Richard Myddelton's drawing-room chairs, with their Roman-medallion and French-cabriolet, frames were designed for Chirk's great Saloon or room-of-entertainment, and harmonised with the room's redecoration in the fashionable George III-style popularised in Robert Adam's Works in Architecture, 1773. From the early 1770s Chirk's ancient ceiling had been transformed into a 'Roman mosaic', a fashion promoted by 'Bob the Roman' Adam, by the architect Joseph Turner of Chester. Executed with exquisite craftmanship, the cost proved almost ruinous and, ultimately only two rooms were completed in the Neoclassical taste before all work was halted around 1790. It introduced emblematical tablets and medallions that were framed in stuccoed compartments; while its beams were entriched with 'Apollo' sunflowers tied in a palm-flowered bas-relief giulloche that derived from Robert Wood's 1753 engravings of Palmyra's,' Temple of the Sun'.
Huge French-fashioned mirrors and pier tables enlivening the room's window-piers were designed to harmonise with the ceiling by the Soho cabinet-makers John Mayhew and William Ince. (These are still on loan to the National Trust). The firm, who were amongst the chief 'artificers' working alongside Adam, had also helped launch the early style of George IIIs reign, when their Universal System of Household Furniture, 1762 was published in the same year as the modernised third edition of Thomas Chippendale's, Gentleman and Cabinet-maker's Director. The 'Apollo' laurel-wreathed mirrors, crowned by bacchic nymphs, palm-flowered tablets, and emblematical medallions of festive cupids, formed part of pier-set comprised of laurel-festooned and flower-inlaid tables and 'Roman' tripod gueridon-stands for flowers and candelabra (which remain on loan to the National Trust in the Saloon).
John Mayhew's design for the table also dictated the seat pattern for the chairs and sofas lining the room's walls. Here the Palmyreen sunflowers wreath the chair seats, whose antique fluted frames and columnar legs harmonise with those of the table; while their medallioned backs are flowered with Roman foliage. Their green paint harmonises with their original silk upholstery and that of the wall-hangings and curtains.
These chairs belong to a suite of 14 armchairs and two serpentine settees in the French taste, green and white-japanned and covered in green 'tabory' or silk. Although the majority of the suite was redecorated under Pugin's guidance by J.G. Crace in a drab brown graining in the 1850s, the three chairs included here had been placed in a Bedroom, probably since the mid-19th Century, and thus they are the only parts of the suite to survive with their original decoration. In spite of this redecoration, Pugin and Crace also appear to have designed loose covers for the suite, which are visible in the Hon. Mrs Mary Wombwell's watercolour of the Saloon, dated February 1862 (which remains in the possession of the Myddelton family).
Although no bill survives and frustatingly no accounts remain at Martin's bank, where Richard Myddelton had an account, have as yet come to light, they can be categorically attributed to Messrs Mayhew and Ince of Golden Square, London. Surviving correspondence from Ince to Richard Myddelton at Chirk in October 1782 and September 1783 throws a fascinating light on the relationship between patron and cabinet-maker- Ince asking Myddelton to 'see what subjects the paintings in the Ceiling of the Saloon' are so that 'the compartments over the Glasses in the peirs might be correspondant with them'.
This suite is first recorded in the saloon in the 1795 inventory:-
'2 Cabriole Sofa's cover'd with Tabory, loose Covers and 4 Bolsters 10.10.0
18 Elbow Cabriole Chairs, cov'd with Tabory paint frames to match the Sofa's and loose covers.'
The closest parallel to the Chirk suite can be drawn with that commissioned by the 3rd Earl of Darnley for Cobham Hall, Kent. A loyal and most enduring client of Mayhew and Ince, between 1760 and his death in 1781, his bank account at Coutts records payments totalling just under £4,000, indicating a notable commission. The association continued with the 4th Earl who spent just over £3,600 prior to 1803. Among other furniture remaining at Cobham Hall that can reasonably be attributed to Mayhew & Ince are two further suites of similar date and inspiration, including one with inverted heart-shaped backs of the same type as the present lot (see: J.Cornforth, 'Cobham Hall-III', Country Life, 10 March 1983, pp.568-571, pls.8,9,11 & 12).