellow. These are unlikely to have been mixed by the painter, and more likely to have been produced by a paint supplier
Pigments useful for dating:
Chrome yellow means was first used in circa 1818.
The globules of pre-mixed Prussian blue and chrome yellow in some of the brighter greens are likely to have been produced some years after 1818. The use of lead white means the chair decoration cannot be any later than the early twentieth century. The lead white contained particles with a characteristic 'capsule' shape. These have often been found in mid nineteenth-century contexts and are thought to be the product of a specific method of manufacture.
The presence of chrome yellow means the decoration cannot be any earlier than circa 1818. The pre-mixed green, and the specific type of lead white particles, point to a mid nineteenth-century date, but they may simply be early examples of a particular type