A SET OF TEN GEORGE II MAHOGANY AND PARCEL-GILT DINING CHAIRS
A SET OF TEN GEORGE II MAHOGANY AND PARCEL-GILT DINING CHAIRS
A SET OF TEN GEORGE II MAHOGANY AND PARCEL-GILT DINING CHAIRS
7 More
A SET OF TEN GEORGE II MAHOGANY AND PARCEL-GILT DINING CHAIRS
10 More
Please note this lot will be moved to Christie’s F… Read more THE GUILFORD HOUSE 'GREAT ROOM' CHAIRS
A SET OF TEN GEORGE II MAHOGANY AND PARCEL-GILT DINING CHAIRS

ATTRIBUTED TO BENJAMIN GOODISON, POSSIBLY AFTER A DESIGN BY WILLIAM KENT, CIRCA 1754-6

Details
A SET OF TEN GEORGE II MAHOGANY AND PARCEL-GILT DINING CHAIRS
ATTRIBUTED TO BENJAMIN GOODISON, POSSIBLY AFTER A DESIGN BY WILLIAM KENT, CIRCA 1754-6
Each with an arched gadrooned back terminating in a scroll above a pierced oval back carved with foliage and pendant husks and punctuated by rosettes, the stiles with foliate clasps issuing chains against a stippled ground above an overupholstered seat and Vitruvian scroll carved frieze, the scrolled legs carved with acanthus and bellflowers and scales to the sides joined by a scale-carved X-form stretcher centered with a foliate rosette, on stepped square feet, three side rails and two front rails replaced
Provenance
Supplied to Francis North, 1st Earl of Guilford (1704-1790), for Guilford House, London and later at Wroxton Abbey, Oxfordshire.
The Hon. Sir John Ward, Dudley House, London.
The Hon. Peter Beatty (1910-1949), Mereworth Castle, Kent.
Michael Tree (1921-1999), Mereworth Castle, Kent; Christie's, London, 11 November 1971, lot 96.
Hew Kennedy, Acton Round, Shropshire.
With Carlton Hobbs, London.
Acquired from James Hepworth by Ann and Gordon Getty in 1992.
Literature
O. Brackett, Encyclopedia of English Furniture, London, 1927, p. 163 (one chair of the set and one settee, illustrated).
O.Brackett, English Furniture Illustrated, plate CXXIII.
'Furniture History I,' FHS Journal, 1965, p. 129, (one settee of the set, illustrated, pl. x).
H. Hayward, ed., World Furniture, London, 1966, p. 129 (one settee, illustrated, fig. 471).
C. Gilbert, Furniture at Temple Newsam House & Lotherton Hall, 1978, p. 269 (one settee, illustrated, fig. 325).
M. Wilson, William Kent: Architect, Designer, Painter and Gardener, 1984.
R. Edwards, Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, London, 1986, p. 88.
Dictionary of British Eighteenth Century Furniture Design, 1990, p. 59.
C. Hobbs, Catalogue Number Three, London, 1992, no. 17.
L. Wood, The Upholstered Furniture in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, New Haven, 2006, p. 364 (one chair, illustrated, fig. 240).
A. Bowett, Early Georgian Furniture 1715-40, ACC, 2009, p. 194 (one armchair, illustrated, pl. 4:102).
Special notice

Please note this lot will be moved to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services (CFASS in Red Hook, Brooklyn) at 5pm on the last day of the sale. Lots may not be collected during the day of their move to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services. Please consult the Lot Collection Notice for collection information. This sheet is available from the Bidder Registration staff, Purchaser Payments or the Packing Desk and will be sent with your invoice.

