PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
The following two lots formed part of the distinguished collection assembled by Sir John Ward, K.C.V.O. in the early decades of the 20th Century for Dudley House, London or his country house. Dudley House was originally built in 1826 for the 1st Earl of Dudley but was significantly embellished by the 11th Lord Ward after 1855. One of the masterpieces of Sir John's collection was the magnificent Dudley House suite of George II mahogany seat-furniture retaining its exceptional original needlework covers, which was sold by David H. Murdock at Christie's, New York, 16 April 2002, lots 250-257.
Inspired by fashionable 'French chair' patterns popularized in London in the late 1750s, these remarkable small settees and bergeres belong to what must have been an extensive and important suite of seat-furniture, of which at least four further armchairs are recorded. Undoubtedly commissioned for a specific architectural interior, perhaps a rotunda, which dictated both their extremely unusual shape with rounded back and the rare arched toprail - a feature apparently only seen on Louis XV bergeres of the 1750s but hitherto not apparently known in England - they were almost certainly conceived for a room decorated with French 'pittoresque' boiserie paneling of complementary shape. Of this suite, one pair of armchairs was sold Christie's, London, 6 July 1995, lot 133, another was illustrated in H. Cescinsky, The Old World House, New York, vol. II, 1924, p. 107, and the fourth is illustrated in C. Claxton-Stevens and S. Whittington, 18th Century English Furniture: The Norman Adams Collection, Woodbridge, 1983, p. 40.
In their overall form, the fauteuils d'encoignure were almost certainly inspired by French prototypes of the 1750s, such as those by the menuisier Nicolas-Quinibert Foliot, illustrated in B.G.B. Pallot, L'Art du Siège au XVIIIe Siècle, Paris, 1987, p. 227.
Probably the earliest seat design published in England that incorporates acanthus foliage emerging from a Venus scallop-shell is one of those in Gaetano Brunetti's Sixty Different Types of Ornament, published in London in 1736 (E. White, Pictorial Dictionary of British 18th Century Furniture Design, Woodbridge, 1990, p. 99). The type was later developed in patterns published by Thomas Chippendale, including one in his Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, London, 3rd. ed., 1762, pl. XXIII (see White, op.cit., p. 101).
Bergeres of a similar type, attributed to Samuel Norman and James Whittle, were supplied to the 4th Earl of Holderness for Hornby Castle, Yorkshire in the late 1750s (one of which was sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 9 July 1992, lot 92). Six related open armchairs that were made for the 6th Earl of Chesterfield are now in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight (L. Wood, The Upholstered Furniture in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, New Haven and London, 2008, p. 857).
An entry in Sir John Ward's account books records the purchase of the present lots:
April 27th (1909) Pair Chippendale Lounge Chairs Carved legs & arms 21(?) Bartlett & Collins Brighton.
Pair of Small Chippendale sofas to match chairs p.10 52 10 Bartlett & Collins Brighton, with the comment under the Remarks column make up set of four.