Thomas, 3rd Viscount Weymouth, later 1st Marquess of Bath patronised the landscape architect, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (d. 1783) a few years after coming into Longleat in 1754. At the same time he consulted the firm of cabinet-makers, uphosterers and 'tapissiers' established by Paul Saunders, who in partnership with George Smith Bradshaw (d. 1812) was then involved in completing the furnishing of Holkham Hall, Norfolk. George Smith Bradshaw's relative, William Bradshaw (d. 1775) had been a subscriber to Thomas Chippendale's The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, 1754, and Longleat's elegantly serpentined furniture reflects the St. Martin's Lane 'Modern' style lauded in the Director and in William Hogarth's The Analysis of Beauty, 1753.
The library armchairs are designed en suite with the library table (lot 340), and combine the French 'picturesque' fashion with antique elements in the contemporary 'Roman' style. Their serpentined and voluted arms are wrapped by Roman acanthus enrichments and their design relates to a 'French Chair' pattern that was added by Chippendale to the third edition of his Director, 1762 (pl. XIX). This same patterned leg featured on twelve blue leather-upholstered chairs supplied by Saunders in 1757 for Holkham's great room of entertainment, that combined a sculpture gallery and library. The latter accompanied a pair of card-tables, a pair of settees and ten 'elbow' armchairs, whose arms followed the present pattern but lacked the antique flutes. The Holkham chairs were invoiced in June 1757 by Messrs. Saunders and Bradshaw and were richly carved to match 'a pattern chair' that had been supplied the previous year (A. Coleridge, Chippendale Furniture, London, 1968, p. 211, figs. 378-379 and J. Cornforth, 'French Style, English Mood', Country Life, 1 October 1992, p. 80, fig. 6). The payments to Paul Saunders, of £556 15s in November 1757 and £300 in November 1759, are recorded in the 3rd Viscount Weymouth's bank account at Drummonds (C. Cator, 'Works of Art from Longleat', Christie's International Magazine, May/June 2002, pp. 69-78).
These chairs originally belonged to a set of eight armchairs and two serpentined sofas, which were re-upholstered with scarlet cloth by Morel & Hughes in 1813 for the 2nd Marquess of Bath.