This important set of armchairs was supplied circa 1770-72 by Chippendale to Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood (1712-95). Originally painted blue and parcel-gilt, it is likely they were used for either Lord Harewood’s bedchamber, or one of the family rooms at Harewood House, Yorkshire (1).
The Lascelles family’s connection with Harewood – the great treasure house of the North – began in 1738 when Henry Lascelles (1690-1753) purchased the Gawthorpe Hall estate near Leeds. In 1754, his son and heir, Edwin, embarked on an ambitious building programme to erect a new Harewood on the site of Gawthorpe, which had been demolished, commensurate with his vast inheritance acquired from the family’s sugar plantations in Barbados. Initially turning to the Palladian and local architect, John Carr of York (1723-1807), the latter was subsequently succeeded by the young and ambitious Scot, Robert Adam (1728-92). Adam’s palatial interiors, embellished with plasterwork by Joseph Rose (1745-1799) and decorative paintings by the husband and wife team, Antonio Zucchi (1726-95) and Angelica Kauffmann (1741-1807), took more than three decades to reach their zenith, but provided the perfect backdrop for Chippendale’s most important and valuable commission, which almost certainly exceeded £10,000 (2). Chippendale, and his son, Thomas Chippendale, Junior (1749-circa 1822), worked at Harewood between 1767 and 1797. A wealth of chairs, sofas, stools, tables, beds, commodes, looking glasses and upholstery were supplied for the state rooms, family apartments, basements and servant’s quarters, to create ‘one of the best and compleatest Houses in the Kingdom’.
Chippendale’s furniture at Harewood includes some of his most celebrated works, the Diana and Minerva commode, the state bed and notable suites of giltwood or japanned seat-furniture including the present set of chairs. The furniture from Harewood is remarkably well preserved despite many of the mirrors and the state bed being moved to stores in the mid-19th century (3).
THE HAREWOOD PROVENANCE
These chairs were originally painted blue and parcel gilt. However, they do not appear in the surviving Chippendale Harewood account covering the period 30 December 1772 to 7 June 1777, which amounts to £6,838 19s 1d, and consists of fifteen foolscap pages. This account is incomplete, and does not include an earlier bill for £3,024 19s 3d, delivered on 30 December 1772, that is missing but conceivably listed the present chairs (4, 5). Moreover, the extant bill only describes the furnishings of three principal rooms and the staircase together with lesser items for the basement level, several costly glasses for the Music Room and 'Salon', and a miscellany of minor articles (6).
Five sets of blue and parcel-gilt or blue japanned chairs were supplied to Harewood:
(A) A set of eight armchairs, circa 1771, ordered for the Saloon (7).
(B) A set of eight armchairs, circa 1771, ordered for the Library, blue japanned (8).
(C) A set of six armchairs, circa 1773, ordered for the Circular Dressing Room (9).
(D) The set of twelve chairs offered here.
(E) A set of four cartouche-back armchairs together with a pair of window seats and a settee.
The first three sets, A-C, are clearly for the Saloon, Library and Circular Dressing Room.
The 1795 Harewood inventory records: ‘8 Chairs Blue & Gold covered with Blue Damask’ in Lord Harewood’s bedchamber and ‘a Sopha, 2 Conversation Stools & 3 Chairs Blue & Gold covered with blue Damask & covers 2 Blue Damask Window Curtains’ in Lady Harewood’s Dressing Room (10). In 1819, John Jewell describes Lord Harewood’s bedchamber in The Tourist’s Companion or the History and Antiquities of Harewood in Yorkshire as follows:
‘Twenty-six feet three inches, by twenty feet nine inches, fourteen feet nine inches high. The furniture blue and gold, the walls are hung with French paper; here is an elegant cabinet, and a variety of Indian figures. This room commands beautiful views into the flower-garden and south front of the house’ (11).
Lady Harewood’s Dressing Room is not identified in Jewell’s guide.
The present set of twelve armchairs (D) seem to be the most likely candidates for Lord Harewood’s bedchamber as there is sufficient number. The set of four armchairs (E) along with two window seats and settee, which remains at Harewood today would fit more closely with the furniture described in Lady Harwood’s dressing room.
The present chairs pre-date the extant Chippendale accounts, but the grandest set of oval-back chairs supplied in 1773 to the State Bedroom and Dressing Room demonstrate the cost of such chairs. These were invoiced as: ‘6 Cabriole Armd Chairs very richly Carved in the Antique manner and gilt in Burnished Gold Stuff’d & Covered with your Damask £60’, and ’12 rich Carved Cabriole Armed Chairs gilt in burnished Gold, Covered and finished as the others £120’.
Another set of fifteen closely related chairs, but with additional carved ornamentation, originally numbering eighteen, 'japanned' green and gold and made for the Music Room, circa 1770, is still at Harewood. Two of these chairs sold ‘Harewood: Collecting in the Royal Tradition’, Christie’s, London, 5 December 2012, lot 600 (£214,250 inc. premium). In fact, during the mid-19th century redecorations, both sets received the same new decoration and upholstery so that they could be used together to provide the profusion of seating, ubiquitous in the Victorian interior, to fill Robert Adam’s grand Gallery.
