These remarkable chairs were produced in Canton for export under European supervision; others of the same model are inscribed with Chinese characters. Their richly carved foliate decoration takes its inspiration from contemporary English examples carved in gesso on a gilt surface, while the dragon-carved feet betray the infusion of local culture. While no English counterpart has come to light for this precise model, the tradition of copying English prototypes can be shown in a direct parallel for a similar model of the period (see E. Lennox-Boyd, ed., Masterpieces of English Furniture: The Gerstenfeld Collection, London, 1998, p. 80, figs. 58 an 59).
The back pattern features on a pair of Chinese black lacquered and gilt-flowered chairs sold from Warwick Castle, Christie's, London, 21 March 1968, lot 108. A Cantonese hardwood suite comprising two armchairs and twelve side chairs of this same exotic pattern was presented in 1819 to Lady Salisbury at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire (illustrated in the guide book, by Lord David Cecil, Hatfield House, 1992, p.23). Similar sets remain at Wilton House, Wiltshire and a single chair at Temple Newsam House, Leeds. Chairs of this same model feature in the Richard Milhender Collection (see C.L. Crossman, The Decorative Arts of the China Trade, Woodbridge, 1991, p.230, pl.83.)
Large sets of this model rarely come up for auction. To date, those identified are: a set of fifteen chairs from the Late Mrs. B.L. Urquhart, Christie's, London, 20 May 1971, lot 77; and a set of twelve chairs sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 16 November 1995, lots 52 (£128,000) together with a matching double chair back settee, lot 53 (£14,950). A further set of six was sold from the Collection of Lily and Edmond J. Safra, Sotheby's, New York, 3 November 2005, lot 179, while two pairs were sold Christie's, New York, 23 November 2010, lot 444 ($37,500) and 14-15 April 2011, lot 479 ($40,000).
The collector purchased eight of the chairs (including the armchairs) from a Munich dealer in 1966 where they were reputed to have come from the 'Ducs of Clermont-Ferrand'. Given that this is not a proper French title, possibilities include the Ducs de Clermont-Tonnerre or the Ducs de Ferrand-Tonnerre.