BROWSHOLME, EDWARD, JOHN AND THOMAS LISTER PARKER
This exceptional suite of Queen Anne seat-furniture, was probably supplied to the Parker family of Browsholme Hall, near Clitheroe, Lancashire around 1710-20, though first recorded in watercolours of the interiors executed in 1815 by John Chessell Buckler.
The Parkers, who trace their lineage back to Peter de Alcancotes of Alkincoats in Colne, have occupied the site of Browsholme from the mid-13th century to the present day. The family name and coat of arms 'vert a chevron between three stag's heads cabossed or' derive from their early appointment as Parkers or Park-keepers at Radholme, West Riding, an office requiring the holder to be skilled in reading, writing, accountancy and the law; after the mid-16th Century they were additionally granted the hereditary office 'Bow-bearer' of the Forest of Bowland by the Crown. As staunch Royalists they found their status and wealth compromised during the Civil War, but despite the seizure by parliamentary troops of valuable possessions including silver, jewellery and arms, they held the estate at Browsholme intact.
The facade of the house is typically Jacobean, built in an H-shape, with significant alterations after 1603 when the wings and front were refaced in rusticated sandstone and a fourth storey and central portico added. Subsequent generations of the Parker family have continued to enhance Browsholme in a sympathetic manner both externally and internally but because the property has remained in the family it has not been affected by the 'civilizing influence of the eighteenth or the romanticizing of the nineteenth'centuries (Christopher Hussey, 'Browsholme Hall, Yorkshire: the seat of Colonel Parker', Country Life, July 13th, 1935, p. 38).
The present lot, dating from the early 18th century, was possibly commissioned by Edward Parker, an appropriately grand suite in the latest fashion for a prominent member of the gentry. However there are no records confirming its presence at that time and it remains a possibility that it was not originally supplied for Browsholme. The house was at that time remote and access difficult, there were no turnpike roads in the vicinity prior to 1750 necessitating a treacherous journey over the Pennines, or 'the alps' as they were known locally (Amanda Vickery, The Gentleman's Daughter, New Haven and London, 1998, p.15). It may have been John Parker (1695-1754), Edward's son by his second marriage, who introduced the suite after his inheritance in 1728. John had become a wealthy linen draper in London and notable improvements were made to Browsholme under his stewardship, including the construction of stables in front of the house, and he was probably responsible for installing sash windows in the first two storeys, replacing the frames of the ground floor windows in the central bays, removing the gabled top storey and erecting the Parker arms above the central bay in a rococo cartouche (Simon Jervis, Browsholme Hall, Derby, 1992, p.3). Christopher Hussey writes 'John Parker of London probably found the ancestral home a trifle antiquated after his metropolitan experiences' and Parker's background is confirmed by the description of him more than a century later by a direct descendant, Colonel John William Robinson Parker (1857-1938), as 'John Parker of London' (C.Hussey, op.cit, p. 40). Certainly in London he would have moved in more sophisticated circles so it is plausible that he may have acquired the suite there and brought it with him after 1728. It was undoubtedly after John Parker's occupation that the fortunes and status of both his heirs and of Browsholme itself were enriched.
An alternative source for the introduction of the suite might be Thomas Lister Parker (1779-1858). Lister Parker was a noted antiquarian and a member of the cognoscenti inspired by the example a century earlier of his great-uncle through marriage Sir Peter Leicester, first Lord de Tabley (d.1678). He was also a dedicatee of Henry Shaw's Specimens of Ancient Furniture (1836), which included examples from Browsholme, and was friend to Charles Towneley, the antiquary Thomas Dunham Whitaker and Walter Fawkes of Farnley Hall, the prominent patron of Turner. Lister Parker inherited the property in 1797 and set about improving the house, engaging the architect Jeffrey Wyatt (later Wyattville) in 1805. He acquired paintings from Sir William Hamilton's sale in 1801 and was a contemporary and devotee of William Beckford's romantic interiors (Beckford having also employed Wyatt at Fonthill Abbey and Lister Parker was a subscriber to John Rutter's Delineations of Fonthill Abbey, 1823), and he almost certainly bought furniture and decorative art from the Fonthill Splendens sale. (Simon Swynfen Jervis, 'Splendentia recognita: furniture by Martin Foxhall for Fonthill', The Burlington Magazine, June 2005, pp.376- 382). On August 2nd, 1806, The Lancaster Gazette and General Advertiser reported 'The venerable mansion of Browsholme, ...having lately been considerably improved, and a choice collection of pictures, by the first artists, (amongst which is a fine painting of Douglas, by Opie) tastefully displayed in the principal apartments, we are informed, that the scenes of genuine Old English hospitality are to be renewed during the approaching... season'.
