The chair frames, with their backs and legs comprised of serpentined trusses and their filigreed inlay of golden Roman acanthus, reflect the Louis XIV 'antique' fashion promoted by the engraved works of Daniel Marot (d.1752). The vase-scrolled form of their backs relates to fireback patterns published in Marot's Cheminées à la Hollandoise, while the legs and lambrequined seat-rail are fretted with ribbon-scrolled cartouches that are wrapped by Roman foliage and relate to his needlework patterns for Broderie, petit point and Galons. Marot also featured related French 'boulle' inlay in the clock-case patterns illustrated in his Livre de Boites de Pendules, 1706, and reissued in 1712, in the second and enlarged edition of his Oeuvres.
When acquired by Colonel Colville, almost certainly in the late 1920s or early 1930s, these chairs were believed to come from the Chapel at Lanhydrock, Cornwall, the great 17th century house of the Robartes family. Lanhydrock seemed an unlikely original source for the chairs as it was much neglected by the family between 1723 and circa 1780 and was an unlikely source for London furniture of the very highest 1720s quality. In 1736 the antiquarian John Loveday wrote of Lanhydrock 'The house is extremely out of repair and utterly destitute of furniture; we saw one family Picture'. It was also unlikely that the chairs came from the chapel: at Lanhydrock the church of St. Hydroc stands just behind the house and served as family chapel.
Charles Bodville, 2nd Earl of Radnor (1660-1723) had owned both Lanhydrock and Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire. By 1710 his extravagance had forced the sale of Wimpole to the Duke of Newcastle. Pope described Radnor as '... mad good-nature, bounty misapplied. In lavish Curio blazed away and died'. From the Duke of Newcastle, Wimpole Hall quickly passed to his son-in-law, Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford (d.1741), with whom it entered a literary golden age. Oxford himself was an extravagant collector, with his manuscripts forming the nucleus of the British Museum, and Wimpole was sold yet again, although probably fully furnished. From 1740 until 1894 Wimpole belonged to the Earls of Hardwicke and in the latter year it changed hands through bankruptcy, for the third time in its history. The principal creditor of the 5th Earl of Hardwicke was the Robartes bank, whose major shareholder was Lord Robartes, owner of Lanhydrock and direct descendant of the Earl of Radnor who had been forced to sell Wimpole in 1710. Lord Robartes bought Wimpole and thus its ownership was reunited with that of Lanhydrock, having been divided since 1710.
These chairs would almost certainly have remained in the house when it was sold to the Earls of Hardwicke in 1740. However they did not remain in the house for very long after it was reacquired by the Robartes family in 1894. Much of the original furniture from Wimpole was removed to Lanydrock early in the 20th century. What was possibly a lone chair from this set survived to be published by Country Life in 1931 (loc.cit.), with others possibly already sold to Colonel Colville, having been at Lanhydrock.
The Hall at Wimpole, where the chairs stood in 1835, was furnished with approximately forty pictures by Wootton, painted for the Earl of Oxford.
The chair legs, with their slippered or plinth-supported trusses, also relate to the walnut and parcel-gilt chairs supplied around 1715 for Sir Robert Walpole's 'Wrought Bedchamber' at Houghton, Norfolk, which have been attributed to the Roberts family (G. Beard, Upholsterers and Interior Furnishing in England 1530-1840, London, 1997, p. 149, and fig. 167 and Christie's Houghton catalogue, 8 December 1994, lot 126). The exceptionally unusual construction of the seat, intended to have a drop-in seat and overupholstery allows an attribution to the Robert family, makers of the Houghton suite, which had the same feature.
The Houghton walnut and parcel-gilt suite has silver (originally gold-plated galloon framing the upholstery. There exists a second group of chairs, of the same model and traditionally assumed to be from Houghton, although Dr. Beard now doubts this (op. cit., p. 151, n. 81). This latter group of five chairs is nailed, as these chairs are described as being in 1835.
The serpentine form of the back also features in a parlour chair pattern illustrated in the trade sheet issued by the Strand cabinet-maker John Pardoe around the time of his establishment at 'The Cabinet and Chair' in 1717. With their tall arched backs and fanciful 'embroidered' ornament, they are likely to have formed part of the furnishing of a bedroom apartment, and to have been upholstered en suite with an elaborately draped bed.