These chairs are part of a set of eight armchairs which formed part of the famous suite of japanned furniture supplied by William and John Linnell to the 4th Duke of Beaufort (1709-1759) for the Chinese Bedroom at Badminton House, Gloucestershire. The furniture for this room, which was hung with Chinese painted paper, included the canopied bed (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum [W.143-1921]), a dressing commode (also in the Victoria and Albert Museum [W.55-1921]) and two pairs of standing shelves (a pair in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight (P. Macquoid, Catalogue, 1928, no. 168) and a pair in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (W. Rieder, The Untermyer Collection, 1977, no. 150).
Although the bills do not survive there are payments to Linnell's firm in the Duke's bank account at Hoare's Bank, which records total payments of #800 between October 1752 and December 1755.
John Linnell's watercolour drawing of one of the chairs is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (E71 1929). The drawing shows a different colour scheme in blue, red and yellow rather than the present black and gold. There are also slight changes to the design of the back and legs. The Chinese characters on the uprights of the back are half-real, half-imaginary like those in Sir William Chamber's Chinese Designs of 1757 (pl 18). In the previous catalogue entries for the other chairs from this set we had suggested that the decoration possibly dated from the late 18th Century, but recent research by the Victoria and Albert Museum has indicated that it might even be early 19th Century as they have discovered payments to John Coffey, a gilder, polisher and cabinet-maker who was working at Badminton 1837-48. Coffey is recorded as french polishing two rosewood pieces in the Chinese Bedroom in 1844. In 1841 Harley & Langs were paid 'for Gold leaf Gilders tools Brass Ornaments Lacquering Furniture... for J. Coffey's use' and Samuel Lang supplied 'turned bells for Ornaments to furniture in the Chinese Room' in 1843. The black japanning on the sides of the stiles dates from this century as P. Macquoid in The Age of Satinwood, 1908, describes them as red.
John Linnell's design for the chair was one of his first major responsibilities as a designer for his father's firm. Although no other designs by Linnell for the room survive it is reasonable to assume that he was responsible for the remaining furniture in the room. William Linnell was one of the first cabinet-makers to adopt the chinoiserie style. He had created a Chinese house at Woburn for the Duke of Bedford in 1749. Other clients for whom the firm provided chinoiserie furniture and schemes included Mrs Montagu at Hill Street, the 1st Lord Lyttelton and Sir Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Lord Scarsdale.