James Shoolbred and Company was located on Tottenham Court Road, a
thriving centre for fashionable furniture shops from the 1860s. They operated one of the first great department stores in London, and whilst their trade was diverse, they began producing furniture in around 1870.
They issued an important catalogue of the firm's work in 1876 and earned a Royal warrant in the mid-1880s. Their output encompassed all prevailing styles including Art furniture, 'Old English' and 'Japanese' as is evident from the 1878 Paris Universal Exhibition in which they offered 'a very extensive selection of items' (E. Joy, ed., Pictorial Dictionary of British 19th Century Furniture Design, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1977, p. xxxvi). Much of the furniture they designed was influenced by the 'Aesthetic Taste', popularised by Oscar Wilde and the architect E. W. Godwin.
A pair of hall stools of this design was sold by Mary, Viscountess Rothermere, Christie's, New York, 16 April 1994, lot 150. Another pair was sold anonymously, Christie's, New York, 15 April 2005, lot 120 ($14,400). A virtually identical pair was sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 26 April 2007, lot 1200 (£8,400).
The patent diamond dates to 2 December 1883.
(See also lot 1125, another matched pair of hall seats, in the sale)