Displaying a fusion of both Neo-classical and 'Chinoiserie' motifs so typical of the 1750s these armchairs were supplied - in the words of the 'Curator' 7th Earl (1892-1975) - for the 'Ante Room' at Spencer House. A small room immediately to the left of the Entrance Hall, this was designed by John Vardy and in contrast to the principal rooms of entertainment designed by Stuart above, those on the ground floor reflect Vardy's more restrained and understated taste for strong design and rich carved ornament - with a deliberate progression through the rooms to culminate in the exotic brilliance and colour of the Palm Room. Originally from a set of six, the upholstery of some of the chairs was altered in the late 19th Century to create the impression of a flatter toprail; since then they have been recovered at least three times - in dark green cow-hide in 1928 and red damask in 1959 - when they were used for a time in the Chapel at Althorp.
The Greek-key fret prominently displayed on the arm-supports was an architectural motif introduced by John Vardy on an armchair published in Some Designs of Mr. Inigo Jones and Mr. William Kent, London, 1744, pl. 43. Subsequently included in Thomas Chippendale's The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, 3rd ed., 1762, pl. CXXVIII in a design for a 'cloths press', the 'Chinese' design of the central stretcher relates to that on the left hand 'French chair' in a design by Chippendale, op. cit, 1st ed., 1754, pl. XVII.
Among related seat-furniture is a suite of twelve armchairs, two window seats and two sofas, almost certainly commissioned by Thomas Stapleton for Carlton Hall, later Carlton Towers, York, probably supplied soon after 1750 when Stapleton inherited the Jacobean house. Two pairs of chairs and two sofas from the suite were sold by the Trustees of the Beaumont Settlement, Christie's, London, 9 July 1992, lots 41-44. Interestingly, Carlton Towers also produced another pair of the Anderson candelabra currently at Spencer House (see lot 3). As Carlton Towers also housed works of art inherited from Norfolk House, London, perhaps strands of another Vardy/Stuart commission could exist?