This stool is now back in its original form, having been converted in the early 20th Century into a sofa. Photographs taken before its most recent upholstery show the frame.
The original provenance of this stool, and of the suite of which it is part, was one of the major discoveries of Lucy Wood's research for the forthcoming catalogue of the seat-furniture in The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight. The museum possesses one long stool from the suite (Macquoid, loc. cit.). Until recently the suite had been associated with the Earls of Shrewsbury, latterly at Ingestre Hall where a large part was illustrated in 1957 (Nares, loc. cit.). This reputed Shrewsbury provenance persisted when thirteen pieces were sold at Christie's New York in 1978 (loc. cit.). Lucy Wood made the connection with a sofa and two long stools still in the collection of the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle, published in 1994 (Montgomery-Massingberd and Sykes, loc. cit.). The suite's earlier incarnation at Northumberland House, the Dukes of Northumberland's London palace, demolished in 1874, was proved by illustrations in the Illustrated London News in 1851, when the house was open to visitors at the time of The Great Exhibition.
This scroll-ended stool formed part of the magnificent Northumberland House state apartments, as created in the 1750s for Hugh, né Smithson, 1st Duke of Northumberland (d.1786) and his Duchess Elizabeth Percy (d.1776), daughter of Algernon, 7th Duke of Somerset. This stool formed part of a large suite that lined the Italian picture gallery and stood beneath the pier-glasses and five huge paintings. The latter were life-sized copies of the Farnese Gallery's most celebrated paintings and were executed in Rome between 1752 and 1755. One is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, while the remainder are in the Palazzo Labia in Venice (C.M. Kauffman, Victoria and Albert Museum: Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, London, 1973, no. 226). The gallery itself was created circa 1750 by Daniel Garrett, as part of the aggrandisement continued after Garrett's death in 1753 by James Paine, for the Duke and Duchess's lavish entertainments. The house occupied a magnificent position in the south west corner of what is now Trafalgar Square, with its front at the start of The Strand. It was tragically demolished in 1874 to make way for Northumberland Avenue, which has been described as 'a quite useless road' (Pearce, loc. cit.).
The suite's bowed seat-rails reflect the carved 'cupid-bow' crest-rails of the principal settees, of which one is still at Alnwick Castle (C. Shrimpton, Alnwick Castle, 1999, p. 29). The frame of the alcove seat is Gothic-rusticated with antique flutings and flowered ribbon-trellis enclosed in waves of C-scrolls that are wrapped by Roman acanthus sprays and bubbled embossments. Roman husks festoon the truss-scroll legs that terminate in bacchic lion-paws and are antiqued with Gothic-trellised and cusp-headed flutes.
Various elements of the design feature in Thomas Chippendale's furniture patterns, which were engraved in 1753 for publication in the first edition of The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director of 1754, pls. XVIII, XLI, XLIII and LXXXIII. In the early 1750s Chippendale's premises adjoined Northumberland House but there is no evidence of his having supplied furniture at that time. He certainly knew Paine, who was the only architect to have subscribed to the Director, and Paine has been 'groomed by some as a well-wisher who promoted Chippendale's interests' (C. Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978, vol. I, p. 95, referring to D. FitzGerald, 'Chippendale's place in the English Rococo', Furniture History, 1968, pp. 1-9). It seems more likely that the suite was executed by the celebrated Soho firm of Paul Saunders, to whom large payments were made at this period by Northumberland (unpublished information from Miss Lucy Wood).
We are grateful to Miss Lucy Wood for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.