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Lot Essay

This magnificent set of chairs represents the apogee of Kentian design and the ultimate final flowering of the Palladian aesthetic. Attributed to the Royal cabinet-maker Benjamin Goodison (c.1700-1767), their striking, yet delicately pierced backs and distinctive Vitruvian scroll aprons reflect and refine the Palladian style promoted by the architect-designer William Kent (1685-1748) whose influence revolutionized country house design and furnishing for generations. This set of chairs formed the nucleus of a commission by Francis North, 1st Earl of Guilford (1732-1792) for the ‘Great Room,’ one of the principal reception rooms of his Grosvenor Square townhouse between 1754-1756 and are among one of the largest documented commissions from this period to have survived intact. It originally comprised twelve chairs and two settees; the two additional chairs are in a private collection, one settee is at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (W.8-1964) and the other is at Temple Newsam, Leeds (no. 9/64).
THE DESIGN
The chairs reflect the work of William Kent, the foremost classical architect and furniture designer of the day and protégé of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (1694-1753). It was Burlington's friendship and his promotion of Kent as a painter, architect and designer that established him firmly at the center of the latest fashion, both at Court and among the aristocracy. Kent’s Palladian residences with their fully designed interiors and furnishings, some surrounded by specifically designed gardens, which became the aesthetic template both for his contemporaries and subsequent generations.
With their distinctive pierced backs and solid seats, the chairs’ design is incredibly rare among Kentian furniture. Only two other sets of open backed chairs traced to William Kent are known to exist and each shares important characteristics with the present lot. A set of dining chairs supplied to Thomas Pelham-Holles, 4th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme and 1st Duke of Newcastle-on-Tyne (d. 1768) between 1740-45 display a closely related looped back. Six chairs from this set were sold from the collection of Simon Sainsbury, Christie’s, London, 18 June 2008, lot 178. This design may well reflect the influence of William de la Cour's First Book of Ornament, published in 1741, which first showed designs for open backs on this type of grand chair. Although no maker has been identified in the Newcastle archives, the design of the Newcastle chairs as well as a connection to William Kent could potentially be traced to Stephen Wright, one of Kent’s former clerks. Wright is probably the 'Stephen' referred to in letters written by Kent to Lord Burlington in 1738-9 which coincides with Wright’s work for Newcastle’s brother, the Hon. Henry Pelham, for Esher Place and his London townhouse, 22 Arlington Street which occurred between 1729-39. The 1740-45 date of the Clumber chairs also could connect them with Wright as by the 1750’s, Wright had become Newcastle's protégé and he continued to work at Clumber Park until the late 1770s.
The other example presents a more concrete connection with Benjamin Goodison who almost certainly supplied the suite to Lord North. A pair of hall chairs designed by William Kent and supplied in 1731 as part of a large suite of hall furniture to Sir John Dutton 2nd Bt. (1684-1743) for Lodge Park and by descent to Sherborne, Gloucestershire have different open backs but share the same distinctive angled cabriole legs with identical acanthus and bellflower carving to the front (C. Gilbert, 'James Moore, the Younger, and William Kent at Sherborne House', Burlington, March 1969, pp. 148-149, fig. 51). These chairs were made by James Moore the Younger (d. 1734), the son of the Royal cabinet-maker James Moore (d.1726) to whom Benjamin Goodison, served as an apprentice before succeeding to his position as a Royal cabinet-maker. Clearly, this design was an inspiration for Goodison, who may have even worked on the Dutton set under James Moore’s direction.
The scales carved on the sides of the legs and the Vitruvian scroll on the apron were more common features on documented Kent commissions in the 1730’s. Scales appear on the sides of legs for stools and a console table as well as on the frame of a settee supplied to Wanstead House as well as a console supplied to the Red Saloon at Houghton Hall, Norfolk (C. Weber ed., William Kent Designing Georgian Britain, New Haven, 2013, p. 453 fig.17.8, and pp. 454-7 figs. 17.10, 17.11, and 17.16). Vitruvian scroll seat-frames appear on chairs supplied for documented Kent commissions as well as those of his protegés They appear on a set of dining chairs supplied for Rousham House, Oxford between 1739-41 as well as another set for Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire probably made by the cabinet-maker William Bradshaw and designed by Kent’s protégé, Henry Flitcroft, from 1740-42.
