This pair of chairs, with their distinctive coats-of-arms and Chinese inspired fretwork, closely relate to patterns in Robert Manwaring's The Chair-maker's Friend (reproduced in A. Coleridge, Chippendale Furniture, New York, 1968, fig 133) as well as plates XXII, XXIV and XXV in Thomas Chippendale's 1754 Director. The vogue for Chinoiserie lent itself to countless variations and Chippendale himself declared "it admits the greatest variety, I think it the most useful of any other." (C.Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, New York, 1978, p.114).
Though the maker has yet to be identified, one of the most unique features of this model is that other almost identical versions, some slightly modified to contain the coats-of-arms of their patrons, are known. The high quality of the timber and the carving indicate the work of a prominent London cabinet-maker who cleverly adapted a single design to suit the demands of his aristocratic patrons. In addition to the present lot, they include a set probably supplied to Sir Monnoux Cope, 7th Bt. of Hanwell and Bramshill for the Chapel at Bramshill (a set of six), which also included a plainer version lacking the armorial device (D. Fitzgerald, ed., Georgian Furniture, London, 1969, fig. 81). A further set of eight armchairs, with heraldic thistles on the crestrails, are currently in the collection of the Viscount and Viscountess Gage at Firle Place, Sussex, and previously illustrated in The Conoisseur, November 1955, p.81, fig.3.
The offered chairs are part of what is thought to have been an original set of at least eight armchairs made for Nicholas Connock (d.1757) of Treworgey Manor, Cornwall. He was the descendent of a tanner who became the Receiver for the Duchy of Cornwall in 1532. Subsequent generations achieved considerable success, serving as justices of the peace, sheriffs and Members of Parliament. Treworgey Manor underwent several renovations, including a series most likely undertaken by Nicholas Connock, with the addition of Georgian interiors and furnishings as well as clock tower with a Chinese style roof. Nicholas Connock had no heirs and Treworgey Manor passed through two branches of his wife's family before continuing through the descendents of William Marshall in 1843. William Connock Marshall sold the known set of eight chairs in the early 1930s which were then purchased by Mallett in 1935. Sadly, the house was largely destroyed by a fire in 1938 and its remains were demolished.
Of this set of eight, four are in the collection of Temple Newsam and Lotherton Hall and two are currently in unknown hands. A pair from a private collector were sold at Sotheby's, New York, 16-17 April 1998, lot 804 and are almost certainly the present lot. Interestingly, the following lot in that sale was a pair of almost identical chairs that lack the Connock crest. This could indicate other chairs without the crest were part of this or a later Connock order or an entirely separate commission by an unknown patron.