These nine George II chairs are from Rousham house, Oxford, which is one of the few largely intact commissions by the renowned Georgian architect William Kent (1685-1748). He was hired by General James Dormer-Cottrell (d.1741) and from 1739-1741, Kent transformed and enlarged the small Jacobean manor and its grounds.
The Vitruvian scroll was a particular leitmotif for William Kent and it is especially pronounced in the interiors and furniture he designed for Rousham. Although the maker of these dining chairs is currently undocumented, their seamless integration with Rousham's interiors makes it all but certain that these chairs arrived during Kent's tenure or under his direction. Rousham remains in the hands of General Dormer's descendants and though it is unclear when these nine chairs left Rousham, at least three from the original set remain in the Great Parlor (originally the Library) and a white painted and parcel-gilt stool of the same design is in the Painted Parlor (R. Guilding, "Rousham," World of Interiors, December 2011, pp. 232-239).
The Rousham chairs' design is one of five known variants of a model with such stylistic consistencies that they must have been made by the same cabinet-maker. A virtually identical set was supplied to Ditchley Park, which is less than five miles from Rousham and was designed by Kent's former assistant, Henry Flitcroft. He employed the cabinet-maker William Bradshaw (d.1775) and records from Ditchley show substantial payments to him from 1740-42 (J. Cornforth, "Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire II", Country Life, 24 November 1988, p.83). Bradshaw also supplied furniture to Kent's patrons, including the Earl of Leicester for Holkham, which coincides with his work for Ditchley, and later to the 3rd Earl of Burlington, for Chiswick and Burlington House (G.Beard and C.Gilbert, Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, 1660 - 1840, Leeds, 1986, pp. 99 - 101). The same distinctive Vitruvian scroll is also on a stand Bradshaw is thought to have made for the 3rd Earl of Stanhope at Chevening (1736-7) which could indicate an earlier association with William Kent.
The remaining versions include one set of at least fourteen chairs supplied to Lyme Park, Cheshire, of which two armchairs are to be sold at Christie's London, 22 May 2014, and a set of twelve side chairs from Bulstrode Park, sold by Curtis and Henson, 1-3 July 1958, lot 356. When versions of this model have been sold previously, they have been linked with a set of chairs by Giles Grendey (d. 1780) some of which bear his post 1730 trade label (C. Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, London, p. 242, fig. 435). However, their only similarity is the shape of the back which lacks the distinctive backscroll.
The nine Rousham chairs along with the later copies, dining table and sideboard (lots 127-130) were purchased in London during the summer of 1929 by Celia Tobin Clark as part of the furnishings for her new residence, House-on Hill, in Hillsborough California. She was accompanied by her architect, David Adler (1882-1949), who in a similar vein to Kent, designed and furnished some of the greatest American country homes of the 1920s and 1930's. Adler continues to influence later generations, as this dining room for House-on-Hill, was virtually recreated down to the Chinese wallpaper by the San Francisco decorator Michael Taylor for the present owner.