Probably the earliest chair design published in England that incorporates acanthus-entwined foliage is one of those in a 1736 book of ornament entitled Sixty Different Sorts of Ornaments invented by Gaetano Brunetti, Italian Painter. Very Useful to Painters, Sculptors, Stone-carvers, Wood-Carvers, Silversmiths, etc. (see: E. White, Pictorial Dictionary of British 18th Century Furniture Design, Woodbridge, 1990, p. 99). Gaetano Brunetti (d.1758) was an ornamental painter from Lombardy who migrated to England in about 1730 and worked in the late Italian baroque style.
Although this pair of side chairs somewhat correspond to Brunetti's designs, another of his organic compositions appears to be the direct source for a chair depicted in a portrait of a man, by Arthur Devis (1711-87), formerly in the Tritton Collection (D. Fitzgerald, 'Gravelot and his influence on English furniture', Apollo, vol. XV, August 1969, p. 144.).
The rich fusion of shells and Roman foliage is also indebted to French ornamental engravings such as J. G. Hertel's publication of Jacques de Lajoue's Divers Ornements, circa 1735, and Vivares's publication of William De la Cour's First Book of Ornaments, 1741. The type was later developed in patterns published by Thomas Chippendale, including one in his The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, London, 3rd ed., 1762, pl. XXIII (see White, op.cit., p. 101).
These chairs have distinguished provenance as they are from the collection of the noted art historians, John and Helena Hayward. John Forrest Hayward's (1916-1983) career began with a specialist interest in the study of arms and armour. He spent the Second World War with the Special Operations Executive, in a mainly cloak and dagger role, fitting out agents to be parachuted behind enemy lines. Following the war, he joined the Monuments and Fine Arts Office in Austria with direct responsibility for the care and restoration of historic buildings and the cataloguing and repatriation of art works looted by the Nazis. In 1949, he joined the Metalwork Department of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, allowing him to widen his field of studies to include gold and silver, jewellery and bronze. He became Deputy Keeper of the Department of Furniture and Woodwork in 1956. In 1939, he married Helena Hayward (1914-1997), who herself was a noted furniture historian, author and lecturer. Her enthusiasm for teaching naturally lead to significant involvement in The Furniture History Society, the Attingham Trust and the Georgian Group while her best-known publications, Thomas Johnson and English Rococo (1963) and William and John Linnell remain significant resources.