The extraordinary French needlework is of a type that has traditionally been ascribed to the embroidery school at St. Cyr, established in the Convent of St. Cyr (near Versailles) in 1686 by Madame de Maintenon (d. 1719), the wife of Louis XIV (and where she retired following the death of the King in 1715). The school was renowned for its production of finely worked panels although there is, in fact, no supporting evidence to ascribe this distinctive type of work to this center.
These fantastical panels are Berainesque in inspiration and the figures relate to French designs (c. 1700-1730) for theatrical costumes in the collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (see L. Wood, the Upholstered Furniture in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, vol. 1, p. 326, fig. 193). It is likely that pastoral engravings provided a source for their overall format of figures in a naturalistic setting (see N. G. Cabot, 'Engravings and Embroideries', The Magazine Antiques, July 1941, pp. 367-369). Closely related French needlework panels worked in the same distinctive 'bizarre' pattern incorporating large-scale Chinese figures within exotic rococo settings appears on other English furniture of this date, although in all cases the covering appears to have been later associated. Other examples include:
* A pair of Queen Anne wing chairs in the Brooklyn Museum. These were formerly in the collection of Lady Trevelyan, Welcombe, Stratford-on-Avon and sold in the Seidlitz sale at Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 3 May 1947, lots 123-124.
*A Queen Anne walnut settee possibly commissioned by Sir John Conyers, Bart. (d. 1719) for Charlton House, Kent and by descent at Charlton House to the Maryon-Wilson family and to Sir Spencer Pocklington Maryon Maryon-Wilson, 11th Bt. of Eastbourne (d. 1944), by whom sold Sotheby's, London, 18 November 1955, lot 164 (£1,150 to Roseable[?]). It was later sold by Melvyn H. Rollason, Esq., Christie's, London, 17 November 1983, lot 68 and then acquired by Mallett, London, June 1985 to form part of the Collection of the Late Mr. and Mrs. Gordon T. Southam, Vancouver, Canada, sold Christie's, New York, 7 April 2009, lot 173.
* A pair of George I side chairs, the property of a Gentleman, sold Sotheby's, London, 5 June 2007, lot 56.
A pair of chair-back panels of this type is illustrated in L. Wood, p. 326, figs. 191-192. Another is illustrated in L. Synge, Art of Embroidery, p. 335, fig. 325. Similar panels can also be found on French seat furniture of this date such as a suite from the Alberto Bruni Tedeschi Collection, sold Sotheby's, London, 21 March 2007, lots 66 and 66A (worked on a brown ground).