The stool is almost certainly one of the ten supplied to the 6th Earl of Coventry for the Gallery at Croome Court, Worcestershire. These were designed by Robert Adam (d.1792), and supplied in 1765 by the Long Acre cabinet-makers William France (d.1773) and John Bradburn (d.1781). They were intended to match the ornamentation of a set of chairs supplied around the same time by William Vile (d.1767) and John Cobb (d. 1778) and to complement the Gallery's stuccoed ceiling, which was inspired by Rome's Temple of Peace, mosaicked with sunflower paterae in octagon compartments bordered by antique flutes.
Adam's original, undated design was intended for Sir Lawrence Dundas, Bart. for Moor Park, Hertfordshire but was rejected in late 1764 or January 1765. Adam was clearly reluctant to waste such the design, and it was thus offered to, and accepted by Lord Coventry. The invoice is among Lord Coventry's bills from Adam as 'Feb. 1765. Another design of a Sopha or Scrol Chair.'. The Croome Court commission was for a set of ten 'Scrole Sophas' with carving and applied ornamentation, by the master carver, Sefferin Alken (d. 1783), each stool 'got out of the same Plank with the feet, for the Certainty of matching in Colour'. It is perhaps surprising that the Earl did not engage the same partnership which had so competently executed the chairs to supply the stools also. Both rival firms had been employed at Croome before 1765, Vile and Cobb from 1757, and France and Bradburn from 1763, the year in which William France was appointed Royal Cabinet-Maker.
Robert Adam was first engaged at Croome in 1758, and his design for the Earl's superb marital bedstead had been entrusted to France and Bradburn in 1763. But it seems that the Earl was inclined to spread his business around, and it made for a highly competitive environment, ensuring that cabinet-makers delivered the highest quality work at reasonable rates. He would also have sensed that while one partnership were very much the rising stars, now enjoying Royal patronage, the other firm was perhaps on the wane (in fact William Vile had retired from the partnership in 1764). Thus France and Bradburn were engaged to supply the stools.
The Earl took a keen interest in all the work at Croome, and the carver Sefferin Alken, of Golden Square, London, had impressed in his earlier endeavours, working in tandem with Adam and with Vile and Cobb. This included not only the associated set of armchairs but also the carved decoration of Croome's Library bookcases and stonework in the Orangery. Alken's star was certainly in the ascendant, and it was logical therefore that he should be entrusted to carve the stools though whether this was specifically at the request of the Earl or Robert Adam is not known (A.Coleridge, 'English Furniture supplied for Croome Court', Apollo', February 2000, pp. 8-19, figs. 14 and 15).
The Croome Court stools were of varying lengths, detailed in John Bradburn's account of January 1766 as a pair of 98 inches, four of 77 inches and four of 50 inches, the larger having eight supports, the smaller four, They cost respectively £14.15s, £8.12s, and £5.14s each. The present lot is evidently one of the four short stools. Interestingly, Bradburn's account also states that all were to be 'Cover'd with fine Morocco Leather' though does not specify what colour it was intended. Of the original set of ten, two long and two short stools remain at Croome Court.