A SET OF TEN WILLIAM AND MARY WALNUT DINING-CHAIRS
THE PROPERTY OF A DESCENDANT OF JOHN L. SEVERENCE
A SET OF TEN WILLIAM AND MARY WALNUT DINING-CHAIRS

ATTRIBUTED TO THOMAS ROBERTS, CIRCA 1690

Details
A SET OF TEN WILLIAM AND MARY WALNUT DINING-CHAIRS
Attributed to Thomas Roberts, circa 1690
In the manner of Daniel Marot, each elaborately pierced crest carved with opposing C-scrolls and acanthus leaves, the interior and base of the shaped and molded back further carved with acanthus leaves, above striped yellow and brown velvet-covered seats, on turned and carved baluster legs joined by a serpentine X-form stretcher with finial, recaned, seats now sprung, the legs constructed in two parts (10)
Provenance
Supplied to Edward, third Earl of Sandwich for Hinchingbrooke, Huntingdonshire.
Thence by descent to the ninth Earl of Sandwich, sold Christie's London, 3 July 1924, lot 125, at which time two of the original twelve chairs were bequested by John L. Severence to the Cleveland Museum of Art where they remain today.
Thence by descent in the family to the present owner.

Lot Essay

The house of Hinchingbrooke in the little known county of Huntingdon, which borders Cambridgeshire, has mediaeval origins. Initially a nunnery it is thought to have been relocated to this site by William the Conqueror from Eltisley. Upon the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the house came into the possession of the Cromwell family, initially Richard, to whom it was granted in 1540. The Cromwell name had not been long borne by the family. Richard's father, a Welshman named Morgan Williams, adopted the name after marrying the sister of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's notorious Minister. By the 1550's it would appear that the Cromwells were well settled and the building work completed, Hinchingbrooke having been passed to Henry in 1546. By the first few years of the seventeenth century, Henry had passed title on to his son, Oliver, who continued his father's reputation as a great entertainer. In 1603 James I visited Sir Oliver on route to London where he is said to have had '...such entertainment as was not the like in any place before; there was such a plentie and varieties of meates and diversities of wines and the sellars open at every man's pleasure. Master Cromwell presented his Majestie with many rich and acceptable gifts, as a very great fayre-wrought standing coffer of gold, goodly horses, deep-mouthed hounds, divers hawkes of excellent wing, and at the remove gave fifty pounds to his Majestie's officers'. Understandably, Hinchingbrooke became a favoured resting place for the King, especially as it lay just off the Great North Road. No doubt this was much of the cause of Sir Oliver's financial ruin and the house was sold in 1627. The importance of Oliver's departure could not have been forseen at the time. Up to that point the knights of Hinchingbrooke had represented the county in Parliament. In 1627, however, this privilege fell to Oliver's young nephew and namesake, who had a very different regard for the royalty than that of his uncle.

The house had been sold to Sir Sidney Montagu, a younger son of Sir Edward Montagu of Boughton. When the Civil Wars began, Sir Sidney was expelled from the House of Commons for being a Royalist but played no role in the war. His son Edward, however, quickly rose to important commands in the Parliament Army, no doubt aided by the influence of his cousin, the Earl of Manchester and by his friendship with Cromwell himself. Upon the death of Richard Cromwell, the then Colonel Montagu realised that the only possible solution was the restoration of the monarchy, and he was personally responsible for delivering Charles II safely home to Dover. It was for these services that he was created Earl of Sandwich.

It is most probable that Edward, third Earl of Sandwich commissioned this set of chairs upon his succession to his father's estates and his marriage to the Honorable Elizabeth Wilmot, daughter of the second Earl of Rochester in 1689. The decoration of the chairs follows closely the fashionable styles of the time as advocated by the architect to William III, Daniel Marot. The pierced decoration of the back with its ornately scrolled foliate decoration is typical of the designs produced by the great Huguenot draughtsman. Several very similar examples are recorded and a nearly identical chair is in the Niederläisches Museum, Amsterdam. With Marot having spent time in the Netherlands, following his exile from France and prior to his accompanying William of Orange to England, many chairs of very similar design have origins from this area.

There are only a few names known in English chair manufacture during this period and one of the most accomplished and prolific was Thomas Roberts, who was awarded the position of chief supplier to the Royal household in 1686. As noted in connection with lot 175, Robert's ties to the Montagu family were strong. As the third Earl was also cousin to Ralph, first Duke of Montagu, the Master of the Great Wardrobe for William III at Hampton Court Palace, it is quite possible that the Duke of Montagu introduced Roberts to his cousin. Indeed, in an account book at Boughton, Ralph Montagu's country seat, there is a payment listed to Thomas Roberts for the supply of 'a feild Bedstead of walnuttree with 4 posts made to ffold up altogether with ironwork and springs' (G. Beard and C. Gilbert, The Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840, 1986, p. 753.). This indicates that the two men were certainly dealing with each other at this date.
;

More from Important English Furniture

View All
View All