THE COMMISSION
As an intimate in the aristocratic circle of William Kent’s earliest and most influential patron, Lord Burlington (1694-1793), North would have been very familiar with his designs through the homes of his contemporaries, which would include the Duke of Newcastle, who was also an influential member of the Hanoverian court and a prominent Whig politician.
Lord North first bought a townhouse at 50 Grosvenor Square in 1737. This house was considerably remodeled in the fashionable Palladian taste shortly after North acquired it and he remained there until his marriage to Catherine, the Dowager Countess of Rockingham, in 1751. This set of chairs were commissioned shortly after their marriage when Lord Guilford moved into her townhouse at 18 Grosvenor Square which became known as Guilford House. (F H W Sheppard, ed., Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2 (The Buildings), 'Grosvenor Square: Individual Houses built before 1926', London, 1980, pp. 117-166.) At this point, Kentian furniture enjoyed renewed popularity as seen in Sir William Chambers’ sketch of the Tottenham Park chairs which survive in his sketchbook (J. Harris and M. Snodin, eds., Sir William Chambers, London, 1997, fig. 31).
Although no precise record is known to exist in the surviving inventories of Guilford House made in 1751 and 1754, a debt of £120 to Benjamin Goodison recorded as ‘List of Bills remaining unpaid/ At Michmas 1756’ (Bodelaian Library: MS North: b.15, f.15) clearly documents this Royal Cabinet-maker supplied a significant commission to Guilford House. This suite definitively appears in February 1767 presumably when an inventory of Guilford House after the death of Lady North the previous December. There, it is recorded as ’12 Mahogany Open back Chrs/ Covered with Green Silk Damk/and Serge Cases/2 Sofas Ditto and Cases’ (Bodleian Library, Oxford MS: North e.40 ff.5f ) and reproduced here.
THE PROVENANCE
Though probably best known as the father of the infamous Frederick North (1732-1792), Prime Minister of Britain whose motion to retain the tea duty led to the American Revolution, Francis North, 1st Earl of Guilford (1704-90) was a prominent Whig politician with influential positions in the courts of both George II and George III. North was Gentleman of the Bedchamber to George II in 1730 and later served as governor to Prince George, later George III, in 1750. In 1773, Lord North was appointed lifetime treasurer to Charlotte, the Queen Consort. It is unknown when the suite was removed from Guilford House and brought to Wroxton Abbey, Oxfordshire, the principal seat of the Earls of Guilford, where it remained until until it was sold in the early 20th Century. It was acquired by the Hon. Sir John Ward who had assembled a very distinguished collection at Dudley House which was written up by Oliver Brackett. The pair of settees were sold by his son Colonel E.J.S. Ward at Christie's, London, 22 November 1962, lot 42, one of which entered into the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum two years later.
The chairs’ 20th century provenance are linked by Ethel Countess Beatty (1873-1932), the daughter of Chicago department store magnate Marshall Field. In 1891 she married Arthur Magie Tree and had a son, Ronald Tree. They divorced in 1901 and she married David Beatty (created 1st Earl Beatty in 1919) later that year. All three of Lady Beatty’s sons grew up in England and the chairs were acquired by her younger son, the Hon. Peter Beatty (1910-1949). By 1935, they were at his home, Mereworth Castle, Kent.
Beatty died a bachelor and left Mereworth and its contents to his half-brother’s eldest son, Michael Tree (1921-1999), where the chairs remained until their 1971 sale at Christie’s. During his father’s marriage to fellow expatriate, Nancy Lancaster, tastemaker and creator of what is now called the English country house style, they bought Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire. One of England’s greatest country houses, its refurbishment under Nancy’s partnership with Sibyl Colefax and Stephane Boudin of Maison Jansen took advantage of the many significant country house dispersal sales in the 1930’s and 40’s. The trio created legendary interiors that managed to update the grandeur of the greatest English country houses for the 20th century and Ditchley earned Lancaster the sobriquet of "the best taste of almost anyone in the world.” Lancaster’s subsequent partnership with John Fowler at Colefax & Fowler cemented her reputation as one of the most influential forces in country house design.
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