The Heydon Hall parlour chairs are likely to have been introduced around 1740, during the ancient Norfolk mansion's aggrandisement for the antiquarian and Judge Advocate Augustine Earle (d.1762) by Matthew Brettingham (d.1769), famed architect at Holkham Hall, Norfolk. They are conceived with marbled 'vase' splats framed by serpentined 'truss' pilasters in early Georgian 'India' fashion. However the 'Roman' ornament of George II's 'Master Carpenter' William Kent (d.1748) is reflected by their Ionic-scrolled tablets sculpted in bas-relief with Venus, the nature-deity's shells presented beneath triumphal arched foliage; and by bacchic lion-paws issuing from acanthus clasping their columnar pillars and 'compass' seats.
POSSIBLE LONDON MAKERS
The 1740s trade-label of Landall & Gordon, of Little Argyle Street featured a parlour chair of this general form with a related shaped splat with clasps joining to the uprights (C. Gilbert & T. Murdoch, John Channon & brass-inlaid Furniture, New Haven and London, 1993, p. 20, fig. 12). The trade label of the celebrated Clerkenwell cabinet-maker Giles Grendey (d.1780) has been recorded on chairs with related backs, with inverted shells, and with shell-capped legs terminating in 'Jupiter' eagle-claws. These too bear journeymen initials (C. Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture, Leeds, 1996, pp. 31 and 32, fig. 435).
A closely related pair of side chairs with virtually identical back pattern but with shell-headed and acanthus-carved legs with claw-and-ball feet was offered by Theodore and Ruth Baum, Sotheby's New York, 22 October 2004, lot 407: this pair was previously sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 16 November 1995, lot 50 (£73,000). A pair almost certainly from the same set as the Baum chairs was sold by the Trustees of the S. T. Cook Will Trust, Sotheby's, New York, 16 October 1993, lot 347 ($151,000). At the time of their sale in 1993, the latter pair was lacking the foliate clasp carving on the splat and it seems likely that this had become detached, as in the present chairs' case. Chairs with related shaped splats also centred by bas relief shells were in the collection of Percival D. Griffiths, F.S.A., Sandridgebury and illustrated in R. W. Symonds, English Furniture from Charles II to George II, London, 1929, p. 45, fig. 23.
When the present pair was sold at Sotheby's in 2003, they were illustrated on the catalogue's front cover and a shadow was visible on the veneered splat where the original foliate clasp carving was fixed. HERBERT ROTHBARTH
Herbert Rothbarth's important collection of 18th century English furniture was sold in these Rooms, 26 May 1960. The collection included a set of four Queen Anne chairs from Glemham Hall, Suffolk (illustrated in P. Macquoid, A History of English Furniture: The Age of Walnut, London, 1908, p. 203, fig. 187), a mahogany writing-cabinet by Thomas Chippendale (illustrated in R. Edwards and M. Jourdain, Georgian Cabinet-Makers, rev. ed., 1955, p. 185, fig. 125 and sold anonymously, Christie's, New York, 23 October 2002, lot 20) and a small walnut and lacquer bureau-cabinet by Hugh Granger from the Percival Griffiths Collection (illustrated ibid., pls. 210 and 211). A George I walnut card-table also sold in Rothbarth's collection sale in 1960 was re-sold anonymously, Christie's, King Street, 30 November 2000, lot 26.