TROLLOPE & SONS AT HAREWOOD
The present chairs were later repainted when all the seat-furniture in the property was re-upholstered in 1850-3 by the Belgravia decorating firm, George Trollope & Sons. Interestingly, Chippendale had advocated in his pattern books that 'Both the Backs and Seats must be covered with Tapestry, or other sort of Needlework' (12). Trollope & Sons renovation of Harewood's interiors was extensive, the final bill amounting to £6,043. 'Fabrics [were] reconditioned, walls and woodwork rubbed down and ornamental cornices treated with oil and a marbling effect' while most of the furniture, mirrors and cornices were transported from Leeds by rail to the firm's London workshops for restoration and recovering. The present chairs were no exception and would probably have been returned to London for the application of their new scheme. This was the very opposite approach to that of Chippendale when all the seat-furniture arrived at Harewood un-finished and was upholstered in situ by Chippendale's upholsterer, Mr. Reid. The 'heraldic richness' of Trollope & Sons' colour schemes while characteristic of the Victorian period could on occasion produce startling combinations; decoration in the Breakfast Room comprised purple leather adjacent to crimson velvet curtains (13).
The present set of chairs was subsequently sold by the executors and trustees of the Rt. Hon. The 6th Earl of Harewood, deceased’ at Christie, Manson & Woods, 28 June 1951, lot 47; the sale took place at Spencer House as the King Street saleroom had been bomb damaged during World War II.
The present chairs derive from a standard Chippendale design; there were 'eight different designs of French Elbow Chairs, of various patterns' some of which had carved aprons and padded cartouche shape backs, in the 1st edition of the Director (1754), plates XVII-XX, and these successful chair designs were reissued in the 3rd edition (1762). However, by the time of the Harewood commission the rococo ornament of these earlier designs had been superseded by the fashion for the 'antique', which Chippendale employed in much of his furniture for Harewood as Adam did in its interiors. A pen and ink drawing for two designs for ‘French’ chairs by Chippendale (illustrated), in the Prints & Drawings department of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, shows this ‘antique’ model with straight supports (14).
Further comparable sets of chairs supplied by Chippendale to other patrons include: a set of eighteen armchairs ordered for the drawing room at Saltram House, Devon, in circa 1771-2 (en suite with a pair of sofas) and fourteen armchairs, en suite with two sofas and te single chairs, originally japanned blue and white, some with gilt details, 1774, made for William Constable’s London house, now at Burton Constable, Yorkshire (15).
(1) C. Gilbert, The Life & Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978, vol. II, p. 111, fig. 189.
(2) Ibid., vol. I, p. 195.
(3) Ibid., p. 196.
(4) Ibid., vol. II, p. 111, fig. 189.
(5) Ibid., vol. I, p. 195.
(6) Ibid., p. 196.
(7) Gilbert, op. cit., vol. II, p. 107, fig. 181.
(8) Ibid., p. 114, fig. 197.
(9) Ibid., p. 114, fig. 198.
(10) Harewood House 1795 inventory, p. 20
(11) J. Jewell, The Tourist’s Companion or the History and Antiquities of Harewood in Yorkshire, Leeds, 1819, p. 24.
(12) C. Kennedy, Harewood, The Life and Times of an English Country House, London, 1982, pp. 87-89.
(13) M. Mauchline, Harewood House, Plymouth, 1974, pp. 98, 144-145).
(14) Museum no. D.712-1906
(15) Gilbert, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 110-111, figs. 188, 190, 191.
Paint analysis across this set of armchairs revealed that the entire set was evidently originally decorated in blue and gold. Gesso was applied followed by a pink brown clay, water gilding and the blue was applied last. The original blue paint was a dark blue mixture of Prussian blue and lead white. The second scheme of decoration started with a thin coat of fresh gesso followed by water gilding and possibly a pale blue. Before the third scheme of decoration was applied, the earlier two schemes appear to have been partly sanded down before a coating of fresh gesso was applied. There is evidence of some gilding in this third scheme, as a layer of yellow was revealed, but it is unknown what colour decoration was applied alongside the gilding. A large restoration was then carried out during the late 19th or early 20th century, where some of the chairs were cleaned and some were not. Of those that were cleaned, the decoration was completely taken down to the base timber on some chairs, less thoroughly to others, where patches of the original blue were left, and a few chairs were only lightly sanded. The entire set was then decorated with its fourth scheme of decoration. A coat of white oil paint based on lead white was brushed on followed by pale green to the flat areas and then a layer of varnish was applied overall. This was the last decoration involving lead white paint and thus could not have been carried-out later than the early 20th century. The final and fifth scheme of decoration is the present white and gold. The paint is based on titanium dioxide white and therefore must have been applied during the second quarter of the 20th century. The present decoration was already in place when these armchairs were sold by the executors and trustees of the Rt. Hon. The 6th Earl of Harewood at Christie’s in 1951.