These richly carved serpentine frames reflect the fashion for 'French' design as interpreted by leading cabinet-makers in the mid-18th century. The dissemination of this style was led by London's St. Martin's Lane Academy and influenced by the artist and author William Hogarth (1697-1764). His 1753 publication, The Analysis of Beauty emphasized the importance of 'variety' and the beauty of the serpentine or 'natural' line. The cabinet-maker Thomas Chippendale depicts several versions of these 'French chairs' in his iconic Gentleman and Cabinet Makers Director of 1754, from which many cabinet-makers drew direct inspiration. Other top makers who supplied seating furniture in this spirit include Vile and Cobb, Whittle and Norman, and Bradshaw and Saunders.
The chairs may have formed part of a suite at Browsholme Hall, Yorkshire, possibly commissioned by John Parker (d. 1754), who instituted significant improvements at the estate following his inheritance in 1728 including mounting a rococo-enriched coat-of-arms above the central bay. Two chairs are shown in situ in an old photograph of the Oak Drawing Room (S. Jervis, Browsholme Hall, Derby, 1980, p. 16). John had become a wealthy linen draper in London who, as Christopher Hussey writes, 'probably found the ancestral home a trifle antiquated after his metropolitan experiences' ('Browsholme Hall, Yorkshire: the seat of Colonel Parker', Country Life, 13 July 1935). Certainly in London he would have moved in more sophisticated circles so it is plausible that he may have acquired the suite there and brought it with him after 1728. It was undoubtedly after John Parker's occupation that the fortunes and status of both his heirs and of Browsholme itself were enriched. Another possibility is that the suite may have been supplied to his son, Edward Parker (d. 1794), at the time of his marriage in 1750 to Barbara Fleming. Four of the Parker armchairs were offered by Colonel R. G. Parker, Christie's, London, 15 May 1958, lot 55. These may, in fact, be the same set, including the present pair, that were sold from the Arthur Leidesdorf Collection in 1974. A settee of the same pattern was sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 26 October 1978, lot 66 and again 6 April 2000, lot 279.
A closely related suite from the same workshop comprising at least one settee and a pair of chairs differs only in the wavy line of their seatrail and scroll toes. This suite comprising at least five armchairs and a pair of double-chairback settees, from Swaines Hill Manor, Hampshire, was sold from the noted collection of the late Marjorie Wiggin Prescott, Greenwich, Connecticut, Christie's, New York, 31 January 1981, lot 354 and is illustrated in C. Claxton Stevens and S. Whittington, 18th Century Furniture: The Norman Adams Collection, Woodbridge, 1983, pp. 38-39. Another single chair in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum (W. 42-1947) was given to the museum by Mr. F. D. Lycett-Green and is illustrated in R. Edwards, English Chairs: The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1970, fig. 66.
The connoisseur Mr. F.D. Lycett-Green presented a related armchair, but with voluted feet, to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1947 (R. Edwards, English Chairs, H.M.S.O., 1970, pl. 66).