The ornament of these French 'cabriolet' chairs, with their beribboned reeds and palm-flowered pillars, relates to engravings in Messrs. A. Hepplewhite & Co.'s The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Guide of 1788; and Thomas Sheraton's The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book of 1793. The matching bergeres from the suite also feature pillar-supported arms which Sheraton included in his "Parlour" and "Drawing Room" chair patterns (pl. 32 and 33). The chair frames are wreathed by poetic laurels in the manner of the Brocket Hall Drawing Room suite and the Harewood House Saloon suite supplied in the early 1770s by Thomas Chippendale (C. Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978, figs. 364 and 395).
These chairs once formed part of a larger suite comprising at least sixteen side chairs and two bergeres. This pair of chairs was owned by the seminal collector, Francis P. Garvan, celebrated for the 5,000 pieces of American furniture, silver and other decorative arts bequeathed to Yale in 1930 and installed in the new Gallery of Fine Arts. The pair had been purchased by Garvan from Arthur S. Vernay in 1929 and it is quite likely that these were among the pieces sold back to Vernay when Garvan changed his focus to American decorative arts. Vernay in turn may have sold these chairs to the well-known collector J. S. Sykes among other things, particularly as one of the chairs is illustrated in Masterpieces of English Furniture which was written by Symonds, and illustrated many pieces belonging to Sykes, whom he advised.
Twelve side chairs from the same set were sold by direction of the executors of the late Mrs. E. Chadburn, Papplewick Hall, Nottingham, Sotheby's house sale, 29 September 1982, lot 405. They were subsequently with Partridge, London and sold from a Private Collection, Sotheby's, New York, 25 April 1992, lot 471. Two bergeres from this suite have also been sold at auction: the first, from the collection of the late Nelson and Eloise Davis, Toronto, sold Christie's, New York, 18 October 2001, lot 339; and another, the property of a Lady, sold Christie's, London, 27 November 2003, lot 63. The latter with J.J. Wolff, New York and was purchased by the owner from Vernay and Jussel in 1990. One of the bergeres was advertised by Messrs. Stair & Co., in the exhibition catalogue of Grosvenor House Fair, 1975, no. 2.
FRANCIS P. GARVAN
Garvan began collecting soon after his marriage in 1910 and began refining his purchases in his latter years with the guidance of top scholars, principally Luke Vincent Lockwood (d. 1951) of the Brooklyn Museum and R.T. Haines Halsey (d. 1942) of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The quality of the collection was such that by 1924 Halsey borrowed objects for the opening of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum. "...It is clear that [Garvan] soon developed a philosophy which emphasized quality and comprehensiveness... he felt that for his purposes both masterpieces of the highest quality and a representative collection of makers, forms, and materials were needed," wrote Gerald W.R. Ward in Francis P. Garvan, Collector (1980). The suite was purchased from Vernay in 1929, a time when Garvan was refining the collection. The gift to Yale was made in honor of his wife, Mabel Brady Garvan, and it is for her that the collection has since been known.