These elegant drawing-room chairs have serpentined frames flowered with Roman foliage in the French 'picturesque' fashion popularised as 'Modern' in Thomas Chippendale's The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, 1754-62. Beaded acanthus-flowers issue from Ionic wave-scrolled cartouches formed by the reeds that wrap the legs, while their involuted feet are embossed with water-bubbles. Similar elements feature on a walnut throne that was commissioned for the Palace of Westminster by the Duke of Ancaster, Lord Great Chamberlain to George III. Richly carved 'with a Scrole & leaf on the feet & Elbows', it was supplied for the 1761 coronation by Katherine Naish, daughter of Henry Williams (d.1759) the Court chair-maker to the 'Great Wardrobe' in George II's reign, and upholstered by Messrs William Vile and John Cobb, 'Upholsterers' to George III (H. Roberts, 'Royal Thrones, 1760-1840s', Furniture History, 1989, pp. 65 and 66, fig. 7).
These richly scrolled chairs formed part of a suite commissioned for Cobham Hall by John Bligh, 3rd Earl of Darnley (d.1781), and may have been executed by Messrs Vile and Cobb, whom the Earl patronised in the 1750s and 1760s. In particular he paid Vile £103 in 1759, at which time such chairs would have been highly fashionable (Messrs Coutts Bank archive).
A pair of chairs from this set were sold by Ivo Bligh, 8th Earl of Darnley, The Valuable Contents ... of Cobham Hall, Sotheby's house sale, 22 July 1957, lot 438. At this time they were described as 'gilt over mahogany', presumably 19th century decoration, having been among the furnishings of The Gilt Hall which itself had been redecorated and gilded in the 1790s. Purchased by the Duke of Grafton for The Department of the Environment, they were subsequently sold anonymously Christie's London, 29 November 2001, lot 90, (£89,550 including premium).
Mahogany chairs from the set were photographed in the Picture Gallery in the early 20th century, published as late as 1927 (H.Avray-Tipping, English Homes, Period II, Vol.II, Late Tudor & Early Stuart, 1927, p.ix, fig.1), and another from the set is visible in a photograph of the State Dressing-Room in John Cornforth 'Cobham Hall, Kent III', Country Life, 10 March 1983, pp. 568 - 571, fig. 5.