These four medallioned-back chairs formed part of a suite that was supplied for Dingley Hall, Northamptonshire, and included at least twelve chairs, a sofa and a pair of card tables. The suite has been dispersed as follows:
- One of the card tables is in the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, gifted by Judge Irwin Untermyer and previously in the Marsden J. Perry Collection; Anderson Galleries, New York, 4 April 1936, lot 113. (see: Y. Hackenbroch, op. cit., plate 220, fig. 259 & pp. 53-54).
- The companion card table was sold Christie's, London, 28 November 2002, lot 104 (£182,650). Previously sold, The Property of a Lady; Christie's, London, 29 November 1984, lot 64. (See: G. Beard and J. Goodison, op. cit., p. 125, fig. 6).
- A pair of armchairs was sold anonymously, Christie's, New York, 20 April 1985, lot 160 ($82,500) and are now in a distinguished private collection. (See: G. Beard and J. Goodison, ibid, p. 170, fig. 1).
- The remaining six chairs and a sofa are in a private English collection.
Dingley Hall is a medieval home largely rebuilt in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by Edward Griffin and his descendant. It was sold to a Mr. Peach when the 3rd Baron Griffin died in 1742. Mr. Peach married the widow Mrs. Hungerford, and it was her son and his descendants who came into possession of Dingley.
John Peach Hungerford (d. 1809) was elected M.P. for Leicestershire in 1775, the time when the suite would have been commissioned. The chairs feature projecting tablets bearing a 'poetic' laurel-festooned trophy with the Hungerford arms. The crests, "Out of a ducal coronet or a pepper [wheat sheaf] garb between two reaping-hooks", are tied by wheat to flowered libation paterae serving as bolts for the laurel 'baguette'. Each chair-frame is elegantly scrolled in the Louis XV manner, and laurels also festoon its crest which also displays the Hungerford 'wheat sheaf'. Regrettably, there are no Hungerford or Dingley inventories or receipts relating to furniture in the Lincolnshire archives.
Dingley Hall and its contents were purchased by Hugh Richard Dawnay, 8th Viscount Downe, in 1883. The suite was transferred to Wykeham Abbey, Yorkshire which became the Downe family seat in 1909. The furniture is illustrated at Wykeham in the 1947 Apollo article.
THE ATTRIBUTION TO THOMAS CHIPPENDALE
The Dingley Hall chairs were noted by Christopher Gilbert in his introduction to the catalogue of the 1979 Chippendale exhibition held at the Leeds Art Galleries at Temple Newsam House as: "the most illustrious newly-discovered chairs corresponding to one of the [Chippendale] firm's standard design types of c.1770-1775." Designed in the French 'antique' fashion, the laurel wreath-embellished crest appears on a suite supplied in circa 1773 for the Tapestry Room at Newby Hall (C. Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978, vol. II, p. 107, fig. 180). The pendant festooned plaque, features on a set of eight chairs supplied in circa 1771 for the library of Harewood House (op.cit., p. 114, fig. 197). The Hungerford suite is likely to have been designed by Thomas Chippendale Junior (d. 1822), who traded alongside his father at the sign of the 'French chair' at St. Martin's Lane. His pattern-book Sketches of Ornament was issued in 1779, the year that he succeeded to his father's business. Chippendale Junior is also likely to have designed the Newby Hall chairs, as well as other related chairs of this type including a set at Brocket Hall. The form of the Hungerford chairs was also described as 'Modern' in a pattern published in Thomas Malton's Complete Treatise on Perspective, 1775 (pl. XXXIII, fig. 131).
A side table with central tablet carved with a wheat sheaf and attributed to Thomas Chippendale, which may have formed part of the Hungerford suite, was sold anonymously, Christie's, New York, 23 October 2002, lot 175.