THE COMMISSION FOR HAGLEY HALL, WORCESTERSHIRE
These handsome chairs were supplied for the Saloon at Hagley Hall, Worcestershire and designed in keeping with the sideboard-tables (lot 50 in this sale).
Roman acanthus played an important role in the decoration of Lord Lyttelton's (d. 1773) Roman villa, which provided the centrepiece for his beautiful landscaped park. Its foliage embellished the cornices and mantelpieces of various rooms, where its scrolled 'rainceau' derived from Robert Woods, Ruins of the Temple at Palmyra, 1753 and recalled Apollo, as sun and hunter deity and leader of the Mount Parnassus Muses. The rooms damask wall-hangings and upholstery were also foliated, as was the yellow damask depicted on these chairs in the 1920s. Their beribboned chair-frames likewise clasp acanthus-spray cartouches at the centres and corners, while more foliage emerges from the wave-voluted feet to wrap their legs. Corresponding to the tables shell-enrichments, the frames displays pearls or bubbles in antique-fluted tablets.
Their 'picturesque' serpentined forms relate to the 'French Chair' pattern which Thomas Chippendale (d. 1779) adopted in the early 1750s as the shop-sign of his 'Cabinet and Upholstery Warehouse' in St. Martins Lane and featured in his Gentleman and Cabinet-Makers Director, 1754.
THE ATTRIBUTION TO VILE & COBB
The aprons of the tables relate to seat-frames on a suite of seat- furniture supplied to the Hon. John Damer of Came House, Dorset, by Vile & Cobb between 1756-62 (A. Oswald, 'Came House, Dorset - II', Country Life, 27 February 1953, p. 574, figs. 7 & 8). In view of the related and documented chairs supplied for Came House by Chippendale's neighbours in St. Martins Lane, Messrs William Vile and John Cobb, it is probable that this firm also supplied these chairs for Hagley.
It may be noted that within the set of chairs, to which this pair belongs, there are small variations, particularly in the number of circles flanking the central cartouche. In the present pair one has four circles while the other has five.