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A PAIR OF EBONY SIDE CHAIRS carved overall with foliate scrolls and flowerheads, each with pierced rectangular back filled with spirally-twisted spindles beneath pierced scrolls, with padded seats covered in later blue and red silk brocade, on spirally-twisted turned legs joined by conforming stretchers and later bun feet, Coromandel Coast, India, mid-17th Century, minor restorations (2)

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A PAIR OF EBONY SIDE CHAIRS carved overall with foliate scrolls and flowerheads, each with pierced rectangular back filled with spirally-twisted spindles beneath pierced scrolls, with padded seats covered in later blue and red silk brocade, on spirally-twisted turned legs joined by conforming stretchers and later bun feet, Coromandel Coast, India, mid-17th Century, minor restorations (2)

Lot Essay

Cf. C. Wainwright, The Romantic Interior, London, 1989, p. 20, for a related seat with triple-tier spindle back and shaped cresting at Cothele, Cornwall, belonging to the antiquarian 1st Earl of Mount Edgcumbe (d. 1795).

Ebony chairs of this type were imported into England during the second half of the 17th century, and a pair at the Ashmoleon Museum are claimed by tradition to have been brought from Portugal in 1661 as part of Catherine of Braganza's dowry. One of them is illustrated by Henry Shaw in Specimens of Ancient Furniture..., 1836, and described as being of Indo-Portuguese work. However, many eighteenth and nineteenth century antiquarians thought they dated from the Tudor period.

This tradition was compounded by Horace Walpole and is discussed in C. Wainwright, Only the True Black Blood, F.H.S.J., vol. XXI, 1985, p. 251. Walpole was obsessed by ebony, collecting it to furnish the Holbein Room at Strawberry Hill. He also noted other houses similarly furnished and on a visit to Longleat in July 1762 he recorded 'The Gallery has a table, settee and 24 chairs of ebony...' (see: P. Toynbee, Horace Walpole's Journals of Visits to Country Seats, Walpole Society, XVI, 1927-28, 45.

Much of the ebony furniture mentioned by Walpole was sold by the Marquess of Bath, Longleat, Wiltshire, in these Rooms, 17 November 1988, lots 75-78

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