Lister Parker also engaged the watercolourist John Chessell Buckler to illustrate the interiors at Browsholme. One of the chairs was included in preliminary sketches made in 1814 of Wyatt's 'Elizabethan revival' Drawing Room. The principle state room in the house, the Drawing Room was described as 'a singular blend of Soane and Tudor revival'. Buckler's sketch is annotated and the chair back inscribed 'red' to indicate the colour of the upholstery (British Library Ms. 36393, folio 162, Buckler Drawings: architectural, topographical and other drawings by John Buckler [d.1851], his son John Chessell Buckler [d.1894], and his grandson Charles Alban Buckler). The chair also features in the finished watercolour, now in a private collection.
The suite, originally silvered, remained at Browsholme until at least 1957 where part of it, a single chair and stool, appear in a photograph of the Drawing Room (Colonel Robert Parker, Browsholme Hall guidebook, English Life Publications Ltd., 24 May 1957, n.p.). By 1962 it was with the London furniture dealer Temple Williams Limited, who exhibited the seat-furniture at the Victoria and Albert Museum (see Third International Art Treasures Exhibition, C.I.N.O.A, 1962, p.12, no.82 and pl.56-7). The table however must have been sold earlier since it was already in the collection of Captain Norman Colville when illustrated in 1954 (Macquoid & Edwards, op. cit., p.280, fig.19). By the time it was sold from the collection of Walter P. Chrysler in 1960 it had been gilded.
The suite was probably made by James Moore the elder (1670-1726) whose premises were 'against the Golden bottle' in Shorts Gardens, St. Giles-in-the-Fields and who became cabinet-maker to George I and the Prince and Princess of Wales, later George II. He served leading members of the British aristocracy including the Duke of Chandos and the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, who appointed him Comptroller of Works at Blenheim in 1716 as successor to Sir John Vanbrugh, (C. Gilbert [ed.], Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840, Leeds, 1986, pp. 618-9). He is renowned for giltwood furniture and in some instances signed his pieces with an incised MOORE though much of Moore's work can at best be attributed to him. Moore was influenced by contemporary designs from France disseminated through works such as Daniel Marot's Nouveau Livre d'Orfeverie, 1703, which included designs for silver furniture, and by the work of Jean, René and Thomas Pelletier (T. Murdoch, 'Jean, René and Thomas Pelletier, a Huguenot family of carvers and gilders in England 1682-1726 - Part I', The Burlington Magazine, November 1997, p. 738, fig. 11), and William Kent (d.1748).
Although highly idiosyncratic in style with its 'flying' brackets and individually-carved masks to the rails the suite has some parallels. As originally supplied, in silver rather than gold, it reflects the late 17th century fashion for furniture covered in sheet silver, such as the table, pair of stands and mirror supplied by Gerrit Jensen in 1676 to Frances, Countess of Dorset, and now at Knole, Kent. A suite of similar design in walnut and padouk comprising four chairs, two stools and a sofa was supplied to Sir Gregory Page, 2nd Bt. (1685-1775) who inherited Wricklemarsh, Kent, in 1720, and was later in the collection of William Hesketh Lever (1851-1925), 1st Viscount Leverhulme. This was illustrated in the sale catalogue, The Art Collections of the Late Viscount Leverhulme, Anderson Galleries, New York, 9 February 1926, lot 137. A sofa from the suite was sold Christie's, London, 22 January 2009, lot 100 (£99,650 including premium). Similar frames were adopted for Wricklemarsh's japanned banqueting hall chairs (a pair of these first sold at Christie's house sale at Wricklemarsh 23-29 April 1783; and again at Christie's, London, 15 November 1990, lot 69).
A related stool was illustrated in Lanto Synge, Mallett Millenium, London, 1999, p.46, fig. 38..
The suite shares a characteristic method of seat construction with other distinguished seat-furniture. The chairs and stools all have battens applied to the inner surfaces of the seat-rails which serve to support an inner frame to which webbing and scrim are attached, reducing damage and thus preserving the rails. This is a feature that was noted in chairs at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, in particular a pair of armchairs from the Cannons suite, attributed to James Moore, and also two pairs of walnut and parcel-gilt chairs attributed to the Roberts family of chair-makers. These were sold Christie's, London, Works of Art from Houghton, 8 December 1994, lot 135 (sold £881,500 including premium) and 126 and 127 (sold £260,000 and £95,000 including premium) respectively. Another pair of armchairs from the Cannons suite features the same construction (though with replaced inner frames), were sold Christie's, London, 8 June 2006, lot 50 (£960,000), and another set of chairs attributed to James Moore in a private collection does likewise.