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Specified lots (sold and unsold) marked with a fil… Read more THE GLYN CYRWARCH ARMCHAIRS

CIRCA 1780-90

CIRCA 1780-90
Each square back, seat and arms covered in 18th century gros and petit-point needlework depicting gardening and agricultural scenes, with spirally-turned baluster arm-supports above tapering fluted legs and toupie feet, one chair stamped 'MB', re-gilt, batten-carrying holes
Each 37 in. (95 cm.) high; 24 in. (61 cm.) wide; 26 in. (67 cm.) deep
Possibly supplied to Robert Godolphin Owen (1733-1792) for Brogyntyn Hall, Shropshire and by descent.
The Lords Harlech, at Brogyntyn Hall, Shropshire and then at Wood Hill House, Shropshire before being moved to Glyn Cyrwach in the 20th century and by descent.
The Contents of Glyn Cyrwarch; sold Bonhams London 29 March 2017, lot 470 (a set of seven).
Special notice

Specified lots (sold and unsold) marked with a filled square not collected from Christie’s, 8 King Street, London SW1Y 6QT by 5.00pm on the day of the sale will, at our option, be removed to Crozier Park Royal (details below). Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite. If the lot is transferred to Crozier Park Royal, it will be available for collection on the third business day after the sale. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Crozier Park Royal. All collections from Crozier Park Royal will be by pre-booked appointment only. Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: cscollectionsuk@christies.com. If the lot remains at Christie’s, 8 King Street, it will be available for collection on any working day (not weekends) from 9.00am to 5.00pm
Sale room notice
Please note the images are incorrectly illustrated in the printed catalogue. The condition reports relate to the correct chairs and were correctly tagged in the saleroom. For any queries please contact the department.

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Benedict Winter
Benedict Winter Associate Director, Specialist

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Lot Essay

This set of giltwood armchairs in the late-Louis XVI and Directoire taste represent the innovative, more archaeologically correct style introduced to England in the last decades of the 18th century. This French influence was reflected in Henry Holland’s (1745-1806) remodeling of Carlton House, the London residence of the Francophile Prince of Wales and simultaneously promoted by Holland in his refurbishment of Woburn Abbey and Southill Park, Bedfordshire. With their rectilinear form, columnar baluster arm-supports enriched with spiral fluting and fluted legs, these chairs relate closely to Thomas Sheraton's designs for drawing-room and ‘parlour’ chairs in the ‘newest taste’ in his The Cabinetmaker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book (1791-94); see volume 2, plate XXXIII. The design was also made fashionable by cabinet-makers such as Gillows of Lancaster & London; the Gillow records show that the firm was issuing pattern books to their important clientele to choose furniture from, some illustrating French-style armchairs including a design that is very close to the present armchairs (S.E.Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London, 2 vols., Woodbridge, 2008, pl. 165).

Due to the form and similarity to other chairs of the period, it is possible that the present set of chairs could be attributed to B. Harmer. A versatile and prodigious chair and cabinet-maker, Harmer worked for the leading English cabinet-making firms of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and although his full identity remains unknown, he was undoubtedly prolific for his stamp appears on highly-fashionable furniture dating from c.1795 to 1810, including a set of hall chairs at Petworth, West Sussex, and a magnificent suite of giltwood dolphin seat-furniture attributed to Marsh & Tatham at Powderham Castle, Devon (sold Christie's, London 5 July 1990, lots 50 and 51, and later, 5 December 1991, lots 222 and 223). The probable Marsh & Tatham association, and a similarity between the seat-furniture of B. Harmer and the Paris-trained London-based maker Francois Hervé is interesting for both Marsh & Tatham and Hervé worked with Holland; Hervé supplied related French-style chairs to Chatsworth in 1782-5, Woburn in c. 1785 and Carlton House from 1787-90. A pair of bergères by Hervé was delivered by Holland and the marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre in 1791 to George John, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834) for the Countess Spencer's Dressing Room at Althorp, Northamptonshire, which closely resembles the present chairs (sold ‘The Spencer House sale’, Christies house sale, 8 July 2010, lot 1051 (£44,450 inc. premium)). Although there is no record of B. Harmer working with Gillows (or Hervé), journeymen employed by Gillows often stamped their initials on Gillows’ furniture. It is therefore tempting to speculate that ‘MB’ might be Marmaduke ‘Duke’ Ball, Gillows’ chief turner from c. 1779, who was making parts including chair arms and legs for other journeymen to assemble as part of the furniture they made for the firm (Stuart, op. cit., pp. 213-214). Closely related armchairs but unstamped sold Christie’s, London, 20 November 2008, lot 58 (single armchair) and Christie’s, New York, 11 October 2007, lot 123 (a pair).

A comparable model, stamped B. HARMER, but with an ‘HM’ stamp rather than ‘MB’, was sold at Christie's London, 7 October 1993, lot 97. One of these chairs is illustrated in C. Gilbert, ed., Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, Leeds, 1996, p. 257, fig. 471. This model reoccurs relatively frequently and includes a pair sold Christie's, London, 10 July 1993, lot 91; three pairs sold Christie's New York, 19 October 2000, lots 146-148; a pair sold Lyons Demesne, Works of Art from the Collection of the late Dr. Tony Ryan, Christie's, London, 14 July 2011, lot 337, and a pair sold Christie’s, New York, 19 April 2012, lot 221.

The needlework on this set of chairs is of earlier date, probably around 1730-40 and adapted to fit. Illustrating agricultural scenes and depicting Aesop's fables to the seats, it is likely that the designs were prepared professionaly in London and the embroidery done by female members of the Harlech family. A similar embroidered screen, embroidered by Lady Julia Calverely is in the National Trust Collection at Wallignton Hall, Northumberland.

This set of giltwood chairs were originally at Brogyntyn Hall, Shropshire and most likely supplied to Robert Godolphin Owen. Owen's grandaughter, and eventual heiress, married William Gore (later Ormsby-Gore), 1st Lord Harlech (1779-1860) to whom these chairs almost certainly belonged. David, 5th Lord Harlech, who served as UK Ambassador to the United States during the Kennedy administration eventually moved from Brogyntyn to Wood Hill House, another house on the estate, where he and his wife are photographed with two of the chairs in situ. Following his death the chairs were moved to Glyn Cyrwach, the older family seat in Gwynedd until the contents were dispersed in 2017. Another chair from the set can be seen at St. Fagan's Castle, Cardiff, presented by the Harlech family.

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