This sofa, originally forming part of a large suite including winged easy chairs, is likely to have been commissioned by Robert Darcy, 4th Earl of Holderness (d. 1778) who was a Lord of the Bedchamber to George II and served as his Secretary of State in 1751. Its French 'picturesque' design with golden sculpted ornament derives from Parisian chairs of the 1720s and it displays the nature-deity's shell, framed by Roman foliage, on its truss-scrolled legs as well as its serpentined rail, while bubbled embossments enrich its voluted feet. It may have been amongst the furniture and tapestry hangings commissioned about 1754 from the Soho firm of Messrs Paul Saunders (d. 1771) and George Smith Bradshaw, whose partnership was established in 1751 (J. Cornforth, 'French Style, English Mood', Country Life, 1 October 1992, pp. 78-81). Another, very closely related mahogany and parcel-gilt sofa also from Hornby Castle and mentioned in the 1838 Inventory as part of a suite, bears many of the characteristics of Saunders and Bradshaw. It was in the possession of Moss Harris in 1930 (J. de Serre, 'Furniture from Hornby Castle', Country Life, 8 November 1930, p. 599).
A winged easy-chair from the same suite as the present lot, and attributed to Whittle & Norman, and shown in the same photograph above, was sold by a descent of the 4th Earl of Holderness, in these Rooms, 9 July 1992, lot 92, while a further pair of open armchairs, eight side chairs and a settee, also grained and parcel-gilt but with minor variations, were sold by the Trustees of the 10th Duke of Leeds Will Trust, Sotheby's London, 20 October 1972, lots 65 and 66. The sofa and side chairs were sold again, anonymously, Sotheby's London, 7 June 1974, lots 63 and 64. The Earl of Holderness was an early patron of the firm of Messrs Samuel Norman (d. 1768) and James Whittle (d. 1759), cabinet-makers, carvers and gilders of St. Andrews Street, Soho, whose partnership began in 1755.