Whilst making clear stylistic reference to Windsor chairs with cabriole legs made in London and the Thames Valley during the 18th century, this chair has differences in design features which indicate that it was made in the West Country. These include the use of cabriole legs to the rear which do not have the swept back profile common to the London made chairs; the particular form of the three part arm bow, and the unusually ornate upper splat which incorporates elements of both rococo and neo-classical design. The intricate interlaced fretting of the splat has hollowed frontal carving, and the flowing elements are supported by delicately carved supports. Incorporated into the splat are neo-classical elements including a lower tablet, as well as round and oval paterae with foliate and wheatsheaf motifs.
This combination of design elements appears to borrow from chairs by Thomas Chippendale (See for example, The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director 3rd Edition. 1762, Plate IX, for a closely similar splat design), combined with various elements from Chippendale's standard early neo-classical chair design elements. (See for example, chairs illustrated in C.Gilbert. The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, 1978, pp 88 - 93). Although it is not unusual for elements of fashionable furniture design to be absorbed into the work of vernacular chair makers, this particular interpretation shows an unusually lively sense of how the two might be combined.
One other chair, held in the collection of the Somerset Museum of Rural Life at Glastonbury, is closely similar in many respects to the chair above, including a top splat with similar design elements and the use of cherrywood, but with the exception that it has turned legs, and the seat is elm. It seems likely that both chairs were made in the same West Country workshop.
Dr B. Cotton January 2002