The elegantly serpentined parlour chairs, inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses and celebrating the triumph of Venus and Bacchus, are enriched with Roman foliage in the George II 'picturesque' manner. Their stiles, comprised of antique-fluted and reed-enriched Corinthian pilasters, are conjoined with fretted ribbon splats by arched C-scrolls bearing foliate Venus-shell badges, that are echoed by shell cartouches displayed on the scrolled seat-rails. The festive 'vase' splats are flowered with acanthus quatrefoils within ribbon-twist guilloches that are framed by acanthus-enriched trusses; while the cabriole legs display antique and foliated pearl-cabochons and terminate in bacchic lion-paws.
The Roman pilasters reflect the influence of publications such as Isaac Ware's 1738 translation of Andrea Palladio's Four Books of Architecture; while the form and fretted ribbons reflect the French manner promoted by the publication of William de la Cour's First Book of Ornament, 1741. In particular this 'Modern' fashion was promoted by the 'Parlour Chair' patterns issued around 1751 in Matthias Darly's 'Second Book of Chairs' (E. White, Pictorial Dictionary of British 18th Century Furniture Design, Woodbridge 1990, pp. 60-61). Indeed most of the elements of these chairs feature in these patterns, which are likely to have been published in the same year as his 'New Book of Chinese, Gothic and Modern Chairs' 1751. Darly, a designer, engraver and publisher had premises in Northumberland Court, and he shared these with Thomas Chippendale (d. 1779), when Chippendale first moved to London from Yorkshire in the late 1740s. Darly also engraved many of the plates for Chippendales's Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, 1754, and these chairs can be seen as a prototype for Chippendale's popular 'ribband' back chairs.
The chairs' quality relates to that of the celebrated St. Giles's dining-chairs, which were supplied for a room designed by the architect Henry Flitcroft (d. 1767) and have been attributed to William Hallett (d. 1781) (Sale Catalogue, Important English Furniture, Christie's London, 8 July 1999, lot 40). The form of the armchair also relates to that of an armchair dating from the 1740s, and likely to have been supplied for Gunton Park, Norfolk by Giles Grendey (C. Gilbert, The Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, Leeds, 1996, p. 243, fig. 437).
The incision on the seat rails indicates that the set numbered as many as twenty-four chairs. Of the remaining set, six have needlework-covered seat frames. One pair was sold [as part of a set of ten] by J. W. Taudevin, Esq., in these Rooms, 8 July 1993, lot 87 (£232,500 inc. premium). Another pair is in the Noel Terry Collection, Fairfax House, York (P. Brown, The Noel Terry Collection of Furniture and Clocks, 1987, no. 53). All six needlework-covered chairs from the set were purchased from Mallets.